Have you gone to market when you are hungry? Have you cooked meals for Thanksgiving Day? Do you have experience with cooking your meal on the first day of living alone? If you answered yes to answer of these questions, you likely have experience with food waste
Some people may think that this is a huge topic that only politicians or non-profit organization should care about. In a sense, they’re not wrong. It is indeed a worldwide problem that threatens our food resources. The United Nations Environment Programme reports that “consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food as [. . .] 230 million ton.” It sounds like the extremely large problem that is not related to individuals, but it is a result that each individual has neglected the little food waste problems.
We waste food every day and probably don’t even think about it. If you have leftover food in your refrigerator but don’t eat it and throw it away, that’s food waste. But there are plenty of other habits we have that can contribute to food waste, too. Here is a “Don’t List” to prevent food waste and a “Do List” to address food waste problems that might already exist in your household.
- Don’t go to the market when you are hungry
When you are hungry, you are likely to buy more food than you need. In my case, I tend to buy extra fruits or snacks when I am hungry. Hunger makes it hard for me to not buy anything that looks delicious on impulse. In other words, I buy more food than I actually need. Excess food is usually left stuck in refrigerator compartments or shelves, forgotten, rotten and wasted. Make sure to eat a snack before you go to the grocery store, as this can prevent you from purchasing more than you need.
- Don’t go grocery shopping without a shopping list
I’ll explain this one with a story. Mary always forgets to take a list when grocery shopping. She wants to make a delicious meal for dinner tonight and needs 1/4 carrot, ½ onion, 300g of ground beef, one tablespoon of starch, a box of spaghetti, and a jar of tomato sauce for her spaghetti with meatballs. She already has most of the ingredients, but needs to buy carrot and ground beef. At the store, she sees that packages of Idaho potatoes are on sale, and the thought of baked potatoes makes her mouth water. Unfortunately, the package includes ten potatoes; would she be able to eat all of them by herself before they’d go bad? Still, the package is on sale, so Mary buys it. She enjoy her spaghetti with meatballs and a delicious baked potato for dinner, then forgets about the rest of the potatoes kept on the top shelf of her pantry. A week later, she wants to eat steak with mashed potatoes on the side. Fortunately, she recalls potatoes in the top shelf. When she takes the potatoes out, she finds that they have started to sprout. Her mother told her that sprouting potatoes were poisonous, so she throws them away. So, the bottom line of the story is to stick to your shopping list! They can help you remember what we should buy, but also remind us not to waste our money, time, and food!
- Don’t neglect to manage your refrigerator
Bacteria and other microorganisms that make food go bad can be contagious. Once food in the refrigerator starts to rot, oftentimes nearby foods can, too (even if they haven’t reached their expiration date!). Eventually, you should throw away all foods on the same shelf to avoid being infected by bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. If you want to avoid this kind of food waste, you should not neglect to manage your refrigerator. Throw out expired food regularly.
- Do use all the food you buy
If you buy 300g of ground beef for the meatball, you should try to use all 300g of ground beef for the meatball! If you buy one onion, try to use it all too. If one recipe calls for ½ onion, think of ways to use the other half. Remember that leftover ingredients in the refrigerator or shelves can be easily forgotten and lead to food waste if eventually thrown out. Trying to use all of the food you but is a baby step to prevent food waste in the household.
- Do change your storage method
Whether fresh or cooked, vegetables always ooze out some water, which provides moisture for bacteria to grow. What can we do? Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of plastic containers used to store vegetables; this will help to slow bacterial growth and keep your vegetables fresh. Meats are also the common cause of food waste because meats also ooze out some water like vegetables and can be easily perished even in the freezer when meats meet air. “Wrap[ping] the meat in butcher or freezer paper” is the best way to store meat products (The Kitchen, date unknown). When frozen, meat can be stored for 2 or 4 months (Reader’s Digest, date unknown). Writing the date that you toss it to the freezer on meats, which are wrapped in butcher or freezer paper, is a good way not to forget to consume it before their expiration date. For storing leftovers, we should freeze or refrigerate within at most 2 hours and eat them up within at most four days (Pinola, 2011). The appropriate container for leftover is “the best-fitting, shallow container [that is made by] Glass, [which] is microwavable, and are more eco-friendly” (Pinola, 2011). There are many storage methods like these. To avoid food waste in the household, use the right storage method for each type of food.
- Do label your leftovers
Label your leftovers with the date they were cooked to know which dish to eat first. That way, you eat as many of your leftovers as you can before they go bad. This will help you decrease the rate of food waste in the household and prevent foodborne illness at the same time.
Both a “Don’t List” and a “Do list” are composed of the little things that each individual has neglected in household and that has contributed to that food waste become a worldwide problem. I hope that this posting will help you aware of what you are missing to prevent food waste as well as what you should do to prevent food waste.