Avoiding Food Waste: 10 Easy Food Waste Solutions
Do you worry about food waste? There are a lot of things you can do to be more sustainable but tackling food sustainability in your home is a must. Wasting food is a sustainability sin: it’s unnecessary, expensive, and avoidable.
If you want to improve food sustainability in your own home by avoiding food waste, below are some great tips to get you saving food and saving money.
the FIFO method
The FIFO method is a “first in first out” restaurant style approach to using your perishables. This is important when it comes to food sustainability, because when food gets lost in the fridge, it tends to go bad before we remember it’s there. So don’t do a fridge cleanout- turn it into a fridge reorganization. Yes, every now and then you will have to clean out your fridge, but every few days, evaluating what is in the fridge helps to keep the oldest prepared food front and center.
One way you can do this is to designate an “Eat First” shelf. Leftovers, prepped food, or anything that needs to be eaten within the next few days should go on this shelf. You can organize your entire fridge this way, if you’d like. Lowest shelf is today’s leftovers, middle is a few days ago and top is “Hurry up and eat NOW”.
Dehydrating extends the life of food an can compact the flavors. If you have a dehydrator, perfect! If not, check out this article for tips on how you can dehydrate and what.
Are you wondering what to do with wilted vegetables? Don’t toss them! Most lettuces and herbs will perk up when their bottom is placed in some water. (Don’t submerge the leaves.)
Strawberries, celery, carrots and more can be rejuvenated in an ice bath.
If that doesn’t work, you can cook them. Their flavor will still be there, but since they will soften being cooked, starting limp won’t matter much. Veggies can go into soups, stir fry, fajitas, chilis, over rice, into pastas, anything! Fruits are great cooked down and put over pancakes, or turned into a compote or jam, or topping for cheesecakes and other desserts.
What a delightful problem to have! You can freeze excess herbs you think you aren’t going to have the time to use up. With basil and parsley, you can blend them and put them in freezer cubes. It’s a perfect way to maintain that freshness and flavor, while avoiding food waste. The ice cube tray creates an easy way to measure out servings. And you can always pop them all out and store them in a different container once they freeze, to free up your ice cube tray again.
Salads are a great way to use herbs up too. Let’s be honest, the salad is always overlooked at gatherings. No one wants to fill up on an ordinary salad when someone else is doing the cooking. But have you ever had fresh basil or cilantro in a salad? It transforms salads from ordinary to memorable and ‘more please’. I can’t believe how many people have never put fresh herbs into their salads.
I can’t tell you how long it has taken me to learn this. It’s so simple. Make less food to have less food waste! It can be difficult to predict how much food your household will eat in a meal, and if they enjoy leftovers, don’t worry about this one! Prepare two meals worth (also a sustainable method, by the way. Prepare more at once, so you are utilizing less heat overall.)
But if your household doesn’t eat leftovers (craziness) then stop preparing so much IMMEDIATELY. They can be hungry at the end of a meal, but you can’t throw out perfectly good food at the end of a meal. Still hungry? Fill up on these wilted carrot sticks. (yeah, let’s see how all that goes over.)
Well, now I just gotta say it. Eat your d@#% leftovers! I’m a leftovers person- I tolerate a cold lunch, like a sandwich or salad, but I LOVE a hot lunch.
If you have fully prepared meals left over, enjoy them a second time. If you are worried about their quality, most foods will last in the fridge for a several days- some even get better (I’m talkin’ ‘bout you, chili!). But you can definitely avoid food waste if you give your leftovers a little time. Most will be fine within a 3-day period (I eat 5-day old leftovers regularly…shhh.)
But if it smells funky, ABORT!
plan grab and go meals
This is similar to leftovers, but it’s an organized plan ahead technique. Sometimes when we are really busy, we don’t want to stop what we are doing to make a meal. A great way to ensure fresh produce and food gets used properly is to create grab and go meals that remove the prep from the eating process. All you have to do is set some time aside to prep meals and portion them out. Once this becomes a habit in your household, it will be easy to plan what people eat, creating sustainable food habits and avoiding waste.
have a party platter for dinner
Looking in the fridge and cupboards, and not seeing a meal worthy plan coming together? Staring at half a leftover chicken breast, a pepper, 5 cherry tomatoes, a stalk of celery, 2 nearly empty containers of almonds and peanuts, a dozen raspberries, 1/3 block of cheese, half a packet of crackers, a handful of tortilla chips and a 1/4 cup of salsa? Call me crazy, but you’re looking at dinner!
Sometimes you don’t have enough of something to make a whole meal, and you’re uninspired when it comes to creative recipes. Abandon that perfect meal planning stress. Turn that half a chicken breast into chopped chicken salad, wash the produce and cut it up, throw the nuts and dried fruits into a few ramekins, and you have dinner. Variety, flavor, snackable bite sized pieces and a clean fridge. Eat up, my friends.
use what you have
I am not a meal planner and I don’t follow recipes; But I also don’t abandon a meal because I’m missing a single spice or ingredient- instead I improvise based on what perishables are screaming to be used. Many a dinner has been thwarted by an unapologetic “nope- sorry. The zucchini needs to be used up.” (God help me if it was pizza night.)
Start to look at meal planning a little differently. Move those faster turning veggies to the front of the fridge. (Acorn Squash, get in the back. Cukes, you’re up front.) The fortunate thing about produce is that it can act as a side or appetizer (salad!) so doesn’t have to completely throw your protein plan off. (Although, to eat less meat, I do recommend we all stop making meat the star of the plate.)
Make a soup! I always get laughed at when I am wondering what to do with our excess vegetables, and I start my idea list with “we could make a soup”. But, as I said earlier, I love a warm meal. Soups rank high for me in terms of enjoyment, ease of preparation and avoiding food waste. Simply get some stock simmering (veggie, beef or chicken, or use coconut milk) and chop those veggies (wilted, pre-cooked, leftover, or extra) and toss them in! Add whatever seasoning you like. It’s a blank slate! You’re the flavor artist.
To be fair, that’s a super simple version. There are all sorts of fancy steps to make it better, like making a roux, roasting the produce, etc., but for sake of avoiding food waste and simplifying food sustainability, that’s close enough. I’d recommend looking up a soup recipe, like this one, to get some ideas and improvise with what you have on hand that has to be used.
Freezing is a great one. Chop up the vegetables and make pre-prepped mise en place for a variety of meals. Chili, soups, stir fry, etc. Or, freeze them individually (peppers in one container, broccoli in another). Some vegetables with high water content don’t freeze well (think zucchini and cucumbers). If you are wondering which vegetables you can freeze, just think about the grocery aisle. What vegetables do you often see in the freezer aisle? (corn, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
Also, you should blanch vegetables before freezing. Check this super helpful link for blanching times.
I like the idea of flavor ice cubes for drinks too (pictured above). Just place some fruit or herbs in ice cubes and snag them for a refreshing drink later!
Bonus – it actually makes your freezer more efficient when it is stocked full, because there are less pockets of warm air. So freeze away, my excessive produce buying friends!
You’ll need a juicer for this. Drink the juice right away, because the quality and nutrient levels degrade as it is exposed to oxygen. This is a fast track to cleaning out the fridge and getting lots of nutrients and vitamins. Add an apple to make anything taste better. But beware- adding too many fruits makes it a sugar bomb, so if you are doing it for health, alongside cleaning out the fridge, keep that in mind. (But kids will love it!)
Oh, and make sure you compost those fibrous remains!
veggie burgers or ‘food waste aversion paddies’
Yum! You can do black bean burgers, quinoa, lentil burgers or just plain veggie burgers. I, as you might suspect, do this on the fly with whatever I have- I’ve even thrown shredded meat, like chicken or pork, into these things. Bind them with egg, breadcrumbs or cheese; sometimes mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes work. Here is a great article on making vegan veggie burgers that don’t fall apart.
food waste aversion hero
Hopefully you have a few tricks up your sleeve now to combat wasting food and create more sustainable culinary habits.
I use all these techniques but you can start with a few that you think will be super easy to implement and add the others over time. Some ‘meals’ that can be made with anything you have to use up in your fridge are: pasta salads, hot pasta dishes, soups, stir fries, flat breads or pizzas, wraps (hot or cold).
Please let us know what your food waste aversion tips are in the comments below!
Like what you learned? Please share!
I’m just too cheap to let myself waste food. Throwing away food is like throwing away money. The not buying too much or making too much is the key for me. I like to go to the store and just grab enough for a few days, makes shopping less stressful too.
This is one thing this guilty granola is working on- not buying so much at once. I dream of a week’s worth of food, everything already made ahead of time, and knowing what we’re eating and for what meal. Then I laugh out loud and move on. But eating what you buy and not tossing anything- yeah! That saves a lot of money! I add stress trying to figure out how to use everything at the right time!