Tips, Tricks and Tech for Fighting Food Waste

Every year one third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted globally, which amounts to 1.3 billion tons of food. Less than a quarter of that could be used to feed hungry people the world over.

Food waste and loss is complex and has a multitude of reasons that vary based on country and region. For instance, in developed countries, food is primarily wasted at the retail and consumer level, whereas in less developed countries it is primarily wasted on the farm and in transport. Specifically, the average American family produces over 400 pounds of food waste every year, which accounts for an estimated 20% of landfills. There are a multitude of reasons for this.

For one, Americans seem to like rules when it comes to expiration dates and strictly abide by them. However, they are merely guidelines indicating food quality, not food safety, and often times perfectly good food is thrown away.

Also, one 2016 study found that people often purchase and cook too much for their families as a display of love and affection, but then the excess gets tossed.

Of course, forgetting about leftovers, improperly storing items and poor planning, for example, also contribute to food waste among other reasons.

Fortunately, with some learning and effort you can help fight food waste starting in your very own kitchen.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you fight the good fight.

1.) Make a shopping list before you head to the store and stick to it.

2.) Once home with the groceries, put them away promptly and make sure to put your newest jug of milk behind the older one.

3.) Be realistic about your cooking plans. Only buy the ingredients for that Pinterest recipe if you really think you have time and motivation to make it.

4.) Learn more about food and cooking. Learn what can be frozen, how to best store items and how to preserve foods.

5.) Take some risks and add random excess foods to recipes. Get creative and innovative!

6.) Make your co-workers’ day and bring them some leftover cake from last night’s birthday party.

7.) Use your senses. Look at the milk that says it is past expiration. If it looks fine, smell the milk. If it smells fine, try the milk. Often times, it will still be safe and tasty to consume.

8.) Direct your food scraps to the compost pile if all else fails. Composting isn’t a perfect solution, but it does beat the landfill.

Technology can be a key tool in the battle. Here are some to implement.

1.) The Food Hugger is a stretchable, silicon “hugger” or cap that you place on that half eaten bell pepper to maintain freshness. The company also supplies bowl “huggers.” Check them out here.

2.) Food Minder is a small disc that is attached to food and drink items. The blinking LED light alerts you when the item is nearing expiration. You program the expiration date yourself, but do keep in mind that expiration dates can be misleading. Get one here.

3.) Thermometers are no new innovation, but they might be underutilized in kitchens. Obtain a fridge thermometer to ensure that the fridge is set an its optimal temperature so that food does not spoil.

4.) Nutribullet and similar juicers repurpose those food waste scraps or less than perfect looking veggies into a delicious and nutritious smoothie.

5.) The application, LeftoverSwap, connects consumers who have excess leftovers with others in the community. So you can post that leftover lasagna and someone else can enjoy it. This simultaneously reduces hunger and food waste.

6.) The USDA’s application, FoodKeeper, provides consumers with storage times for various food items. Keep in mind that expiration dates and these guidelines are just that, guidelines, not necessarily hard-and-fast rules.

7.) The Zera Food Recycler is an appliance that turns a week’s worth of food waste into ready-to-use fertilizer within 24 hours. It is pricey, but it is available for pre-order on Indiegogo here.

Food is a terrible thing to waste and luckily we all can take steps to help reduce it. This is a war we can win. Let’s start fighting back now.

If you need more tips and help, feel free to comment or if you have some tips of your own that you would like to share, please comment as well.