Saturday, 22 August 2015

What Can You Do To End Food Waste?

At home

1. Make sure to buy only what you need
If we want to stop food waste at supermarkets, the first place to start is in our own home. It is estimated that approximately 20% of what people buy ends up in the dumpsters. That is not just a lot of food, but also a lot of money that people simply throw away.

2. Give away your leftovers, or foods you know you won't be able to eat.
If you often have a lot of leftovers, if you find it difficult to estimate how much you will eat, or if you live far away from the nearest supermarket and often end up buying too much, then why not find a structural solution for this by giving away your leftovers. If you really want to make this fun, you can even organize food parties. Maybe you can organize a weekly tapas-night where everyone brings their leftovers and you create nice tapas dishes or even complete meals and enjoy eating the leftovers together. There are many awesome ways to use leftovers and this will also help to get you more creative with your cooking.

At the store

1. Ask shops to donate their food and set up a food rescue program (or pave the way for charity organizations to pick up food donations). Read more about this here.
Make sure you emphasize anonymity and food safety! And make sure that you know enough about food to be a good judge of what you can still eat and what you need to throw away. And most importantly, you need to have an extensive network of people to donate to so that you can redistribute the food on the same day. Otherwise it is very difficult to store the food and to use it all within a short period of time (and as most of it will be expired, it will need to be used quickly; sometimes preferably the same day).

2. Dumpster dive
See my guide to dumpster diving for more information on this here. It is not as disgusting as it may seem! And very fun and rewarding. If you are the kind of person who is open to trying new things and loves some adventure and the excitement of never knowing what you may find, then dumpster diving could be a very rewarding experience for you. Don't worry too much about germs (but do keep them in mind), because most food items are packaged. Here in Norway, they even put most food waste in garbage bags, so all the stuff I find is generally clean (unless they contain rotting items). Here is a typical day's waste from just one store (and notice how most things are packaged):

3. Buy "ugly" fruits and vegetables
Actually, I prefer to call them "special". These are the fruits and veggies that stir people's imaginations and may make people a bit uncomfortable while they are out shopping. So what do we do? We throw them away... Sad. Who wouldn't take a selfie with this lovely carrot?
A peculiar-looking carrot

4. Buy scruffy-looking packages
If the contents are untouched, then why care if packaging is torn, dirty, creased or dented? If you choose that one, then you can be sure you have just saved an item from ending up in a dumpster. So if you want to buy something anyway, choose the one that looks the worst. If the spaghetti in a packet is broken, then why not choose that one? You will probably break it to cook it anyway; or later on to make it easier to eat it. Or perhaps the package has stains, teared cardboard wrap or other imperfections that don't affect the contents, such as this dented can:

5. Buy the 'older' version of the product (if the expiry dates differ)
If you want to buy something with an expiry date on it, don't look for the one with the longest time left, but rather the shortest. Most people will look for the ones that will keep longer and supermarkets work hard to keep their shelves filled up, so at some point there are going to be fresh and less fresh products on the shelves. Make sure you buy them in the order they need to be eaten.

6. Buy the 'different' or older looking one
Especially with fruits and vegetables, the older looking ones or the ones that just look different in some way, can get left behind. If the value of the product itself is unaffected, then why not buy the one that seems to look less appealing for some reason? For example, some cucumbers are not as green as others, but still taste perfectly fine. Also, some fruits (or vegetables) may have soft or brown spots, but are still good to eat, especially if you plan to eat them the same day. It is a good idea to choose different-looking over others, because they tend to get left behind.
If the reason that the item is less appealing is that it is smaller or really less nutritious because it seems to have been waiting to get picked for a while, then you could even ask the store manager if you can get a discount. This can be a smart way to shop. Just tell the manager that from a customer's perspective, no one will buy this fruit or vegetable so it will end up being wasted, unless you buy it with a discount. This will also encourage shops to get special 'ugly/old food' sections, where they sell items like that with a discount. Some stores already have such a section.

A mutant capsicum

7. Buy fruits on the day you will use them and look for the ripe ones.
If you buy ripe fruits, then you may have saved them. Ripe usually means they don't have much time left. For example here in Norway, as soon as bananas turn yellow (ripe), they get thrown away. It can be hard to find a ripe banana in the store (even though it is obviously much healthier to eat them when they are ripe). Same goes for mangoes, avocados and pineapples.

8. Choose 'the last one left'
People tend to not buy something if there is only one or a few left, because it feels like you get the leftovers and they are probably not the best ones (after all, they are still here). But since supermarkets already try to make their products as 'the same' as possible (in the growing, selection and production process), chances are that they are just as good as the other ones that happened to be chosen a bit sooner. So if there are just a few left of the product you want to buy, don't let it stop you!

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