Splattered across social media, we see countless #fridgeenvy posts, photos of fridges stocked to the brim with beautiful produce. Those fridges certainly do look appealing, and we have been conditioned to see this as normal. Similarly, the produce section of supermarkets is always stacked bountifully. Never do you see just a small amount of produce on display. Abundance is visually appealing.
Apparently, (or so we are led to believe) we are better entertainers, parents, partners and people in general if we have a well-stocked fridge and pantry. Those fridges are so full most times, that we don’t know what’s lurking behind the front row of items that we can see.
Sadly, such abundance often leads to a large amount of food waste. The opportunity to eat all that food before it goes off, never presents itself.
Our good intentions, unfortunately, just don’t match reality.
A food waste survey undertaken in the United States in 2019 showed that survey participants expected to eat 97 percent of the meat in their fridge but really finished only about half. They thought they’d eat 94 percent of the vegetables but consumed just 44 percent. They projected they’d eat about 71 percent of the fruit and 84 percent of the dairy, but finished off just 40 percent and 42 percent, respectively.
As many of you know, I am all about shifting social norms around food waste. We can all start at home.
In this blog post, I have put together a list of very do-able actions that anyone can implement right now. In a few steps, you can better structure your food shopping, fridge and pantry to minimise food waste:
Shop more regularly- just get what you need in the next few days. This way, you are only planning for a very near future. Many of us often get to the end of the week and find that food we over-purchased has spoiled. If you have limited time, create a list based on a meal plan to help you buy only what you need.
Avoid bulk buying of perishable foods. While it may be tempting to buy that huge box of veggies, and it seems like you will save money- from the statistics above we know people don’t finish as much food as they think they will. If you are going to buy in bulk- ensure you have a solid plan – and enough time – to use it up before you make that huge purchase of perishables.
Buy the food close to its expiration date – you may save money, and help the supermarkets reduce food waste! If you are a house that goes through milk quickly for example- help the whole food chain out and choose the milk closest to its expiration date. you get good milk, sometimes it is on sale, and most importantly- it won’t go to waste.
Flip your meal planning process around- go from buying stuff to use, to using stuff you have already purchased! This way, you will retrain your brain to create meals based on what you already have, rather than making lists for new items to purchase to make a specific recipe. You may be surprised at what goodies you have lurking at the back of the pantry, or how creative you can get with that leftover half of a cauliflower!
Have an “empty the fridge” day- use up all your leftovers! This is the best opportunity to clear out all the odds and ends in your fridge that you have been meaning to use forever, but haven’t. There are heaps of recipes out there that are best done with odds and ends. For example, take a look at our punchy, no waste pesto for a great way to use up any old greens or our easy, tasty chicken stir fry for a quick and simple mid-week dinner.
Change your viewpoint on leftovers- they are like free bonus food! When you use leftovers, you save a trip to the supermarket, you save your time and you save your dollars. Eggs are a great staple to have in your pantry. adding a few eggs is a great way to bring a whole bunch of leftovers together into a meal. I mean come on- ‘food bowls’ are all the rage right! Throw a bit of rice/noodle/grain leftovers in the bottom, load it up with an assortment of bits and pieces and top with an egg… voila’ – gourmet!
A full freezer is more energy efficient than an empty one- take advantage of this! Re-purpose your food waste into a frozen lunch serving for next week, stocks, sauces, etc. to freeze.
Take note of what fridge items you frequently throw away- buy them in smaller quantities.
Take expiration dates with a grain of salt- as we explained last week here.
Ensure you are storing food items properly to optimise their lifespan. For example, put loose leaves in air-tight containers, leafy veggies and herbs can be wrapped in a piece of damp paper towel and store unwashed mushrooms in a glass bowl. There is much advice out there on food storage. Stay tuned- perhaps we’ll do a piece on it as well.
If you have any fridge, pantry or shopping tips to help us all minimise food waste, please feel free to share.
Thanks for wanting to be part of the food waste revolution!