But waste is hard on the environment as well as your pocketbook. Food production leaves a carbon footprint that aggravates global warming and contributes to eutrophication. If the food is later thrown away, all that effort was for nothing.
In other words, minimizing waste is a way of doing a good deed for the environment.
Here are a few simple ways to reduce the amount of food you waste by planning better:
- Check what you have in the refrigerator before going to the store.
- Don’t buy more than you can use before it starts to spoil. Especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables, it’s smarter to buy a little at a time and shop more often.
- Buy food within a few days of the best-before date. If you know that you are going to use an item shortly, do the environment a favour and buy it when the best-before date is approaching. Fruits and vegetables that have started to shrivel or become a little spotted are fine to eat.
- If you buy large packages, put the food in smaller containers and freeze whatever you won’t be using in the next few days.
- Keep track of what you have in the refrigerator and freeze anything that is starting to spoil unless you can use it right away. Many items – including milk, cream, cheese, sliced ham and leftovers – can be frozen.
- Look through your freezer every now and then and do some planning to make sure that everything gets eaten before it goes bad. Label the containers so you can easily see what’s in them and what date you put them in the freezer.
- When preparing a meal, base your quantities on how much is going to be eaten right away and how much you want to save for later on. Or make a lot at one time and freeze what you don’t eat in portion size containers.
Make sure to use leftovers
Much of the food that gets thrown away consists of perfectly good leftovers. Look at leftovers as an opportunity to be creative. They can make a great lunch box or an exciting ingredient in a brand new recipe.
Here are a few suggestions for using leftovers:
Don’t put too much food on your plate; take second helpings instead. Psychologically speaking, it’s harder to save food that has already been on somebody’s plate.
Put leftovers in your refrigerator as soon as possible. Leaving them out at room temperature for more than a couple of hours promotes bacterial growth. You can put small quantities of hot or warm food in the refrigerator without affecting its temperature. Divide large quantities into smaller containers so they will cool faster; you can also chill them in cold water, or even outdoors in the wintertime. Freeze leftovers that you won’t be using in the next few days.
There’s no magic formula for deciding how long leftovers will keep – assuming that they have been refrigerated, don’t be afraid to use them as long as they taste and smell okay and have not started to mould.
If you are elderly, have an immunodeficiency disorder or are pregnant, you may be sensitive to listeria bacteria, which means that you should follow our special advice for shelf life and certain kinds of food. Read more on the link to the right.
There are thousands of ways to use leftovers. Risotto, stir-fried vegetables and Swedish hash are among the classic leftover recipes. Thousands of others are available in cookbooks and online
Here are a few simple suggestions
- Even small quantities of food, like pasta and rice, are worth freezing. Put the leftovers in a jar or plastic bag and add more as you go along.
- Crusty cheese can be cut off and frozen for gratins, quiche or pizza.
- Prepare a smorgasbord from different leftovers.
- Make an omelette; nearly anything will do – boiled potatoes or rice, meat, sandwich toppings that are losing their freshness and shrivelled vegetables.
- Peppers, carrots, broccoli and other shrivelled vegetables are ideal for mincemeat sauce, casseroles, gratins, quiche and soups.
- Make a fruit salad of apples, bananas, peaches and plumbs that are starting to spoil or freeze them for smoothies.