Last week, food waste was in the news. For Canada, where I live, the average amount of wasted food by household was estimated at 79 kg per person per year. In my household, even in a bad year, it is less than ½ lb, about 99.5% less. So what do I do to get such a much lower amount?
Well first, as I indicated in an earlier article, food wasted is money wasted, and I hate wasting money. That is my motivation. Another important motivation for me is the way I have been raised and my family’s memories of food shortages during WWII. I have been taught to appreciate the value of food, regardless of its nature. Wasting food is bad, purely and simply! Anyone who saw me discovering the slightest amount of spoiled food will tell you that my facial expression is a good incentive to take one step back.
So, how to avoid food waste?
First of all it is important to have a clear idea of what you want to have for your meals during the coming week or so, depending a bit on how often you shop. Plan ahead and limit improvisation, although there is nothing wrong once in a while to change plans to treat oneself with a special request.
From the menu planning, just buy what you need. Do not buy what you do not need! That way, the food you buy will be used on a rather short notice and will have fewer chances to go bad. Buy with reason. It is indeed very tempting, and that is the purpose, to get lured by store flyers with attractive prices. Some people have a hard time resisting advertising and buy things that they forget about later, and those rot. Some others decide to freeze the food and they forget about it, and the food gets freezer-burned and ends in the garbage. There are a couple of things to think about. First, there will be flyers again next week. Do not worry; the same item will be for sale again soon. If you do not buy it right now, it will be back in a couple of weeks. There is no point of hoarding food if you do not have a clear idea of what you are going to make of it and by when.
Managing the fridge and the freezer is also quite important. The more stuff you put in there, the more difficult it is to remember it all, and the easier it is to forget about expiration dates. Make sure you work on a FIFO (first in first out) basis as much as possible. That is much easier if you organize the fridge in a way that helps you see what is in there, in particular the stuff that tends to be pushed to the back. Easy oversight and access is an advantage. There is no point in having a fridge packed full. With frozen stuff, just make sure you put the freezing date on the packaging and organize the appliance so that you can follow the FIFO principle. Also to keep the foods you freeze yourself, vacuum the food before freezing. It makes a huge difference by reducing significantly the risk of freezer burn and thus extends the life of your food for quite much longer.
Another area of waste consists of leftovers. Here there is a simple rule: leftovers are good to eat. If you have an issue with leftovers, perhaps it is time to take a good look at your values. Actually, everything that has been cooked has a much longer life than raw food. On top of that, many dishes taste actually much better the second day than the first day. Personally, I love leftovers and they have another advantage: since I cook more than I need for the first day, I can have food for two or three days without to have to cook on those days. It frees me time! And if you do not want to eat the same things for a few days on a row, most leftovers can be frozen and kept for quite some time in the freezer by following the guidelines I indicated earlier on.
When you buy, check on the best before date (BBD) indicated on the packaging. It gives you an idea of how fast or less fast you must use your food. Not all BBD are equal. For some products, the BBD is really the limit. I see that for fresh milk, for instance. For other products, you can exceed the date without problem, but do not take my word for it. You must also create your own little “database”. For instance, for the brand of yogurt that I buy, I can pass the BBD by 10 days to two weeks without any problem. That is true for that particular brand. It might not be true for all brands. You must discover that by yourself.
Beyond that, there are simple rules that apply to keep food longer. Since spoilage is caused by microorganisms, keeping food in the fridge slows down their activity and makes the life longer than if kept at room temperature. Cooking a food kills most of the microorganisms and, once cooked, the food can be kept longer in the fridge than if it is not cooked. It all depends on your cooking skills and on your creativity to make meals.
Bottom is that preventing food waste is not difficult when you apply simple rules. It is about organization and planning and a bit of understanding about food safety. The reward is that it saves you quite a lot of money.
Copyright 2021 – Christophe Pelletier – The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.