It is no surprise: a lot of waste waltzes into our homes with the food that we buy and how we store it. It can be overwhelming and frustrating to deal with the mess of packaging that should be the responsibility of the companies selling the product. And our North American society is notorious for wasting food, which is in part due to how we store and use it. We can do better.
A side note on packaging: leave it on the shelf. The best thing you can do is to refuse to buy something that is heavily packaged. Sometimes it is plastic packaging, or sometimes it is a package within a package within a package. It comes home with you, and you have to deal with three separate pieces of packaging. Refuse it! You don’t need an English cucumber THAT bad.
1. shop smart: never mind the pre-wrapped produce. Unless you are meal planning and know your exact amounts, buying less is better than too much produce; chances are it will go bad before you can process it.
2. eat smarter: keep track of what is going to expire first; maybe in the form of a separate drawer or tray. Eat fresh first.
3. utilize your freezer: hopefully you have one. There are many ways to use your freezer to avoid wasting food: freeze abundant fruit in chopped slices, tomato slices, and organic scraps to save for soup stock. Freeze half of your loaf of bread. I have even frozen buttermilk in ice cube trays and kept the pieces in a jar to use later for making sour cream. Freeze bananas to use for bread.
4. wraps: a good alternative to plastic packaging is a wrap, like those made of beeswax and cloth. Wrap up half a potato, leftovers, or even bread.
5. bags: keep mushrooms in a paper bag, or freeze your bread in a cloth bag. There are also reusable silicone bags (replacing zip bags) that you can wash; to extend their life, I suggest to hand wash.
6. bowl and plate: I often store leftovers on the bowl or plate I had them on. Cover a bowl with a plate, or a plate with a bowl. Or a pot lid!
7. reusable plastic: before I went plastic-free, I didn’t just toss out my hard plastic containers. I will use them until I see them wearing. I never dishwasher or microwave these containers to extend their life. Heating plastic is never a good idea no matter if the container says it’s safe.
8. glass containers: my favourite for storing leftovers or getting meat. I take these containers straight to the butcher, they weigh them, and I take home only meat in my own containers that stays fresh longer, or goes in the freezer.
9. napkins and towels: my favourite way to store lettuce is in a dish towel, and it keeps much longer; run water over the whole head, then wrap it tight in a dish towel without drying. I also use napkins to wrap fruits in for on-the-go.
10. jars: I have saved jars from all kinds of sources, like jam, mustard, salsa, or gifted ones. These are great for storing cooking leftovers, like onion halves, avocado, or tomato bits, or anything that fits in a jar. I have also used these for buying cheese, and endless bulk items. Fill half the jar with cold water and store your carrots, or a bunch of spinach or kale (like a bouquet!).
11. reuse and compost: so many of our “scraps” can be reused instead of tossed out. Bread crumbs can be used in burgers or to top casseroles, lemon peels for a vinegar cleaner mix or grated rind in baking, veggie scraps can make a vegetable broth, and more. Any leftover organic material should be composted.
12. canning and preserving: maybe this is daunting for you, but if I can do it – so can you! I got into canning when I had an abundance of summer fruit. I canned peaches, jam, salsa, apple sauce, and made syrups. You can also ferment vegetables, which I will try this year. Waste not!
So much of our food can be saved! Our food wasted has been making the news for a while, and our stats are pitiful, with 30-40% of our food being tossed out. Make an effort to take your household out of that statistic! Food is too good to waste, and so many people, even in our hometowns, do not have enough to eat.
How do you curb food waste? How do you reduce waste in your kitchen, including packaging? What do you found challenging? What keeps you from switching to reusable?