Food waste is a huge problem. According to the United Nations, about one-third of all food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted each year. That’s about 1.3 billion tons! Reducing food waste in your home can be difficult, but it’s not impossible — and it can help alleviate hunger worldwide while saving money and protecting the environment. Here are our top tips to reduce food waste when cooking at home:
Plan out your meals.
Planning ahead and having a weekly meal plan can help you to use up leftovers, which in turn helps reduce food waste. It also helps you to buy the right amount of food, so that you don’t end up with too much or too little for tomorrow’s dinner. Plus, it will help you avoid wasting money on unnecessary purchases if there’s not enough for tomorrow’s dinner!
While this point may seem obvious, it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce food waste when cooking at home. You don’t want to under-portion your food, but you also don’t want to over-portion it and have extra leftovers that could go bad before you can eat them. One way to make sure this doesn’t happen? Use a measuring cup!
When you’re making sauces and soups or roasting vegetables, fill up your measuring cup with the ingredient until it hits the desired amount (for example 1 cup of water). Then pour it into whatever recipe you’re making. That way there’s no guesswork involved—and no extra ingredients wasted!
Store food properly.
The first thing you can do to help reduce food waste is to store food properly. When storing food in the fridge, make sure it is kept at a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius or below. Some foods will need to be stored at different temperatures depending on their type. For example, fish needs to be kept at 0 degrees Celsius, while milk should be stored at 3 degrees Celsius or below.
If you prefer to freeze your food rather than refrigerate it, then make sure that any frozen items are stored at -18 degrees Celsius or lower. The best way of achieving this is by making use of freezer thermometers which allow you to monitor how cold your freezer is and whether there have been any changes in temperature over time.
Don’t overload your freezer.
If you have too much food in your freezer, it can lose its temperature and become inefficient. Freezers are for food preservation and not for storage, so don’t keep putting more and more things in there just because they’re frozen; empty out the old stuff before adding more. Instead of keeping all those leftovers from last night’s dinner or that half-eaten package of tofu for tomorrow’s lunch, freeze them so that they’ll be ready when it comes time to cook again—but only what will fit into a one- or two-day supply! This way your freezer will stay cold enough to do its job properly and keep everything fresh until the next mealtime (or snack time).
Be creative with leftovers.
Leftovers can be a pain to deal with, but they don’t have to be. If you’re faced with leftovers that won’t fit into your schedule or are too big of a pain to eat now, they can always be frozen (and later thawed and reheated) or donated to a local food bank. Here are some other ideas for how you might repurpose them:
- Make a new dish with your leftovers! You could make a frittata or omelet, add chicken to your leftover rice, or use beef in chili.
- Use your leftovers as part of another meal—for example, add leftover pork loin from Sunday night’s dinner into Monday morning’s quiche recipe. Or roast kale chips from last week’s snack attack and use them as a garnish on top of soup tonight.*
By planning ahead, cooking efficiently, and storing well, you can reduce — or eliminate — food waste in your home.
Planning meals that can be frozen is a great way to reduce food waste. You can also make sure you are not cooking more than you need. Don’t forget to plan for leftovers!
There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing that you’re doing your part to save the planet and save money. By planning out meals, cooking efficiently, storing well, and being creative with leftovers, you can reduce — or even eliminate — food waste in your home. We hope these tips have helped you get started on the right track, but remember that it takes time to make good habits stick. In the meantime, just keep practicing!