Our Food is Wasted!
Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – Approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted*.
The vast amount of food that goes to landfill every day makes a significant contribution to the ongoing issue of global warming.
A lot of this problem is because we over buy and then don’t eat what we have purchased and end up throwing it out. I know that I have been very guilty of this in the past. We never had a compost bin and used to throw all of our excess food waste into the rubbish bin. The outer lettuce leaves, the end of a broccoli, and food that looked ever so slightly off.
Firstly to make changes we had to stop buying so much food. We started growing our own vegetables so that we were only picking produce as we needed it and we started buying less at the supermarket so we would eat what we had instead of wasting what we did not get around to eating.
Secondly, we purchased a compost bin, and a couple of worm farms so that we could make our own compost for our gardens from any garden waste and food scraps that we had to throw away.
We noticed that as soon as we took the food waste out of our general waste bin, it stopped smelling because there was nothing putrefying in it. Now all of our food waste is dealt with on our own property except for bones.
We go into the supermarket and buy trolley loads of food that is packed in enormous amounts of packaging and then we go home and throw it all away. What is the point of the packaging? To me it is a sales mechanism. It is there to persuade us to want to buy it because of the sales information they have on the packet.
The packaging generally does not improve the nutritional value of the food inside it. In fact most products have two pieces of packaging for one food product. For example, muesli that comes inside a plastic bag, inside a heavily printed cardboard box.
Most recently I went into my local supermarket and wanted to purchase some courgettes for a stir-fry. The only courgettes I could buy were packed on a polystyrene tray and wrapped with a plastic wrap over the top. I chose not to purchase them because I didn’t want to buy packaging with my courgettes.
We also did a bit of research about the cereals with the most minimalistic packaging. This came about after we purchased a pack of cereal for our son. We opened the box and found a small bag inside it and the bag was only half filled with cereal yet the box was huge. So we looked into what represented the best packaging with cereal. We found that there were two that stood out. Firstly Harraways rolled oats that were packed in a bag that was bursting full of oats. Secondly was Weetbix. The Weetbix box is stuffed so full from top to bottom that you can’t get them out.
Expiry Dates – what are they for?
In the past I remember looking at the best before dates and thinking that the food was off even it was just a day over the date on the packet. Therefore I would just throw it in the bin without a thought. Some of you may think I was quite naive, I was.
Then one day I found out that there are a number of different date labels that are used on food and they were confusing me. I found out that there was a big difference between a ‘use by date’ and a ‘best before date’.
With a ‘Use-by date’ food can be eaten up to the end of the ‘use-by’ date, but not after even if it looks and smells fine. This is very much referring to the safety of the food.
Where as the ‘Best Before’ date refers to the quality of the food as opposed to the food safety. With the best-before date, after the date, the food won’t be unsafe but it may begin to lose it’s flavor or texture. One exception is eggs – you should never eat eggs that have passed their best before date.
So we started being more aware of what we were buying and making sure that we purchased fresh food that we were going to eat straight away if it had a date on it instead of buying it and finding it at the back of the fridge a month later and then throwing it out.
Or we would buy it and freeze it straight away and use it when we were ready to eat it.
So how do we reduce food waste and packaging?
With all of the above, my husband, Vaughn and I decided that we needed to start strategizing our supermarket shopping.
Sure you can deal with the waste by recycling and having worm farms, compost bins and Bokashi but this does not solve the problem that we are over purchasing produce in the first place. Because we over buy we have to deal with more waste so therefore if we were more thoughtful about what we purchased and made sure that we used it all we wouldn’t waste any food.
So we started looking at how we could shop smarter. It doesn’t work 100% of the time but we do our best.
Here are some of our strategies:
- Firstly we go shopping on a full stomach – if we go shopping on an empty stomach, we tend to over buy.
- We always have a list and try to stick to it as much as possible.
- I haven’t got around to planning menus as yet but this is something we are working on.
- We only buy food that will go off (that we can’t freeze) if we are going to eat it straight away
- We buy non-perishables in bulk because it reduces packaging – although you need to check pricing, as it is sometimes more expensive which is really frustrating.
- We try to buy all of our meat from the butcher because he uses less packaging and has free-range meats available.
- We head to the local farmers market to buy ‘in season’ food that have been grown locally and have no packaging.
- We avoid multi buys as often we don’t need the extra items.
- We look for minimalistic packaging or packaging free options
What can you do....Reduce the amount of food you buy, make sure you are going to eat what you buy and recycle the food scraps....Learn more about that here
Sources of information:
*Global Food Losses and Food Waste - FAO, 2011
The environmental crisis: The environment’s role in averting future food crisis – UNEP, 2009