Of all the places where we create waste in our lives, our food choices have to be one of the most significant.
Whether you live alone and cook your meals or have a large family that you cater to every night, there’s a good chance you’re practicing some wasteful habits that are not only burning through your cash but putting a greater strain on the planet as well.
Food waste is a common occurrence in the US and we are one of the main offenders on a global scale.
However, there are some simple changes you can make to your everyday life that will reduce the amount of food waste you produce, and save your family a whole lot of money in the process, namely with learning how to store food long term.
So, what is the correct way to store food long term?
Depending on what food you’re talking about, methods like picking, freezing, sealing in airtight containers, and keeping in the fridge are all ideal for ensuring your food lasts as long.
There are lots of ways you can prolong the life of your food with the right conditions, as well as ways to reduce the general amount of food waste that your family creates.
We’ve got a range of tips that can help you do just that, and there are no dramatic changes that need to be made in the process. We’ll show you how to shop smarter, store food for longer, and rethink your choices to prevent food waste at home, making for a happier planet and a happier home.
- 1 The Growing Problem of Food Waste
- 2 Why Do People Throw Away Their Food?
- 3 Shopping Smarter to Reduce Waste
- 4 10 Tips to Increase the Shelf Life of Your Food
- 4.1 Shop for brands that have a good shelf life
- 4.2 Choose a good fridge
- 4.3 Set the right temperatures for storage
- 4.4 Know where to place fruits and vegetables
- 4.5 Learn the difference between best before and use by dates
- 4.6 Utilize the freezer
- 4.7 Grow herbs at home
- 4.8 Keep things stored airtight
- 4.9 Start pickling
- 5 Tips for Reducing Food Waste at Home
- 6 Related Questions
The Growing Problem of Food Waste
When it comes to food waste, the US is leading the world in how much is thrown away. According to statistics, Americans are throwing away almost 40 million tons of food a year, which equates to around 219lbs per person, and when you think of how many people are in the country it’s quite an astounding figure.
It’s estimated that around 22 percent of municipal solid waste is food alone, which signals a very real need for people to change the way they shop and store their food, to prevent more of this waste from happening.
When you think further about the fact that this is food wasted, and not consumed, the numbers are obviously out of control, and it’s no wonder that people are now looking for ways to reduce their household’s waste.
Considering the strain that it puts on the planet to manufacture, farm, package, store, and distribute this food that is simply thrown away, this is one change that everyone can get behind that will make a real difference.
Why Do People Throw Away Their Food?
To understand why so much waste is being created from our kitchens waste, it can help to look at the reasons why people are throwing away their food.
Although people might have their reasoning as to why they’ve thrown something away, there are thought to be three main explanations for doing so.
Most people cooking at home are guilty of making more food than is needed. This comes from a place of love, where you might want to make sure everyone is fed well, so you cook an excess amount to cover it.
However, this can lead to more things being thrown away, rather than leftovers being stored or eaten the next day, which inevitably contributes to a lot of waste.
With the food you have at home, you’re constantly assessing and checking to make sure that it’s still good, hasn’t turned off or soured, and is safe to eat yourself or serve to others.
It’s this need for safety and wanting to only eat fresh foods that aren’t going to do us harm that leads many things to be thrown out, and sometimes prematurely.
While it’s important to be aware of eating foods that are in good condition, there are things we can do to extend their shelf life which means they’re safer to eat for longer. Learning about the difference between best before and use by dates is a simple way to get more out of your food as well.
One major reason why people throw food away is simply because of a lack of awareness of understanding about what happens to this food when it becomes waste.
There’s a common misconception that food will easily break down in landfills, which means it’s not going to stick around forever. While that’s sometimes true, many environmental impacts occur when food is left to rot, and simply throwing it in the trash can cause many of them.
Shopping Smarter to Reduce Waste
Although there are lots of tips and tricks you can do at home, the key time to practice reducing your food waste is before you even get it onto your shelves and into the fridge.
By coming up with a plan for your next grocery store visit, you have a much better chance of only buying what you need, which means less chance you’ll waste the food you do get.
Make a meal plan
Before you start a shopping list, come up with a meal plan that’s going to last your household for the next fortnight.
Think of recipes where you can double up on ingredients so that vegetables, herbs, and meat don’t get thrown out, and don’t just put dinners on there, but account for breakfast, lunch, and snacks as well. Check catalogs to find out what’s going to be on special and plan the meals around that.
Check your kitchen
With your list in hand, look through the pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what you already have.
Sometimes, you’ll have ingredients on hand, or almost enough to cook something you need, meaning you only have to buy a few things rather than a large amount.
Cook and buy in bulk
Buy meat in bulk to save money and keep portions saved in the freezer before they start to go off.
When you can, cook bulk recipes and divide them up to make the most of this discounted meat and to save yourself time.
Never shop hungry and take a list
Have something to eat before you head to the grocery store to reduce the chance of last-minute and impulse purchases made while hungry.
Take your list along and don’t buy anything that’s not on there, even if it’s on special and seems like a good deal.
Have a leftover system
Always use your leftovers and make sure you have containers ready that can hold them and room in the freezer to keep them. With a few basic containers ready to go, you’ll be more inclined to store food rather than throw it away.
10 Tips to Increase the Shelf Life of Your Food
The way that we store our food has a huge impact on how long it lasts, which ultimately determines how much of it is wasted and how much is consumed.
When it comes to food storage, there’s a lot that regular households don’t understand, so check out these tips to increase the shelf life of your food and reduce your waste.
Shop for brands that have a good shelf life
It’s estimated that some fresh foods spend around half of their lives in transit, which explains why so many things seem to go rotten or bad as soon as we get them.
To make your voice as a consumer heard, try to shop for brands or in stores that promise a longer shelf life and take care when handling, transporting, and storing their foods so that it means less waste for you.
Choose a good fridge
The fridge is a key player when it comes to shelf life, so ensuring you have one in good working order is important. If it’s an older fridge, have it checked over by a qualified professional who can look for leaks or gaps that might prevent it from cooling.
With newer fridges, their ability to keep food at an adequate temperature is a lot easier to manage.
Set the right temperatures for storage
The temperature of the fridge will also help you to keep food for longer and you shouldn’t rely on the fridge’s dial either, rather using a fridge thermometer to be sure.
According to the Food Standards Agency, the coldest part of the fridge needs to be less than 5 degrees Celcius, but not frozen otherwise it can damage the food as well.
Know where to place fruits and vegetables
The correct placement of items in the fridge will help them stay fresher for longer.
Keep meat on the bottom shelves, apples should be kept in the crisper, separate onions and potatoes, and try to keep your fruit and vegetables in distinct areas where possible.
Learn the difference between best before and use by dates
There’s a common misconception that a best before date should be followed strictly as when a food is no longer good, but it’s more of a guide.
Use by dates are the better judgment call, whereas a best before date can usually be looked past, provided you can see and smell that the food is still okay.
Utilize the freezer
Investing in a larger freezer is a good idea for people who use a lot of food and means you can put things away for future use rather than getting them out of your fridge and into the bin.
Almost everything can be frozen and you’ll extend its life significantly doing so, including items like bread, milk, soups, pasta, and sauces.
Grow herbs at home
Rather than purchasing a sleeve of basil leaves to use for one recipe and then throwing the rest out, consider planting a few pots of your own herbs.
The seeds or small plants cost the same as a single purchase of cut herbs and means you have year-long access to fresh herbs for free.
Keep things stored airtight
Invest in a few good airtight containers that can help you store things in your pantry, as oxygen is the number one killer when it comes to these types of foods.
Seeds, nuts, granola, cereal, flour, and bread will all last longer this way, and you can even reuse old jars to store many of them safely.
When you notice that certain vegetables are about to go off, you can pickle and jar them to create a whole new food selection.
Carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, onions, and cauliflower can all be fermented and turned into delicious food to enjoy later down the line.
Tips for Reducing Food Waste at Home
With the food cooked and purchased, there are still some things you can do to reduce the amount of waste your household produces.
Here are some ways you can continue to cut down on food waste at home, and ensure
Think before you throw
There are so many ways you can use food that might seem old or stale so you don’t have to throw it away.
A loaf of bread that’s no longer fresh can be turned into croutons or used to top a pastry, older vegetables can be pickled, and mashed potato leftovers can be used to top a shepherd’s pie.
Have a leftover system
As soon as you’re done with a family meal, divide up the leftovers into containers of single servings, and store them in the freezer.
People can take them to work or school, or you can eat them on another night when you don’t feel like cooking. Label everything with the contents and the date it was cooked to keep track of it.
If you’re close to another family or have someone at work who likes bringing lunches in, you could come up with a food sharing system.
You might offer up things you’re going to throw out or servings of leftovers in exchange for ones that they have in excess as well.
Start a compost pile
Compost can then be used in the garden, so it’s a great way to save money on fertilizer while you’re cutting back on waste as well.
Learn about batch cooking
One of the easiest ways to save time and money with food preparation is to cook larger batches of meals and then separate and freeze them.
Things like sauces, curries, and casseroles do well when frozen and can be reheated to taste as if they were freshly cooked. You’ll save money buying bulk ingredients and free up some time from your schedule having to cook every night.
Food waste is responsible for a huge portion of what goes into landfills each year, and this rotting waste has a huge impact on the environment.
To make sure you’re doing the right thing in your household and reducing waste, education is key. We’ve answered some commonly asked questions about waste that can help give you a push in the right direction.
What is Zero Waste Living?
The zero-waste living movement is intended to get people to reduce the amount of waste their household uses down to almost nothing.
Although it is hard to create zero waste, the goal of the movement is to get people to think about their consumption habits to see how they can cut back or ways they can use food and household products that create minimal waste.
What Country Wastes the Most Food?
The United States is leading other countries in their food waste numbers, with records stating that the country has created more of it than the UK, Sweden, France, Italy, and Germany combined.
This heightened level of food waste indicates a problem that has to be tackled at home first and foremost, but it can be easily rectified with a few simple changes and some mindful behaviors.
What Food is Wasted the Most?
In the average household, foods like vegetables, fresh fruit, bagged salad, eggs, cheese, and cooked leftovers are the most common ones disposed of.
This can be easily reduced with some simple changes in how we shop, store food, and prepare it so that we cut back on the amount of waste created in our homes.