It’s estimated that the average person in North America and Europe will waste over 200 POUNDS of food in a year, be that through disposal of items that are no longer appealing, or because we’ve allowed things to rot in our fridges and cupboards. Can you imagine going grocery shopping, buying 200 lbs worth of items, and then tipping your purchases right into a landfill site? The image is rather appalling, isn’t it? Not only is it a startling waste of money, but it’s also incredibly disrespectful to the sources of our edibles: the animals that produced them; the farmers who worked hard to tend their fields so we have enough to eat; the many people who are involved with cooking and producing pre-made items that stock the shelves at our supermarkets.
These simple actions can significantly decrease the amount of food that will go to waste in your home. They might not all be viable for your living space or personal schedule, but just putting a couple of them into practice should make a marked improvement.
Defend Your Dairy!
If you’ve shelled out a fair bit of cash for really good cheese, you won’t want it to go manky overnight. Try soaking cheesecloth in whiskey and wrapping your cheese in it before placing it in a plastic bag, or else cover it with a layer of waxed paper followed by a layer of aluminium foil before storing it. To make milk and cream last longer, you can add a pinch of salt to the carton or bottle, and you can freeze butter to extend its freshness.
Don’t Store Apples in the Fridge
This may sound counter-intuitive, but there’s a good reason behind it: apples give off ethylene gas, which will wilt and spoil other food around it. Remove your apples from plastic bags, and store them in paper inside a cool, dry cupboard instead. If you have a cold cellar or pantry, you can pack them in layers of fine sand as well: take a wooden barrel or box, line it with the kind of sand used for children’s sandboxes, put in a layer of apples, cover with sand, and repeat until they’re all covered. This will keep them in a fresh torpor for months.
*Note: you can use that sand technique for root vegetables like carrots, beets, etc. too.
Ditch the Plastic
Be sure to take fruits and vegetables out of their plastic bags before putting them in the crisper, as the trapped humidity will make them rot in no time flat. In fact, there aren’t many items that need to be purchased in plastic to begin with. Most produce can just be put in your reusable bags when you go shopping, but if you’re keen on keeping things separate, consider picking up some of those organza gift bags that are available at most dollar stores, and re-use them every time you go shopping. You can store your produce right in them as they’re breathable, and will keep things corralled neatly.
If you buy something and then realize you won’t be able to use it before it goes bad, put it in the freezer. There are very few food items that don’t freeze well, and though some may change consistency a little bit and will need to be used in a different manner than you’d originally planned, at least they’re not going to waste. Just be sure to label them with the date you froze them and try to use them within 6 months.
To freeze bananas, remove them from their peels and then wrap them individually in plastic or aluminium until you’re ready to add them to baked goods or smoothies. Tomatoes can be stored whole in the freezer, but be sure to thaw them in a container as they get really goopy when defrosting—the good news is that they’ll slide right out of their skins, so they’re perfect for sauces and stews.
Put It Behind Glass
Have you noticed that dry goods such as cereal, nuts, and pasta can get stale and mealy if you leave them in the cupboard for too long? Even if you keep them in their original containers, once they’ve been opened, they’ll absorb some of the humidity that likes to linger around kitchens. Every time we cook something, or boil a kettle for tea, those water molecules dance around the room and into our dry goods.
Glass containers with tight-fitting lids are perfect for keeping dampness out of dry food, as they’re impermeable and have no absorbent bits that can soak up moisture and sneak it into your granola. When you buy dry ingredients, transfer them into these glass containers and keep them in the driest cupboard in the house (usually the one that’s furthest from both the stove and the sink. You don’t have to spend a ridiculous amount of money on fancy containers either: large glass mason jars with screw-top lids work just fine.