Try These 9 Food Waste Solutions At Home to End Hunger, GHGs, & Your Dirty Fridge
Chew on this: current figures of how much food waste happens worldwide each year are so high, they’re hard to digest.
While experts have a tough time pinning down the exact number, it’s estimated that individuals and businesses throw away up to 50% of all the food produced in the US annually.
That’s nearly 130 billion tons of food waste!
If we’re looking at the naughtiest citizen offenders, that can be as much as 350 kg of food waste for one human being in a year.
And according to the UN, food waste accounts for a carbon footprint of 3.3 billion tonnes of potent greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere each year.
For these reasons, solutions to food waste such as finding ways to repurpose edible food, food spoil prevention (see our video above on food container solutions), composting discarded food, and conscious consumerism are needed more than ever to cut down on food waste.
After all, your zero waste kitchen is less of a help to the planet if the amount of food you’re wasting is significant.
But how do you get rid of a lot of food waste?
Let’s get to plating and serving up some food waste solutions to keep your kitchen, belly, garden, and the environment healthy and waste-free. Did we also mention you’ll save money?
The Full List Of Ideas On How To Reduce Food Waste
- Keep your fridge organized
- Proper food storage
- Preserve food
- Buy “ugly” produce and discounted groceries
- Cook smaller meals
- Use everything you can
- Cook with food scraps
- Feed food scraps to animals
- Compost food scraps
- Large-scale food waste management solutions
1. Keep Your fridge Organized
Is the back of your fridge like Tales from the Crypt?
You’re not alone. Unfortunately, it’s commonplace for even the most meticulous of individuals to relegate the top back fridge corner to their little science horrors.
That said, no more forgetting things in the back of the fridge or the freezer!
To keep things fresh and divert food waste, you’ve got to keep your fridge organized. That means clean, clearly labeled, and stacked.
Why plastic-free, you ask?
Not only because it then doubles as a food waste packaging solution, but because the plastic is likely to be emitting countless chemicals (for example, BPA and phthalates) that leach into food. Food storage is one of the most crucial zero waste kitchen swaps for your health and safety.
If you still own old Tupperware, then repurpose in new creative ways—like turning them into a jewelry box, art supply storage, compost collector, or a planter.
Don’t know how to organize your fridge to prevent food waste?
Start by sorting so that food that will go off first is the first thing clearly visible and in-front, with a decreasing level of priority as they move toward the back of the fridge. Another handy tip is to keep a list of the food bought on hand, and make a note of all the use-by labels.
It may sound neat freak-ish, however, a recent study indicated that these small efforts save money (substantially) and lead to less food system waste.
2. Proper Food Storage
Proper plastic-free food storage is crucial for your health and safety—and a crucial way to avoid food wasted.
The good news is that there are countless options for plastic-free food storage.
Glass jars are probably the most popular choice, plus they’re free, given we can all upcycle them after use from purchased foodstuffs.
But glass isn’t the only acceptable material. Beeswax wraps, silicone options, stainless steel options, and bamboo are also sustainable options.
Don’t want to purchase anything and don’t have old glass jars?
Get creative around the house. You probably have some cool alternative food storage container options already lying around your house to keep produce fresh longer or to preserve food.
3. Preserve Food
Preserve food, preserve our planet; they go hand in hand.
Which means, saving the Earth can be a tasty job! We love a win-win.
By learning how to preserve food at home, you not only ensure that you and your family have nutritious, whole foods, but you also avoid food waste. Especially if you’re getting into self-sufficient homesteading or ecological gardening, then food preserving skills are necessary to avoid food waste from your garden’s autumn abundance.
The most popular ways to preserve foods are:
Chances are you’re already probably pretty accustomed to this solution.
If multi-day food prep or DIY projects aren’t your thing, freezing with the safest food storage containers is the most convenient way to preserve foods. In some cases, properly frozen food can be stored for months or even years.
Pickling is a type of fermentation that happens when foods are soaked in acidic liquid (namely vinegar).
It’s a tradition stepping from ancient Mesopotamian times, when fruits and vegetables were submerged in salty liquid to prevent spoiling while on long sea voyages.
So while not among more innovative food waste solutions, it’s a tried and true one.
Not only limited to cucumbers, pickling turns all kinds of fruits and vegetables into tasty snacks.
Other pickling ideas: beets, ginger, jalapenos, olives, asparagus, onions, peaches, carrots, radishes, apples, snap peas, garlic, eggs, avocados.
To ferment foods, you must induce bacteria to react in a way that is naturally present in our environment and the sugars inside food.
Since there are a number of variables in symbiosis, fermenting is one of the more challenging ways to preserve food at home. Some types of fermentation are easier than others. The most popular are sourdough, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha.
Herbs, spices, teas, dried fruits, and beef jerky are all common food items you’ll see dehydrated. It’s usually done with an oven, in the sun, or with a dehydrator. All three will provide one of the best hacks to extend the life of food.
Canning is one of the most powerful solutions for food waste (and climate doomsday) we have, so familiarize yourself with the process to avoid botulism and keep food good for years.
We can’t emphasize enough that safe home canning needs solid research and proper tools. It works by heating foods in jars to a temperature (and often under pressure) that kills any harmful microorganisms, while also inactivating enzymes that lead to food spoiling.
If you’ve got a juicer or blender, then you might already know most expiring fruits and veggies have a further life in them thanks to juicing.
You can then consume these yummy juices or add to smoothies, soups, or kombucha.
According to The National Center for Home Food Preservation, “Curing is the addition to meats of some combination of salt, sugar, [and] nitrite.”
Refer to this guide for a plethora of meat and fish videos, recipes, and cheat sheets about curing theory, necessary equipment, and instructions.
4. Buy “Ugly” Produce & Discounted Groceries
Meat with 30% off stickers, the discount baked goods rack, the almost “sell-by” meats, ugly fruits, and so forth: these will all get thrown away to waste if not purchased that day, but they’re all still perfectly fine to eat. (Sell by dates are not the same as expiration dates).
Some companies will even deliver “ugly” foods to you with a sustainable subscription box some of which are delivered monthly. Or you can start a relationship with a farmer at your local farmer’s market to get your hands on some delicious ugly produce or soon-to-expire products.
Here are basic guidelines for when food is safe to eat:
- Milk: Usually safe after one week after selling
- Eggs: Often fine 3–5 weeks from the date of purchase
- Poultry and seafood: Cook or freeze within one or two days after purchase
- Beef or pork: Cook or freeze within three-five days
- Canned goods: Good for 5–18 months, depending on the acidity of the product
So the next time you hit the shops, buy ugly! This is one consumer-driven grocery store food waste solution that will save you money, as well as our beautiful planet.
5. Cook Smaller Meals
If everyone in the world lived and ate like the average American, we would need more than four Earths.
But we don’t have four Earths, so we’d better cut down on excess food.
One of the simplest and most sustainable food waste solutions is to cook smaller meals. Especially if you’re someone who rarely touches leftovers, why cook a pot of spaghetti for twelve when there are only one or two eating it?
Looking at our habits and adjusting to reduce household food waste is an important step to a low waste lifestyle and preventing food waste.
A good way to ensure this is by planning at least a few meals for each week. This will also stop you from purchasing too much at the grocery store.
It’s also smart to coordinate your meals to use slightly similar ingredients for the next recipe. For example, if you plan to eat a spinach salad one night, then use it in a white lasagna recipe the next.
The average American loses almost $2000 to food waste every year (!) meaning this is just as much an economic solution as it is a solution to food waste in America.
6. Use Everything You Can
When a recipe calls for something, use it to its entirety, and maybe even have the ingredient stretch out to multiple meals.
For example, maybe you cook a Thanksgiving turkey. Don’t just toss the scraps!
That carcass can be picked and boiled down for a delicious and nutritious broth, which provides you a soup or pasta base for another couple of meals.
Plus, the leftover turkey meat can be used for yummy sandwiches, soups, or casseroles in the coming days, meaning this one of the most efficient food waste solutions at home, too.
7. Cook With Scraps
Your zero waste kitchen can extend to zero waste cooking.
After all, the amount that really needs to be “leftover” is extremely minimal. You can find countless cool ways to use rather than toss food that isn’t being included in your recipe.
Here are some scrap-happy solutions to reduce food waste:
- Vegetable peels and scraps can be boiled with salt and made into soup stock.
- Soft apples or blueberries cook deliciously into oatmeal or pancakes.
- Stale bread makes perfect bread crumbs, croutons, or bread pudding.
- Veggies starting to wilt can be added to stir-fries or soups. Leafy veggies can be blended and made into pesto.
- Old cheese rinds can be added to soups or pasta sauces.
- Squash or pumpkin seeds can be seasoned and roasted.
- Leftover bones and meat can be used to make nutritious bone broth.
8. Feed Food Scraps To Animals
In terms of donating leftover food for farm animals, contact your local solid waste, county agricultural extension office, or public health agency for more information.
After all, there’s around 14.7 million tons of food waste in the US (and 1.3 billion tons globally) that could be safely turned into animal feed, which currently ends up in landfills where it produces methane gas that intensifies our worldwide climate disaster.
Feeding vegetable scraps to animals means a more circular system that repurposes nutrients to feed livestock, which can also help mitigate other major environmental impacts of making livestock feed crops like land, energy, and water use.
If you have a backyard homestead with your own animals (even if it’s just a few chickens), this is one of the best solutions when it comes to how to reduce food waste at home.
9. Compost Everything Else
Have we told you lately how much we love the magic of composting?
It’s a necessary way to reduce landfill waste and when implemented on a wide scale, composting significantly reduces factors that contribute to climate change (hope to see ya never again, methane emissions.)
What is composting?
It’s a process by which pretty much any material that can break down and be recycled back into 100% organic elements in a short (less than 180 days) span of time.
Composting is especially useful as a sustainable food waste solution as it also produces a much needed earth-born material. It’s called humus, which garden enthusiasts refer to as “black gold”, because it has massive potential for revitalizing soils, increasing crop yields, and reviving the environment.
Sounds a lot better than becoming greenhouse gasses in landfill to us.
Even if you like in a small apartment, apartment composting is easy and actually more needed than ever.
Since urban dwellings often consist of small footprint apartments with little-to-no outdoor access, organic waste finds its way into landfills sadly in droves.
An EPA study found that more than 50% of non-industrial food waste in the United States ended up in a landfill (meaning it contributes to methane and other greenhouse gas emissions) and just 4% became compost.
Meanwhile, the UN says composting can potentially divert 150 kg of food waste per household per year from local garbage collection authorities.
An indoor compost bin can be the easiest, most hygienic, efficient way to compost in your apartment.
If you have a backyard, there’s no reason to fear creepy crawlies or worms, who actually have an important job in terms of breaking down matter and helping it transform into nutritious soil for your sustainable gardening efforts.
The advantages of composting are almost too many to list, which makes it a crucial component of any zero waste plan to end food waste.
We’ve got you covered with over 100 ideas of what you can compost at home right now. Depending on the size and type of organic matter, it should take 3–6 months to produce decent quality, healthy compost.
And don’t worry, the bin keeps it contained.
10. Large-Scale Food Waste Management Solutions
The broader scope of food waste solutions involves large-scale approaches to a more circular food system to tackle how to reduce food waste in restaurants, grocery stores, schools, offices, and households alike.
So, what causes food waste on a larger scale?
Food waste happens within our current food system for lots of reasons, with some waste happening at all stages of food’s production and supply chain.
From the farm gate to the various retail stages like drying, milling, transporting, or processing, food gets damaged or rots thanks to rodents, birds, insects, molds, or bacteria.
At the retail level, equipment malfunction, over-ordering, and culling of “ugly” produce often results in food loss.
On top of that, consumers add to food loss when they buy or cook more than they need, and the leftovers get tossed.
The EPA and USDA developed this hierarchy as a guideline of best practices for food recovery in our current food system. The top levels are considered “best,” since they create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy.
- Source reduction: Reduce the volume of surplus food generated. One of the most important food waste solutions, companies need to not overproduce.
- Feed hungry people: Extra food donation to local food needs at shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens
- Feed animals: Divert scraps to livestock feed, which also helps with the large ecological footprint of feeding livestock
- Industrial uses: Methods to recover energy from food waste (i.e fuel conversion and energy recovery).
- Composting: Create a nutrient rich soil from food scraps
- Landfill / incineration: When all else fails.
Looking ahead, solutions to food waste in landfills on a large scale are promising for three main reasons: lower costs for waste disposal, the creation of an excellent end product via composting, and significant reduction in GHGs.
The next step to reducing food waste is to make it as financially attractive as possible, which will fuel individuals, companies, and hospitals to reduce food waste at a more impactful level.
By shifting from a linear model of production and consumption to a circular model that is at the core of any sustainable food system, we can better impact our planet from seed to table.
Care to learn more?
Here are some interesting and innovative food waste solutions and related resources on changing the food system:
- Apeel: Their invisible, edible coating is made from wasted agricultural products like leftover grape skins from wine production, which can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by five times. “Food Gone Good,” they aptly call Apeel products.
- Flashfood: This app allows shoppers to browse food items approaching their best before date, purchase them at a discount, and pick them up in participating stores.
- Food Waste Alliance: Industry leaders intent to shrink our eco-footprint and eradicate hunger in America. Lots of valuable resources here.
- Food Shift: Recovery and revitalization of surplus and imperfect locally available food in the San Francisco area.
- Food Cowboy: An app for food rescue that connects those most likely to have surplus produce (like farmers or truckers) with the emergency food charity sector (soup kitchens, churches, and homeless shelters).
- Full Harvest, Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market, Hungry Harvest: All noteworthy options for “wonky” fresh produce that won’t be sold in conventional grocery produce aisles, thereby combating hunger, GHGs, and food waste.
- Neurolabs: Proprietary AI that is providing real-time shelf monitoring for supermarkets so that gaps in inventory can be better identified to stop food wastage.
- Olio: This sustainability app connects neighbors to flag up and share surplus food. Users upload a photo and description, and neighbors can claim the food before it’s wasted. Olio is currently the biggest food-sharing network in the world with 7 million plus users.
- Outcast Foods: This Canadian company takes cast-off fruits and veggies and turns them into clean, sustainable, nutrient-dense wholesale nutritional powders. They call it “produce upcycling”. Popular items include kale powder, garlic powder, and blueberry powder.
- Spoiler Alert: B2B supply chain software to manage excess or slow-moving inventory.
- Salvage Supperclub: A high-end dinner from a dumpster, they’re one of many new trendy supper clubs transforming our relationship to food systems and food waste.
- Winnow: These guys help manage large-scale food waste through the power of AI and analytics.
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Final Thoughts On How To Prevent Food Waste
We know, it’s a lot to bite off when you learn the staggering statistics of wasted food in a world where both human hunger and environmental degradation continue to take their toll.
The bottom line is that by putting people and the planet BEFORE the bottom line, we can tackle food security and food waste by re-diverting it to positively impactful things via food waste solutions like those we’ve just laid out.
Reducing food waste is so important because it reduces the amount of people who go hungry, fortifies soils for better farming, and stops the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.
Plus, it’s financially advantageous.
Aren’t you glad you now know how to prevent food waste at home?
If only it were so simple.
Food waste affects everyone, but solutions to food waste (in restaurants, homes, or anywhere) are vast and complex, and they won’t be solved overnight.
But with knowledge, collaboration, and a shift in values, people are already coming together to find more efficient, secure, and sustainable food systems.
That’s because more and more people are seeing that not only is preventing food waste economically advantageous, but enormously environmentally so.
The next time friends or family open their overflowing fridge and ask you, “What are solutions to food waste?” be sure to share this article to encourage them to adapt food waste solutions into their low waste living routine.