“Feel what it’s like to truly starve, and I guarantee that you’ll forever think twice before wasting food.”
― Criss Jami
With the availability of food products and the variety available in today’s world, we often get carried away and buy more food than we need. When we don’t consume all of it, they get thrown out and food wastage happens. Tired of seeing good food go in the bin? Want to reduce food wastage? Read on.
1. Write a grocery list when you go marketing
How many times have you walked into a supermarket with only a vague idea of what you want? You bring home whole trolley of food, and only when you’re home realise you’re missing egg, milk, or bread? My hand is up.
Think about how many people you’re feeding for the week, how many meals you plan to cook, and the types of food groups you need (carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, protein, and dairy).
I plan to feed 2 people and cook 5 days of the week. We eat bread and have some milk every morning. Fruits, vegetables, and protein (e.g. meat, fish, chicken, pork, or bean products) are a must at both lunch and dinner. So essentially, I need to get a loaf of bread, 2L of milk, 14 portions of fruit (they can be a mix), 10 serves of vegetables, and 10 serves of meat. What’s a serve? Click here to find out.
It sounds like a lot of numbers and calculations, but it doesn’t have to be precise. Just write a rough gauge of amounts that you need on your grocery list and allow for some trial and error. After a while, you’ll find yourself with quite a standard basket of ingredients/foods you need every week. All you have to do is make minor adjustments depending on what you’re cooking. When you start doing this, you realise your fridge/pantry empties out each week and less food gets wasted.
I’ve personally just started doing this as I’m the main cook at home now, and I find grocery shopping a much quicker process with much less distractions!
2. Buy a mixture of fast- and slow- perishing foods
Sometimes the week is a bit unpredictable and you don’t know whether you’ll cook or not. Yet, you want to have the option to. The solution? Buy some foods that perish less quickly. Of the food I buy every week, perhaps 30% will be frozen or canned foods. Think they’re bad for health? Read this post that de-bunks that myths (for select food items). Otherwise, I buy fresh foods that last longer. This way, even if I end up not cooking for the week, I don’t have to throw them out because they can keep for awhile.
3. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer
Generally, cooked food can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days while in the freezer for 1-6 months, depending on the type of food. Most importantly, remember to store them safely in clean containers in the fridge/freezer within 2 hours, or an hour on hot summer days. Label them with the date of storage so you remember to eat them on time. An easy way is to paste masking tape over the top and writing the day’s date down in marker. Here’s a handy chart for the storage times of different food types.
4. When eating out, request for food you can’t finish to be taken away
Ever went to a restaurant, had a look at the menu and ordered whatever stood out to you because you were just so hungry? What tends to happen at the end of the meal is either a very bloated stomach, or a lot of food left on the table.
I’ve experienced that myself one too many times. If the dish arrives and it looks like more than I can handle, I’ll plan to have it packed for takeaway. In such cases, I’ll request for a serving spoon to scoop what I can finish onto my personal plate, so whatever I can’t finish can then be safely packed up. This way, I reduce food wastage, I don’t overeat, and I have a spare portion of food for another meal!
5. When dining out, don’t order more than you need
If you think you’ll be embarrassed at asking for your meal to be packed in takeaway boxes, order right to start off with. If you’ve been practicing mindful eating (if you don’t know what that is, or want to know more, click here), you should realise how much food you generally need at a meal to feel full by now.
When items on the menu all look so tempting, and you want to order a starter, a main and a dessert, just order your main first. Tell yourself you can always order more later if you still feel hungry. Chances are, you won’t, and you will be glad you held yourself back. Or you may decide to share a dessert with your friend, and feel satisfied enough after. Isn’t that better than both of you leaving the table, each with a half-eaten dessert and your wallets emptier than it needs to be?
Afterall, always remember, you can always add on orders, but you can’t always have them cancelled.
Follow these tips, and you reduce food wastage from today onward!
- My healthy plate [document on the internet]. Health Promotion Board; 2019 [cited 2019 May 2]. Available from: https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/55/my-healthy-plate
- Charts: Food safety at a glance [document on the internet]. US department of health and human services; 2019 [cited 2019 May 2]. Available from: https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/index.html