The Where, When & How of Food Waster - 4 tips for getting it under control

The Where, When & How of Food Waster - 4 tips for getting it under control

Most food waste from households and businesses happens and many different points. We often aren’t even aware of just how much we waste and when, which makes it difficult to get under control. That’s a problem because not only are you throwing money away with each bit of waste, it also has a huge impact on the planet.

Think about it. For a tomato to make it into a salad large amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides and labour are invested in growing it. It is then picked, packaged and transported to a distributor where it may be repackaged and transported again to a grocery store or market that consumers likely drive to and from to purchase that tomato before slicing it up for dinner at home or to serve in a restaurant.

So many resources went getting that tomato to you. If that tomato is wasted, all those resources are wasted too.

Now, one tomato isn’t so bad. But the larger picture of food waste really is. Here are some key facts on food loss and waste from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:

  • About a third of the world’s entire food production is lost or wasted each year.

  • Fruits and vegetables have the highest rate of waste.

  • In grocery stores and markets, huge quantities of food are wasted due to appearance (i.e. food that is good to eat, but not “pretty” enough).

  • Food loss and waste costs industrialized countries (like the US and Canada) approximately US $680 billion per year.

Read more about food waste and lost here.

This amount of food waste is unacceptable. It’s a drain on our wallets and our planet, and each of us has a role in reducing that waste.

If you want truly want to know how to waste less food (possibly the easiest way to become a superhero… a lot easier than getting bitten by a radioactive spider) you need to start by understanding where, when and how food waste is happening in your home or business.

Here are some tips on avoiding food waste for both households and businesses:

Step 1: Understand where, when & how it’s happening

A simple waste log that you can keep on your own, or have your staff contribute to will help identify your greatest areas of food waste.

Create a checklist and make a record each time food is thrown in the garbage. Your checklist should include:

  • State: Is the food still edible, or has it gone bad?

  • Preparation: Was the food prepared in some way, or was it never touched before throwing it out?

  • Leftover: Is it leftover from a meal?

  • Storage: How was the food being stored and did storage contribute to it going bad?

  • Why: Why is the food being thrown out? Did it go bad? Did a plate come back only half eaten? Did you, your family or your customers not like it? Do you have a surplus to get rid of?

Commit to keeping this log for at least a few purchasing cycles (or grocery runs for consumers) in order to get a full picture of the situation.

After a few cycles or weeks, review the log and list your food waste areas from greatest to smallest.

Step 2: Save your low hanging fruit first

Get it? Fruit? Food? Saving food?? Get used to the bad jokes. They’re a superhero standard!

Reducing food waste is an ongoing process and motivation is a key part of that process.

Quick wins at the very beginning will start you off on the right foot and go a long way towards rallying the troops - either your family, roommates or staff.

Look for a few things on your list that can be tackled quickly. Here are some areas that are usually quick and easy to fix:

  • Change the way you store food so it keeps longer

  • Set aside one night every week for leftovers

  • Commit to only shopping with a list

  • Reduce the amount of food put on plates

  • Plan meals around what’s already in the fridge

  • Reduce the amount you buy in each shopping/purchasing cycle

Step 3: Make a plan for the rest

You tackled your low hanging fruit. Congrats! Cross those off your list. Do a superhero pose. You are a superhero!

While you’re still pumped up from the high of saving the planet, make plans for the remaining items on your list.

Set a goal for each one and plan the steps to get you there. Set deadlines and start dates and commit to each rescue mission.

Start at least one immediately. Don’t take on too much all at once or you risk losing that great motivation. Even superheroes have their limits!

Step 4: Reassess regularly

Remember that waste log from Step 1? Keep it as your baseline and start new ones from time to time for comparison.

This will not only give you a clear idea of your progress, it will also help with that oh-so-important motivation and tell you if any new waste problems have cropped up.

Whether you’re doing it for your home or business, reducing food waste is a no brainer. You save money (who doesn’t like that?), save the planet and help your community all at the same time. It takes some shifts in our thinking and some changes in habits and behaviour, but you can do it. Afterall, you’re a superhero ;-)

This way for savings

Download the app that helps you save on fresh surplus products.

Fight food waste, save money and help Mother Earth. Don't wait, download the app now.

a blue sign that says stop food waste