Did you know that the average consumer usually troughs away around 1/3 of their groceries from a single shopping? If this doesn’t mean anything to you, just think about going shopping; you come back with three full bags of groceries and just throw one in the garbage. That’s what the average person is doing.
Not only do you spend money on things that will end up in the trash, which actually means that you are actually throwing money away, but all of those products required lots of energy, water, and other resources to be brought to you, and you are just wasting it without any good reason. You’re not just wasting money, you’re wasting energy, water, and greenhouse gas emissions.
So, if you care about your money and about the environment and would like to start making a difference, here are some easy tips on how to reduce your impact and save some money in the process.
Never go shopping when you’re hungry
We’ve all done that and we still do every once in a while, but this is a surprisingly dangerous habit when it comes to food waste. Who hasn’t returned home, gone through his groceries, and think Why on Earth did I buy that?! Well, you were hungry, and the brain was sending signals that you need food, so you’re very likely to overextend.
You are not yourself when you’re hungry, so it’s better to have a snack before going shopping. This way you’ll be safe from buying large amounts of food you’ll never going to eat. The thing is that when we’re hungry, we overestimate the amount of food that we can eat and this way we end up with more things than we wanted that will eventually go to the trash.
I am usually planning my meals in advance, I check the fridge, the cupboard and see what else will I need for my meals to be ready and delicious. Not only that the chances of wasting food are getting lower, but it’s also less time consuming to meal prep and plan ahead, and it’s usually quite healthy to have cooked food when you’re hungry. This way you are in control of your money and what you eat.
OK, this might a bit challenging at first, but you quickly get used to it. Preparing your meals is still one of the best methods to be sure that your food waste is minimum and it comes with a big bonus: you eat delicious, healthy home-cooked food all the time. The recommendations for a healthy lifestyle are that we should eat 3 meals a day with 2-3 snacks in between. With this in mind we can start preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a whole week, keep the food that is going to be eaten in 2-3 days in the fridge, and the food for days 4-5 could go to the freezer, using a microwave for them. It can be kind of annoying to eat the same food every day, but thinking that you can spend a maximum of 2 hours to prepare the whole food for 5 days, brings a huge advantage for the people that want to eat healthily but do not have a lot of time, and also this reduces the costs of the food, by not going every day to buy groceries, and highly reduces the food waste.
The same thing could happen if you eat out, or if your work offers you some kind of food service. Try to estimate how much food you’ll have and don’t be afraid to ask for a smaller portion if it’s too much. Throwing away restaurant food is just as bad as throwing your own.
Tip: there are lots of videos on youtube on meal prep, for every type of dietary choices (vegan, vegetarian, gluten or dairy free, calorie-oriented, etc.).
Have a shopping list
The shopping list comes really in handy when talking about food waste, but they could really save you lots of money as well. For example, if you already know what you need for your meals to be ready and really tasty, you’ll not buy those products that you think you’re going to eat, but will eventually end up in the trash bin.
This is especially important because we usually overestimate the amount of food that we are going to eat in a week. I mean, the nutritional recommendations for an average adult are usually around 2000 calories a day, which if you think about it, is just a burger plus chips, a glass of soda, a slice of cake and maybe a sandwich. This really depends on so many things, but it’s just to give you an idea. The point is, you should have a clear idea about what you want to buy, and lists just work. You can also try phone apps, though for me, paper just works better.
Tip: you can check out how calories look like in different foods to have an idea about what and how much you can/should eat.
Avoid multi-buy offers
The multi-buy offers can be good and bad at the same time and you have to be careful because you might think that you’ll pay less for more, but you might also fall victim to clever advertising. Multi-buy offers (ie buy 2 get 1 free) often convince you to buy stuff you don’t need, don’t really want, and often just discard anyway.
If the offers are for non-perishable foods, like grains (rice, cereals, pasta, etc), canned food, spices, that might be a good catch though, because they can stay in your cupboard for months without going bad. On the other hand, if you buy meat, dairy products, eggs, snacks, chips, cakes — stay well away. Usually, around half of that goes to waste, because you don’t have enough time to eat all that until the due date of the products. But some of it can also be saved if you could just freeze it.
Freeze the leftovers (or anything else)
Freezing is amazing. I was really surprised to see how many people don’t know you can freeze food. Sure, there are a few products that cannot be frozen like eggs, salad, cucumbers, etc, but most vegetables, meat, even cheese, and yogurt could be frozen for a couple of months more. You can also freeze fruits, let’s say you buy a whole pineapple, which, if you don’t want to throw a party where you’ll only drink pina coladas, you’re not going to eat that whole pineapple before it starts to go bad; so, what you can do is cut the whole pineapple, leave some pieces in the fridge or eat them, and the rest can be easily put in a bag/container etc. in the freezer. This way you’ll have amazing fresh pineapple for your smoothies or whatever you may like, and also it’s a lot cheaper than the frozen pre-cut pineapple found in the supermarkets.
You could also freeze those pizza left-overs or even soups, and other dishes, you’ll only need a microwave and ta-da you’ll have a very tasty and warm dish with really minimal effort anytime you want.
These are just some ideas!
Everyone has their own lifestyle with their own preference. Geography also causes a lot of differences, as does age and any number of different food preferences. It’s important to find something that works for you — because that’s the only way you can make a sustainable change.