This week’s instalment is all about food, where to buy it, where to store it and how to reduce food waste.
Following on from the first week's article on reducing bathroom waste, the follow-up deep-dive on the same subject, the third instalment in which we took a look at how to reduce waste when it comes to feminine care, and the fourth instalment which brought us into the realm of kitchen waste.. This article contains links (of the non-referral kind, so no kickback, no sponsorship) to some of the products discussed, but other brands and options are available - and will usually be carried by zero-waste shops, such as Ouni. Many can also be found in regular shops and supermarkets.
In the EU a shocking 88 million tonnes (approximately) of food is wasted each year. This is a huge number especially, if you think about all the countries which struggle with food scarcity. Through their habits and the food standards they are used to, people in developed countries often unconsciously contributing to this massive number.
Again a few simple changes can help you to reduce the negative impact you have on this number.
First, be aware of how much you buy. This sounds simple but when we go shopping we often buy more than we actually need, and the excess food we bought then goes to waste because there is simply no time to eat it before it goes off. A good way to avoid this is to write a shopping list and actually stick to them — especially when buying fresh produce. An offer on fruits or vegetables where you get two kilos for the price of one sounds tempting and is indeed a bargain, but if you don’t manage to eat it all and your ‘free’ fruit ends up in the bin... you actually end up not only wasting food, but also money. A more mindful shop can avoid this.
What helps planning your shopping is planning your meals in advance, so you know exactly what you need to buy and when you want to eat it. You do not need to follow this 100%; if you fancy something else that day don’t be afraid to make it is not a strict plan but it is a good indicator of what to buy and makes your shopping more organised and eventually less wasteful.
Avoiding unnecessary packaging
In addition, you might want to look out for unnecessary packaging when buying food. Unfortunately a lot of food is still wrapped in plastic or comes in plastic tubs and avoiding this can seem hard. A good idea is to buy dry foods in bulk, as you can keep them for a long time and it is cheaper. OUNI (without), a shop in Luxembourg city (and soon Dudelange) is completely packaging free — costumers need to bring their own containers and can fill them with whatever they need and pay according to the weight of the product (the weight of the container is deducted).
The relatively new supermarket on Cloche d’or is not a packaging free shop but also offers a variety of unpackaged products which customers can fill their own containers with. Several smaller supermarkets also offer such services but with a reduced variety, often only offering nuts, some grains and cereal or pasta. Here, the supermarkets often offer paper bags and costumers don’t need to bring their containers with them but can simply transfer what they bought to their containers at home.
Glass jars work very well as containers for the above described shops, the best part is that you don’t necessarily need to buy new jars but can simply reuse old jam jars and the like. However, it is worth investing in some bigger jars for frequently eaten foods such as rice or cereal so the trip to the packaging free shop is actually worth it. These jars can also be used to store leftovers and even to freeze food. Freezing food in a jar might seem intimidating but as long as you make sure that the glass is thick enough and don’t fill it to the top, as the food will expand when you freeze it, it is very unlikely that you will experience any breakage.
Just make sure that you don’t forget about the leftovers at the back of the fridge, because there is no point in saving them in the first place when you end up throwing them away anyway. Of course, you can still store your leftovers in plastic containers you already own but when the time to replace these comes it is better to buy either mental containers or to use your glass jars.
For fresh fruit and vegetables supermarkets now offer reusable nylon bags, which can be used instead of plastic bags. Alternatively, you can go to the market where most produce is not wrapped anyway and you can just ask the stall operator not to give you any bags except if they are made out of paper. Moreover, you can often benefit from locally sourced products there. If you buy bread in a bakery it usually comes in a paper bag and most supermarkets now offer unwrapped bread or got rid of their plastic bags.
Once you get home, know how to store your food correctly, so it stays fresh for as long as possible. A lot of foods keep longer in the fridge, but potatoes, onions or garlic do not belong in the cold and are better stored in a cupboard. This website has a handy guide on where to store which food best, as well as more information on food waste and how to avoid it. If you are unable to eat the food in time, you can freeze most foods and save them for later.
Another source of food waste are best before dates that confuse people and they end up throwing perfectly fine and edible food away. Best before dates are only an indication of food quality, not safety, which means that the texture or taste of a certain product might be different after the indicated date but not that the food has gone off. Use by dates are different, often found on fresh products such as milk, this date tells you when the food is most likely to go off and you should avoid consuming it after the indicated date.
However, certain foods such as yoghurt or eggs these dates are not always true, and they are safe to eat after the stated date. When in doubt it is always best to trust your senses, if the food smells weird or if you can see mould don’t eat it, but if none of these are the case and the food still tastes normal it is very likely that it is safe to eat. Despite this, if you have the slightest doubt it is better not to risk your health even if something goes to waste. This also counts for foods without expiry dates, such as fruit, but don’t be afraid to eat an apple just because it has one brown spot from when someone dropped it or when something has not a perfect shape, this does not affect the taste we are just so used to see perfect produce that everything else seems strange.
Finally, you can also avoid waste by making more things yourself instead of buying them in plastic containers, such as hummus or pre-made salads. In addition, you can save vegetable peals to make soup or you can compost them.
Questions? Comments? Further suggestions for living an eco-friendly lifestyle? Leave a comment below!