Updated: Feb 17
Food waste is an issue of global importance that results in consequences at different levels, such as food safety, environmental, economic, among others.
In the European Union about 88 million tonnes of food waste is generated annually, with 53% of this food waste arising in the household, followed by processing (19%) and production (11%). Studies by Fusions, 2016, show that households play a determining role in our collective future. Food waste produced annually has associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros.
Therefore we all have to contribute a little to tackle this issue.
The Food4Sustainability team is already part of this union against food waste, adopting some measures in their homes. Together we can make a difference! In this article, we share some of the team members' practices. Many of these strategies, besides fighting food waste, can make our meals richer in flavour and more nutritious and help us save some money.
Organise the fridge and cupboards regularly
One of the most effective strategies to reduce food waste, is to always keep in mind what is in our fridge and cupboards. "Putting the fridge and freezer away frequently will ensure that no food is left forgotten" is Daniela Fonseca's advice.
Putting the oldest foods at the front of the shelves also ensures that no expiry date is missed. Making an inventory of the packages we have in the pantry allows us to manage their contents more effectively.
Making shopping lists
One of the essential stages in combating this problem is when we are out of the house. Before leaving home to go shopping, we should always "make a review of what we have at home, to complement it. Taking a shopping list with you is essential", João Gama tells us.
Although buying too much is not recommended, sometimes it happens - when we find good discounts, for example. But there are several very sustainable solutions for this type of situation, like "when I buy large quantities (for example, a 1kg bag of carrots), I peel them, cut a part and freeze it straight away" - an example that Daniela Fonseca puts into practice in her home.
"I also usually make a lot of tomato pulp (when there are a lot of tomatoes) and then freeze it in those bags that make ice cubes, and this way I have little cubes of tomato pulp to put in my food for a longer period of time (instead of always buying pulp full of colouring products)", as exemplified by Sílvia Moreira.
Use it creatively
To make use of leftovers, we give wings to imagination, turning the kitchen into a creative place. Creating tastier and more nutritious meals from leftovers, or even from parts of food that usually go to waste, depends on our creativity.
"The stalks of broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, vegetable peelings, etc., which usually go to waste, are often used to make soup stock, Cecília Franco and João Gama tell us. Broths can also be made "with fish and shellfish, meat on the bone, etc." as João Gama explains.
When we miscalculate the amount of food to make, we can use the leftovers, and produce new dishes. "If I have some rice, pasta, chicken, or tofu left over, I add some vegetables to sauté, and at the end an egg or two to bind everything together. Tcharan! a new dish 😊", so Cecília Franco does.
"Take advantage of small pieces of cheese, for example, to make bruschetta or pizza. We grate, instead of buying, since we have the habit of buying whole cheeses and then pieces are always left forgotten", as Daniela Fonseca tells us.
"Making quiche or lasagne when there are various leftovers in the fridge (vegetables, chicken)" is the example given by Sílvia Moreira. When the appetite is smaller and there are parts of food left over, we can "use small amounts of fruit to make smoothies (add half a banana (the sister only ate half) with half an apple (the mother only ate half) 😄", so teaches us Daniela Fonseca.
Don't throw it away without first tasting it
"You wouldn't believe how much food is thrown away, simply because it's past its expiry date: you've already thrown away yogurts, haven't you😉!?" Lack of knowledge about the expiry date of food, leads to 10% of food waste in the EU. Therefore, we should opt for "not throwing anything away just because it has passed its expiry date, but always taste it first" tells us João Gama
The "Observe, Smell, Taste" initiative teaches us which 10 foods we can eat after the expiry date. It is worth a read!
Educating and changing mentalities
Children are the future, and so it is essential to educate them from an early age about problems such as this. From a young age, it is essential to "demystify "fresh" food", educating "children to eat the leftovers from previous days". Also, "serving little but more often" allows for "waste awareness", Claúdia Costa tells us.
But even as a child, it is never too late to change mentalities! When we come across a challenge like this, we should embrace it and, in the end, with the feeling that we have brought more people into this network against food waste. We know and are aware that it is not always easy to persuade others to new habits, "but perseverance is the key word, and it is worth trying again, even if it did not go well the first time! Never give up!" shares Cecília Franco.
For those who have an outdoor space
There are several ways to make use of food waste when you have animals and an outdoor space. "In my house, and that of two of my children in the same village, we avoid wasting food, and recycle what remains of waste and food waste through our animals - we have a dozen chickens, two dogs and half a dozen cats", José Amorim tells us.
Composting is also a strategy frequently used by the team to fertilise their small kitchen gardens - examples from Claúdia Costa and José Amorim.
Where to buy
"Buying at local markets, as much as possible, and from producers" allows for "food with more taste, and almost everything, guaranteed, tastes better and lasts longer, and that is also fighting food waste", is the practice of João Gama.
Let's join the new trends and look for an organic producer in our neighbourhood who makes hampers. This is a trend that has been seen in more and more towns and cities. Usually, the hampers are delivered weekly to consumers and come packed with flavour and very nutritious products. "Buy only what you need, and order a weekly organic basket from a local producer", José Amorim suggests.
New technologies have also already joined in to combat this waste. And members of F4S already use "regularly the application Too Good To Go, where various establishments can register and sell food that would otherwise go to waste at lower prices", Silvia Moreira tells us.
And if, by any chance, you buy "ripe/ stale fruit, you can use it to make smoothies and juices", according to Silvia Moreira. We also have a tip to save some money: "at the supermarket don't buy sliced things, they are more expensive", shares João Gama.
Last but not least, we, as consumers, have a duty to contribute to a healthier and more sustainable place, including when we talk about our food. Being thoughtful and responsible, both when shopping and at home is essential. After all, we are what we eat!
This article was written based on the experiences of the Food4Sustainability team.