Cutting Food Waste at Home and Worldwide (70+ recipes and tips!)

This is a guest post by Maria Ramos.  Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication.  She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

(The recipe section of this article originally appeared on the Thrifty Tips page of The Earthling’s Handbook, and it will be updated as we have new food-saving ideas!)

Most of the current focus on environmental harm has been on the effects of pollution generated through industrial processes, but there’s another type of human activity that probably hits a lot closer to home for most people: food waste. Discarded food often ends up rotting in landfills, emitting greenhouse gases as it decomposes. Moreover, all the resources–fertilizer, water, energy, and labor–that go into the production of wasted food have also essentially been wasted at this point and could be better utilized.

It’s estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year. In the United States alone, as much as 40 percent of the food we purchase ends up being thrown away. About a third of all food produced worldwide is either thrown out or destroyed before it is eaten–a loss of a whopping $1 trillion in foodstuffs. With the world population expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, it’s important that we work to counteract this profligacy and misuse of our nutritional resources, or many may face hunger and starvation.

There’s a dichotomy in the way food is wasted between the developing world and the developed world. In poorer countries, much of the crop that’s harvested each year languishes until it’s not fit for human consumption. Poor refrigeration techniques, lack of appropriate pesticides, and inadequate transportation infrastructure all contribute to the spoilage of food before it ever gets to market. In richer countries, the problem is different: Food gets to stores, warehouses, and customers’ homes just fine, but much of it is thrown out post-purchase because the expiry date passes, people discard their leftovers, or individuals simply fail to eat everything they have bought. People buy not only what they actually eat but also an additional amount that might not ever even be removed from the packaging.

In areas without proper refrigeration, new solutions like India’s solar Promethean Power Systems and biogas-powered cooling equipment may allow for efficient cooling performance without fossil fuel usage and the resultant pollution. Proper storage techniques are also critical. Several different types of bags are being developed that promote freshness through a carefully created mixture of gases. Items stored in these containers will decay at a rate much slower than that of foodstuffs that are left out in the open, and some of the bags even combat insect infestation by keeping the oxygen concentration of air inside the bags low.

In the developed world, we can adjust the way we buy and use food to get the most out of our food supply. First, only buy what you’re actually going to eat! Some stores even provide you with an option to fill your own reusable containers with the exact amount you want. It’s important, after bringing groceries home, to make sure they’re properly stored to extend their useful life. Freezing, canning, pickling, composting, saving leftovers, and donating are all ways of getting use out of food that would otherwise be thrown out. Here are some techniques for making the most of odd bits of food:

Even technology has really stepped up its game in the form of mobile interfaces for getting information about extending food longevity and cooperating with others to improve the local food situation. Foodloop is a mobile app that matches unsold food from supermarkets with potential buyers who would be willing to buy it at low prices, while the FlashFood app connects perishable foods with those who need them.

Another new technology, the anaerobic digester, can convert food scraps into fertilizer while harvesting gases to produce renewable energy!

Besides saving a buck or two, there are many advantages to reducing food waste. The resources that currently go into growing crops that never see a dinner table could be redirected more efficiently, and those who are in marginal financial situations are able to better maintain their well-being when more food is available for human use. And most importantly, the environment won’t be as burdened by the harmful gases that are released when abandoned food is left to rot. Just as people have made the decision to use renewable energy providers to conserve energy and participate in various recycling programs as opposed to littering the streets, we must all make an effort to improve our record regarding food misuse, even if it’s just within our own households. Growing ecological concerns are making finding a solution to our worldwide issue with food waste more crucial than ever before.

Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Be Clean Be Green With Kids for more waste-prevention tips!  Visit the Hearth & Soul Hop and Real Food Friday for more food-related articles!  Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday and the Healthy Living Link Party for more great tips on many topics!

23 thoughts on “Cutting Food Waste at Home and Worldwide (70+ recipes and tips!)

  1. Pingback: Thrifty Tips | The Earthling's Handbook

  2. Interesting post! I’ve never even thought about many of these suggestions and ideas.

    Thanks for sharing them today.

    I came over on Works for Me.

    Hope you have a blessed day~

  3. It is shocking how much food does actually go to waste, it really is something that concerns me. What a great resource this post is. You’ve shared some wonderful ideas for how to avoid food waste and some seriously delicious recipes. Thank you for sharing this post with us at Hearth and Soul!

  4. Hi Becca,
    Maria has so very good ideas on how to help the environment. There is so much food waste in our country that could be stopped. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays. Pinned & twitted.

  5. There are so many great tips in here. I’m not quite sure where to start. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ll have to save this post for later to reference. 🙂

  6. This is such great information. There is so much food wasted, and most people aren’t even aware of that! Thanks for sharing on healthy living link party

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  8. Very informative article! Most of don’t realize how much we waste and is wasted everywhere around the world. The statistics are really shocking and unbelievable! It’s great to have more articles like this one and more people to be concern about this issue!

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    • Thanks for pointing me to your linkup! You motivated me to update this article with some new ideas, as well as linking up. I’m looking forward to browsing your site and the other links.

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