Food waste is a growing problem in the UAE. So on World Food Day (October 16) provides the perfect opportunity to start reducing the amount of food we throw away.
Helpling and Dow bring some tips on reducing food wastage:
1. Shop smart
Buy less food. Seems simple, but really, this is one of the most important things you can do. More often than not, some of the food we buy in the supermarket will spoil before it’s eaten and get thrown away.
Making a meal plan for the week can help. Then write a shopping list containing only the items you know you will use for those meals.
2. Work with what you’ve got
Regularly check use-by dates and make meals using items that are reaching their expiry date. This will help reduce the amount of food you throw out, and the different combinations of ingredients can make for some exciting meals.
Staple foods like bread often make up a big portion of wasted food. But bread is such a versatile food: it can be used in soups, cakes, crumbles, meatballs and, of course, bread crumbs for coating meat. It’s also one of the best foods to freeze. You can take one slice out at a time and defrost it in the toaster or oven. Think twice before throwing bread out.
When you make a big meal, save any excess food. It can be your lunch for the following day, or simply a snack for when you get peckish. You can freeze most food in individual portions in freezer bags, too.
3. Store food properly
Proper storage of certain foods can drastically impact their longevity. You should have a cool and dry cupboard or storage area for any dry, long-life products. Sealable plastic containers, jars with lids, and resealable bags are all ideal for these foods. Choose a container that has adequate space for your produce without allowing too much air inside.
Believe it or not, pre-wrapped vegetables purchased at the grocery store can last up to 5 times longer than vegetables without packaging. Take for example a cucumber pre-wrapped in plastic. It can stay fresh up to 14 days instead of just three days if not wrapped.
Keep your fridge clean and hygienic, and at the right temperature (ideally around 4 degrees Celsius) and your food will stay fresh for longer. Get into the habit of rotating your foods in the fridge each time you shop. Bring items from the back towards the front, this prevents anything from being left at the back and spreading bacteria if it goes off.
4. Serve sensible portions
Avoid over-serving food when cooking for friends and family by serving smaller portions at first, then dishing out any more to those who are still hungry. You might also try serving food on smaller plates – the same amount of food on a smaller plate seems like more food, as it seems to be taking up more space on the plate.
5. Reuse, recycle
Many items that you might just toss in the trash once you’ve used them still have life left in them. Take used coffee grounds for example – there are plenty of inventive ways you can use them before they go in the trash. You can also use old lemons to disinfect surfaces, or even clean the inside of your fridge.
You could try composting. It’s nature’s way of recycling food waste. Much of what you would have otherwise put in the trash can go on a compost heap.
6. Pay attention to packaging
Increasingly, high-performance food packaging makes it possible to better protect food as they make their way from grocery store shelves to your pantry. Take lightweight flexible pouches, for instance. You’ll find these packages used to protect some of your favorite foods at the grocery store, from frozen fruits and vegetables to cereals and crackers. The pouches’ layers keep contents from being damaged or spoiled. Resealable packaging allows you to use what you need and safely save the rest for later, preserving the remaining portions and making food last.
7. Call on technology for new recipe ideas
Download an app on your phone to help inspire new dishes that use up last night’s leftovers. Several apps available in the App Store generate recipes based on ingredients you’ve marked as currently stocked in your kitchen. They’ll help you look at the food in your refrigerator as delicious opportunities rather than garbage-bound.