South African people love to cook, and we tend to prepare way too much food. Whether it is just for ourselves or for a group of guests, there always seems to be more food left than can be eaten in a reasonable time. Unfortunately, mostly that food just ends up in the trash can. Many South Africans won’t even have a proper festive meal due to poverty, and it is up to each of us to ensure that we don’t waste food unnecessarily. Here are some handy tips for reducing food waste this festive season – and it’s actually easy enough to do during the whole year!
Don’t shop hungry
Always eat before you go shopping. When you shop while you’re hungry, you end up buying more than you need because everything just looks so yummy!
Take inventory of your groceries before you go to the store. Often, we forget what we have in our cupboards and end up buying more of the same things. It then becomes increasingly difficult to use what we have before it expires.
Try to plan which recipes you want to make and just buy what you need for them. Also, consider how much each person you prepare a meal for actually eats. Avoid buying bulk – it might seem like incredible savings, but often we end up with more than we can use realistically.
Avoid cluttering your spaces
When your fridge and pantry is cluttered, you might miss certain ingredients you already have, or you don’t use something before it expires. Organise your spaces so that you can see everything you have in one glance.
Use the First-In-First-Out (FIFO) principle to store your food; store the oldest foods in front and the newer ones at the back. This makes it easier to use the items first that will expire soon.
Store food properly
If you store food properly, it will last longer. You can find more information on how to store food properly here.
Track what you toss
When you are aware of what you keep throwing away, you might be able to identify a pattern and avoid wasting the food in the future. For example, if you notice that you waste half of the bag of tomatoes you buy every week, rather buy a few loose tomatoes.
Put less on your plate
Food left over in the serving dishes can be stored and eaten later, but the food that is left over on your plate almost always ends up in the trash can. When dishing up, stick to smaller portions, especially for children. This will also help keep your calorie count in check during the holidays, and you can always go for seconds if you’re still hungry after your first plate.
Don’t just throw away leftovers. If you don’t like to eat it as it is, try making another dish with it. Leftover vegetables can be added to omelettes, and leftover meat can be used in sandwiches.
Expiration dates are only guidelines
If the food still looks, smells, and tastes fine, it’s probably not necessary to toss it even if it had reached its expiration date. However, be careful with meat, especially fish, chicken, and pork, to avoid food poisoning.
Share or donate
If you really don’t feel like eating leftovers or expired food, or when you realise that you bought too much fresh produce and it’s going to spoil, consider sharing it with your family, neighbours, or workers who might want to use it. You can also donate it to soup kitchens or farms, or consider composting it.