10 Ways to Avoid Food Waste

Being frugal monsters, it should come as no surprise that we try our best to avoid food waste. About one third of all food in the world is wasted, an abhorrent stat we should all do our best to change.

Yes, a lot of the food is lost on the producer and retailer side of things, but consumers have a big responsibility as well.

In Norway, we were hit by a dry season unlike any we have seen in living memory this summer. Farmers are desperate, many can’t get enough food for their cattle over the winter and fear they’ll have to slaughter down. Repercussions which will be felt for years in the dairy industry.

On the other hand, the media is asking consumers to be considerate of the crisis, and buy vegetables even if they don’t look perfect. You know, horrible growing season and all that, and I wish this was a bigger thing. An enormous amount of perfectly edible, nutritious, healthy food is thrown away every year, simply for not looking perfectly straight or otherwise picture perfect.

Abhorrent waste

I remember as a child, we lived in a rural area and every once in a while, the farmer who plowed the fields below our house would grow potatoes.

He left a mountain, I kid you not – a mountain – of potatoes in the field every time, because they were either too big, too small, or had gotten a small nick by the machine and were therefore unfit for sale. I would wade out after he was done with my wellies on and a bucket, and just scoop my bucket full and carry it back to our basement.

The years when our neighbour grew potatoes, we got a winter’s worth of round tubers without paying a dime, and we didn’t even make a dent in the pile he had to leave behind. I was astonished.

So with that in mind, let’s go to war on waste, particularly food waste – and buy wonky veg when you find it!

10 tips to deal with old food and leftovers

1. Bananas

Got old, brown, spotty bananas you don’t want to eat? Try making a banana bread, they are wonderfully moist and fantastic with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Alternatively, make cookies/energy bars by mashing them up, adding rolled oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and dried fruit and/or chocolate chips and baking on 175C/350F until golden. Great for that end-of-the-workday funk, or just as a pick me up on a hike, day out or wherever you need it!

2. Carrots

If your carrots look a bit wilted and soft, they still make excellent soup! Just chop your carrots roughly, add one potato for creaminess, boil in a small amount of water, drain off the excess, whizz up with a blender (add back reserved waster if necessary) and add salt, pepper, ginger, garlic and chili to taste. Great with coconut milk, but this is the everyday version. 😉

Or you could grate them into breads or pizza sauces to add a little sweetness.

3. Boiled potatoes

Got leftover boiled potatoes from your last dinner? They are super versatile! Chop them up and fry with spices for a good fry-up. Mashed into mashed potatoes, or even as the traditional potato lefse, which are really tasty! As a child, I loved slicing the boiled potatoes up and dabbing a thin layer of butter and herb salt on them. Or how about a great summer potato salad with oil and herbs?

4. Rice

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We often boil rice, just to make sushi bowls or other cold rice dishes!

Like potatoes, boiled rice is often something we like to make enough of to make sure everyone gets their fill, but often it receives no love when cold. Well phoey! Boiled rice is fantastic! You can fry it with veg and soy sauce for a quick hot meal, layer it with fresh toppings for a sushi bowl, use it as a filler in veggie (or non-veggie) burgers, or even Vietnamese rice soup, which is very warming and hearty.

5. Wrinkly apples

Got apples that are past their prime eating date? Slice them up and either use directly in an apple cake or pie, or boil with sugar and cinnamon for pie filling, or even as a dessert in its own right with a dollop of ice cream on the side – yum!

6. Stale bread

Stale bread is great to whizz up into breadcrumbs, bake with oil, salt and herbs into croutons, as a filler and thickener in stews, or – as we recently learned here – baked with milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and fillings into beautiful, decadent bread pudding. It might not sound all that decadent, but when done right, it can taste very similar to apple pie!

7. Bone, skin, fish heads, shrimp shells, etc

If you eat meat and animal products, and have the time and freezer space – please consider making broth with bones and other inedible leftovers. We eat a tiny bit of meat once in a while, and you can be sure we want to make it last as long as possible. Part of that is simply popping bones in a pot, barely cover with water, simmer, strain and freeze for a flavorful addition to soups and stews. The only thing to be aware of is that fish/shellfish offcuts should only be simmered for 20-30 minutes, or your risk it turning gloopy and gooey.

I don’t typically add veg to mine unless I have some peelings lying around (why boil perfectly edible vegetables to make broth and then throw them out??), I figure I will get the flavouring from veg once I add it to the food I am actually going to eat.

8. Bits of milk, sour cream, cream, etc.

Got a small dollop of sour cream left after taco night? A little bit of milk you’re afraid will go bad soon? Want to clean out the fridge from all those small leftovers? If you’re in a sweet tooth mood, add them to a waffle or pancake batter and fry to perfection. More of a breakfast mood? Whip into scrambled eggs. Or in the middle of making dinner? Add to soups and stews for a creamy flavour and consistency. Learn to cook for flavour and consistency, not mindlessly following a recipe and then leaving half-used ingredients to an untimely fate.

9. Limpy greens

Salads and other greens gone limp will often crisp back up if you give them a soak in ice water. Barring that, rocket, spinach and chard are great additions to fry ups, woks, stews and smoothies.

10. Citrus fruits

Often, a recipe calls for either the juice or the zest of limes, lemons or oranges. But if you make it a habit to zest and juice any citrus you use, and then just freeze what you don’t need – you’ll always have either juice or zest to add to marinades, cakes, frosting, etc.

Bonus

10 tips to avoid food waste by making use of those leftovers and vegetables past their prime! #bethechange #foodwaste #movethedate

Of course, the best way to avoid food waste is to plan your meals in succession, so that the leftover from last nights dinner become the ingredients for dinner today. If you are a single person household, you can plan a carrot themed week to get through that whole bag of carrots, and then tackle another vegetable the next week to avoid growing tired of any one thing.

Also, for the waste you can’t avoid, like peels and brown spots or other off cuts, there are several alternatives for composting. From traditional compost bins for those with space, to smaller alternatives for flats and city dwelling, such as worm compost and bokashi.

What are your best tips for avoiding food waste?

12 Comments on “10 Ways to Avoid Food Waste

  1. I will be making banana bread tonight for this very reason! I also use spoiled milk as fertilizer for my tomatoes because they looooove calcium. I think that growing some of your own food really helps getting over the imperfect look of produce because you’ll definitely experience it in your own garden.

    • I had never thought about using spoiled milk like that! But I completely agree, homegrown food makes you appreciate all the dimples and curves of imperfect yet perfectly edible produce. I loved when we got cucumbers and tomatoes from my grandmother during summer as a child. Especially the cucumbers were MASSIVE!

  2. Freeze overripe bananas and then use a blender or food processor to puree them into Banana Whip, a smooth delicious soft serve like ice cream substitute.

    I live in the US and dumpster dive for a good bit of my food. It is ridiculous how much still perfectly edible food grocery stores throw out because of spots, bruises, dents, and stains. I look forward to the day when we implement on a wider scale some of the innovative solutions that are percolating around the globe to address this issue.

    • Good point! Can’t believe I forgot about banana ice cream!

      We would like to dumpster dive more for our food. But sadly, the containers around where we live are all locked. And without a car it becomes a bit of a hassle to trek from one container to the next around the city to find potential sources. I used to volunteer for a soup kitchen which started as dumpster divers, but eventually started just receiving the food from the shops outright. At one point, they had to say no to shops who wanted to give them food because they were just getting too much! It’s mad!

  3. These are great tips! And ones I definitely follow in my kitchen. Occasionally a tomato or some lettuce still will fall victim to my disorganisation, but I do my best.

    • Thanks for reading! I think we all miss a step or two once in a while, we certainly do. But we keep trying and move forward! 🙂

  4. I love using overripe bananas for banana bread. 😋

    Stale bread can be whizzed up and frozen, so that you always have breadcrumbs when you need them.

  5. Our biggest mistake is buying too much. I, much more than my wife, get very hungry in supermarkets. I tend to buy too many things that I like, but go bad before I get around to eating them. The pre-cut salads are great for a busy life, but if you don’t make sure to eat them in a few days, sometimes even just 2 days, and they go brown. It’s sometimes a dance for us to try to find the balance. When we get it right, we plan our meals, and make our shopping list based off of the list. That’s when we get it right with little to no waste. I would say we hit it right one week every month or two. Our jobs often have us working at night or the evening, which breaks up our schedule. My wife is working as I type this, and well this is why I am here!

    One of my wife’s ideas is for bananas. Any ones that aren’t eaten ripe become her banana bread that my son and her have a blast cooking and eating together.

    • Yeah, we have the same problem if we shop on an empty stomach, or without making the food plan for the week first.

      We try to help the “what to have for dinner” funk by cooking large batches and freezing portions. That way, if we’re not feeling like cooking or know we have a hectic schedule ahead we can always thaw and reheat a full meal!

  6. A very important subject indeed- both from the environmental and the frugal points of view. i found my freezer to be the most helpfull instrument (besides planning ahead -as you mentioned). many fruit can be freezed -bananas, grapes, mangos, apples, nectarines- and many more- and used later in smoothies or pies or bread or desserts. herbs also survive freezing well -so do chopped onions (but only for cooking-not to be added to fresh salads!). enjoyed reading, thanks!

    • We just got a (used) standing freezer for exactly that reason! It is such a great way of preserving food, especially since I don’t want the sour tang on fermentation on everything I make – especially fruit and berries. 😂

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