How waste-free are you? Tips and thoughts about food waste.

waste free

I attended a dinner on Monday to launch the ‘waste free’ campaign here in The Netherlands. It was really lovely as it was prepared by a Dutch cook who is known for cooking completely waste-free with only local ingredients. For example, the peels of vegetables were used to make a tasty vegetable stock, leftover cake became a delicious crumble dessert, and even (!!) the little partitions in between the walnut halves were used to add flavour to a gravy. Everything was delicious and healthy and made according to her principle: ‘0% waste, 100% taste’.

During the dinner, many guests were interviewed who are actively working on creating a waste-free society. People behind initiatives like a restaurant which cooks solely with surplus products unsold by local supermarkets and other producers. An app which lets you buy a ‘surprise box’ filled with unsold fresh goodies of the day for a fraction of the price. A company that creates soups out of vegetables which otherwise would be thrown away because they are either too small, too fat, or too crooked to sell. It was so inspirational to hear their stories!

Worldwide, we waste about a third of the entire food production. A third!! Food loss occurs in all segments of the value chain, but it is the end consumer (us!) who is responsible for a fat chuck of worldwide food waste. Here in the Netherlands, we throw away an average of 41 kg of perfectly fine food per person per year! Throwing away food doesn’t just cost us money, the energy that goes in to the production of the products (cultivation, packaging, transport, refrigeration) goes to waste as well.

What can we do to start making a difference? First of all, I think it is simply important to become aware of the problem, so you can think twice before you throw away food. But here are some ideas we were given during the dinner:

If you are not interested in leftovers, it is important to make sure you prepare exact amounts.  I personally love leftovers — I use them for Bram’s lunch the next day, or Sara and Pim eat them before their afternoon sports. Or I put them in the children’s lunch boxes. We also have ‘leftover night’ every now and then, and eat what we need to finish. (I bought vintage fondue plates from the ’70s for this purpose — every segment of the plate is filled with a little leftover dish. Fun!)

Another good tip I heard during the dinner is to put the temperature of your fridge on 4ºC. I was given a special fridge thermometer, which I used, and I discovered that the temperature of our fridge is set 2 degrees too high! Also, it is good to know that the shell life of pantry products is often longer than the ‘best before’ date indicates. Use your senses to judge if food is still ok. (Perishable foods obviously need to be consumed before the use by date.)

Lastly, check your stock before you go to the supermarket. Look in your fridge so you know what you have and what needs to be finished. Make a grocery list — it can even be helpful to make a meal plan for the week.

So tell me — how waste free are you? I personally think I am not super bad, but there are definitely areas where I can improve. Like the fridge! It can become a real mess — things are pushed to the back, or not labeled well, and I forget about them and consequently have to throw them away. What a waste! So in the next weeks, I’m going to work on a good fridge system. I’ll report back!

xxx Esther



Comments (6)

March 7, 2019

Thank you. I’ve been working on this for years. It means a lot to me but I’m still far from perfect when it comes to food waste when feeding my family. I always love seeing people and businesses bringing to light obvious little changes that really need to be made x

Whitney Olson
March 7, 2019

I LOVE this! I try to work on not throwing out produce that went bad. I am not great, but oh a I trying. An employee at Costco told me to wrap my avocados, once they have turned, before putting them in my fridge. They last a WHOLE WEEK longer. Still working on making berries and bell peppers last though.

Esther in Amsterdam
March 13, 2019

Interesting! Thanks for sharing!!

March 8, 2019

I think about this a lot because we are a household of 7, including 3 growing boys and groceries are definitely a HUGE line item in our budget. I make a meal plan each week and we are pretty good at sticking to it. However we definitely have the limp herbs at the bottom of the veggie drawer and the past good leftovers at the back of the fridge. It is a work in progress.

Esther in Amsterdam
March 13, 2019

It is! And I hear you — herbs are just the worst. I’m going to figure out how to keep them longer and use them sooner! (someone suggested freezing them in ice cubes with olive oil! Perhaps I will give it a shot…)

March 8, 2019

What a thoughtful post! This is an issue of great importance to me and something I’ve been working on for a long time. I try and add a new element from time to time, zero waste is a really hard goal! Just think about all the packaging that our food comes in from the market. My routines at home are to use as little single use plastic as possible; I have a stash of reusable zip top baggies, bees wax wraps, and glass storage containers. I recycle and compost what I can, including non-meat food scraps…wilted flowers, apple cores, squash seeds, tea bags, old bees wax wraps, even certain dish cloths are perfect for compost. I collect plastic bags and wrapping for specific drop sites for recycling those. I recently found a refill shop in my neighborhood and have starting buying cleaning products by weight in refillable glass jars. I’m really hoping they’ll start selling bulk foods too! I’d love to buy my grains, nuts, dried fruits, etc in this fashion as well to reduce the packaged foods I buy. Even with all that, there’s so much to work on! And so many new products to help us on this journey all the time. It’s wonderful! Good luck on your journey, reducing food waste is an awesome place to start. Meal planning is really helpful for me in that area. Cheers!

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