Food conservation to reduce waste

Agriculture is constantly evolving to feed the world’s growing population, it uses a great amount of natural resources such as soil and water and can significantly harm the environment. Large areas of land are used for cultivating crops and animals and although modern systems are very efficient to increase production, they also tend to reduce nutrients and the quality of the soil for future crops. Large amounts of water are also used in these farming systems and can be contaminated by chemicals and residues used in the process. According to a report published by the BBC “an estimated one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture”.

Pretty blonde looking inside open fridge full of food. Young woman trying to choose what to eat

With such an impact on the environment, food production and consumption needs to be done wisely. If you can, try to cultivate some fruits, vegetables and herbs at home following our Gardening at Home and Grow your Own Food tips, even Gardening Indoors is possible. But if gardening is not your thing, you can still help the environment by planning your food consumption and conserving food appropriately.

In order to eliminate food waste in your home you should plan your shopping and storage spaces. Do not buy too much food if you are planning to go out on vacations soon and get in the habit of measuring how much you need to cook before you do it. Food waste is a major concern in the European Union and United Kingdom. A research conducted in 2014 states that 89 million tonnes of food are wasted in the EU every year with the UK as the biggest waster. Out of this total, more than 37 million tonnes are household waste, not from restaurants or farms. Also, according to this research eliminating food waste can represent savings of £120 per year per household. Besides personal savings, it also reduces waste collection and landfill costs, multiplying its positive impact on the environment.

Food can quickly deteriorate, so it is important to learn the correct method to store and conserve your provisions. The best general tip we personally follow for either fresh and industrialized food is keeping them in the original packaging. Manufacturers usually invest a lot in developing the best packaging to conserve their products so you may not find a better way to do it. We have some specific tips for other products below.

Potatoes and onions

The best way to conserve potatoes and most roots is by storing them outside the fridge in a cool, dark place. You can put them inside a porous paper bag, which lets the air pass through. Don’t store them in plastic bags and colder temperatures as some chemical reactions can modify their taste.

potatoes and paper bag
Potatoes should stay in paper bags outside fridge

Onions should be stored in a similar condition in cool and dark places, but need a bit more ventilation to form that protective dry outside layer. However, you should never store potatoes and onions close to each other. They both react with air and produce chemical reactions that accelerate each other’s deterioration.

harvested small fresh onions without protective layer before cure
Onions need air to form their protective layer

Fruits

You should never remove skin or stems from fruits if you are not going to use them immediately, especially stems that connect small and fragile fruits like grapes. Some fruits can stay outside the fridge as they ripen, but some fruits just start their rotting process if left outside. Fruits that can stay outside the fridge depending on their ripe stage: avocados, lemons, oranges, bananas, apricots, melons, mangoes, pineapples and pears. Don’t forget to constantly observe these fruits and consume them before they start rotting.

Herbs and green leaves

Herbs and green leaves should be stored unwashed to last longer. If you wash them, you will need to completely dry them before storage as humidity accelerates the rotting process. Don’t forget to remove any rubber bands or strings used to keep the leaves together; keep them loose as the damage caused by the strings also accelerates the rotting process. Fresh herbs bought with stems can last longer if treated as a bouquet, arranging them in a flower pot or cup with water. Some will even keep growing. Basil is a fresh herb that likes hotter and humid places so adding a plastic cover to your “basil bouquet” will benefit it, but leave space or holes to allow some air circulation.

Fresh mint in a water vase on a wooden background
Fresh herbs last longer in water vases

Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be stored outside the fridge to ripen, but they can start rotting quickly, especially in summer and hot days and you may need to store them in the fridge. Whether or not to store tomatoes in the fridge is controversial as you can read here, but usually it extends their shelf life.

Plan your food purchases and separate fruits that are ripe from unripe. Store your food properly using our tips and ensure items that rot faster are always visible in your fridge, counter or cabinet. Control and measure the quantity you cook and in case of leftovers, store them to eat later. Consume responsibly! This will result in fresher and better meals for your family, savings on food purchases and help reduce a waste that heavily harms our environment. So what are you waiting for to Green It Yourself… Now?

 

fresh vegetables wooden background with food conservation tips

Onion picture by missyredboots

Potatoes and paper bag by MaxStraeten and mconnors.

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