That’s the question! Dear modern Amlet there is an easy way to get your answer. Just rephrase your dilemma as such: To throw away or to not to throw away the existing things in my fridge? Most of the times a quantity offer in a supermarket is triggered because a product is expiring soon and companies don’t want to be left with the stock and waste. Therefore they prefer to sell it at a lower price. So… you should ask yourself:

1) will you manage to consume the offer you are about to buy on time or will you just be the one throwing it away instead of the company?
2) in case you do think you will manage to consume it on time, will you also manage to consume everything else you have in your kitchen on time or will you be throwing anything else away?

What we are trying to say here is: are you sure the offer is an opportunity and not a trap? An estimated 88m tonnes of food is wasted in EU countries every year, which could feed the 55 million people living in food poverty in Europe more than nine times over.

If you stop wasting food you do not only stop wasting money, you also stop disrespecting:
– everyone who made an effort to produce it,
– everyone who did not have the money to buy it instead of you,
– the environment that you fill in with unnecessary waste and eventually

Ok, but really now, what can you do?

Make a draft plan with your weekly meals and you will save money and time and eat healthier food. If you buy no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all. Moreover, look in your refrigerator and cupboards before you go for shopping to avoid buying food you already have, check what needs to be used up and plan upcoming meals around it
Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other nearby produce spoil faster. So keep in mind to store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, fruits and vegetables in different bins. Wait to wash berries until you want to eat them to prevent mold. If you like to eat fruit at room temperature, but it should be stored in the refrigerator for maximum freshness, take what you’ll eat for the day out of the refrigerator in the morning. Oh and when at the store buy funny-looking produce. Many fruits and vegetables are thrown away because their size, shape, or colors don’t quite match what we think these items “should” look like. But for the most part these items are perfectly good to eat.
Make it easier for yourself to whip up meals or snacks later in the week, saving time, effort, and money. So when you get home from the store, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking. It will feel so good during the week that you come home tired and you’ll want to eat something but will be in no mood for cooking. You will skip ordering a delivery and most probably you will not have to throw away the ingredients that went bad because you didn’t have the time to use them in that recipe you had in mind. Last bust not least, freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time.
Hate potato skins? Don’t feel like turning wilted vegetables into soup stock? No worries; food scraps still don’t need to be tossed. Just start a compost pile in the backyard or even under the sink, and convert food waste into a useful resource. We’ll dedicate an article on that process soon.
Never going to eat that can of beans? Have some extra portions of the big meal you made and don’t want to eat it ay more? Donate it to a food kitchen before it expires so it can be consumed by someone who needs it. Or check out websites like cookisto or thuisafgehaald. There are similar ones in many countries.
You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish. It’s important to know the difference of each of the following: “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates.

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– Shop in your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
– Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies.
– At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them for later or to make your next meal.
– At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.

Am I alone here? What is everyone else doing? Check some examples!

The European Parliament has adopted targets for all member states to boost recycling, cut landfilling and halve food waste. Voting the EU’s Circular Economy package in January 2017, which sets provisions for sustainable growth, the members of the European Parliament approved a few ambitious targets, among which to cut food waste in half by 2030. You can see the full set of targets here.

It is by no doubt a great thing. However, same as with the Paris agreement, it is more of an aspirational target rather than a more binding commitment at member state level. Members are “aiming” to achieve these targets, they are not bound to achieve them even though there are plans in place to show how to… It is in the responsibility of the citizens and of the organizations to take this seriously and make it happen.

In 2015, France voted in favor of a law to outlaw the destruction of unsold food products, forcing large supermarkets instead to donate them to charities or for use on farms. So it has become mandatory for all larger supermarket chains (supermarkets with a footprint of 400 sq metres or more) to enter into contracts with charity groups to donate any unsold food that is still edible, or to give the discarded food for animal feed and farming compost. If they don’t, they will face a penalty of €3,750.

In addition to the tons of food wasted every year by the country’s supermarkets, the average French person is estimated to throw away between 20 and 30 kilos of food per year, altogether worth between €12 billion and €20 billion. Thanks to the new legislation, the French government hopes to halve the country’s food waste by 2025.

In August of 2016, Italy voted for legislation that simplifies the donation of excess food in order to reduce waste. The bill aims to cut up to 1 million tonnes of wasted food a year by offering incentives to businesses and farmers to donate food to charities. It also aims to fund new programmes for reducing food waste in schools, hospitals and other public organizations which include catering services. The law includes the allocation of €10 mil for launching the initiative, including €1 mil annually to fund innovative food waste reduction projects, as well as €2 mil to buy food for the poor. It also gives tax breaks for giving away food and removes a number of bureaucratic hurdles that made businesses be reluctant to donate any food marginally past its sell-by date, being afraid of violating health and safety laws. The law raises the amount that can be donated to €15.000 (it used to be €5.000) and will finance research into new relevant products eg innovative packaging which prevents spoilage in transit.

For the Italian consumer, it will make it easier to request “family bags” (also known as “doggy bags” ) to take home unfinished food ordered at restaurants. This is perhaps one of the biggest cultural changes envisioned by the law such requests are rare among Italians and Italian restaurants. Barbara Degani (environment under-secretary) said the introduction of the term “family bag”, as it is being called in Italy, represented a semantic upgrade compared to the words “doggy bag”, in order to help people move away from the stereotype that it was indecent to request to take home the food they hadn’t eaten. Instead, she said, it should be welcomed as virtuous behavior.

Food waste in Greece is not a topic of a public debate. This fact in addition to the lack of extensive and in depth research makes it difficult to present facts, trends and in general to sufficiently describe the situation. Since there is no debate, it comes as no surprise that there is no legislation either. Greece has approached food waste as a humanitarian issue during the crisis of the last years, because many of its citizens suffer from food insecurity, as a result of high unemployment.  The crisis has also caused a reduction in food waste because households are purchasing less due to lower disposable income.

BOROUME is one of the biggest non-profit organizations, whose mission is to reduce food waste and to fight malnutrition in Greece. Its concept is about responding to food waste and at the same time meeting the nutritional needs of many citizens in Greece. Thy aim to this with the lowest possible cost with the help of new technologies and methods to link donors with the organizations that serve the needy.

We obviously have a long way to go and need support from regulatory parties. But as it happened to the countries that already set legislation, the change starts from us and from our willingness to be strategic, to organize ourselves and to put pressure. But let’s take one step at the time. let’s focus on our kitchen at the moment.

Looking forward to hearing from you at the comments section.

Sources for this article:


Dora Kallipolitou
Find out more about the Habits team here

Last content update:

November 25, 2017