Reducing household food waste is one way that we, as consumers, can have a positive impact on the global waste problem. Another way is by being conscious of our choices when shopping for groceries.
Grocery stores are, in many ways, on the front lines of eliminating food waste. A grocery store is a business after all. Any product that goes to waste is a 100% loss, so they work hard to prevent as much waste as possible from happening. They’re often even happy to give it away, rather than see it go in the trash, but donating food items isn’t always as simple as it sounds.
However, there is one thing that they will continuously come up against: consumer habits.
We consumers have some bad habits. We’re less likely to buy produce if there are only a few items left in a display, so grocery stores keep them stocked, meaning more is likely to go to waste. We have a preference for “prettier” produce so items with scarring, bumps or odd colours or shapes get left behind. When we reach for a carton of milk, we reach to the back of the fridge for the latest best-before date instead of grabbing the perfectly fresh milk in the front.
These habits, and more, lead to more waste in grocery stores and it’s unnecessary.
Best-before dates are just that: BEST before. It means the manufacturer or producer’s quality promise - taste, texture and so on - is only promised until that date. After that date, the product is still perfectly safe to consume and usually tastes exactly the same. This is even true of things like milk, eggs, yoghurt and cheese.
If you have a choice between a carton of milk with a best-before date a week away, and one with a best-before date two weeks away, choose the one week option. If you’re hesitating on a yoghurt sale because the best-before date is only a day or two away, jump on that sale! You’re getting the same quality as you would if you choose the later date, but you’re also doing the planet a solid.
If you’re making a salad or some other meal where presentation matters, it’s ok to choose nicer looking fruits and vegetables. But, if you’re cooking them in a soup, sauce, casserole, lasagna, pie, or other cooked dish, choose the ugly produce! Brown spots on apples won’t matter once they’re peeled and baked. A wonky and slightly wrinkled pepper will look and taste the same as any other when chopped up in chili. Even a weirdly shaped cucumber will be perfectly delicious when sliced for a salad.
If you want a beautiful planet, buy more ugly produce.
When something is “reduced for quick sale” that doesn’t mean it has gone bad. It just means that it is nearing its sell-by date. This is usually done for meat, seafood, some dairy products and even overripe produce. Once these items are past their sell-by date, the stores can no longer stock them on their shelves and they end up in the trash.
If you’re planning to cook something that day, buy the sale item! If not, you can still buy the sale item and freeze it for later use. You can even cook it then freeze it. For example, season and brown cubes of stewing beef, then freeze them for another day. When you’re ready for a hearty stew, dump the frozen, pre-seared cubes into a pot, add your liquids and get it simmering! Even cheese can be frozen, but freezing can change the texture so that it’s best used melted. A “grate” idea is to grate cheese first, then freeze for later use. Even overripe fruit and vegetables can be washed, cut and frozen for use in recipes down the road.
When grocery stores reduce items for quick sale, they have to rely on people being in the store, seeing the sales and taking advantage of them. With FoodHero, they can instantly get the word out about these items to a larger audience, meaning a lot less food goes to waste.For items like meat, prepared meals and even baked goods, a great way to preserve them is to freeze them as they approach their best-before or sell-by dates. Doing so significantly lengthens their shelf life. However, once frozen they are best kept at a consistent temperature, so storing them in display freezers that get opened and closed all day by shoppers isn’t ideal. That’s why many of these items can only be sold through FoodHero. They’re kept at safe, consistent temperatures in storage freezers until your pickup time.
We all change our minds when shopping - even grocery shopping! We put something in our carts, find something else, maybe a better price or a different dinner idea, so we put the original item back. Except… some shoppers dump the original item on a different shelf. This isn’t just inconvenient for store staff, it can also cause food to go bad and end up in the trash.
Even if you put a freezer or refrigerated item in a different fridge or freezer, it may not be the same temperature. If it’s a little bit warmer or colder, it can render the item unsellable. Things like meat and seafood can even leak onto other items - especially if the temperature isn’t cold enough - sending everything into the trash.
Yes, it’s inconvenient to backtrack several aisles, but if it prevents food waste, it’s worth the hike.
In addition to these tips, also be sure to always shop with a list, try to meal plan as much as possible, and avoid bulk sales unless you have a clear plan for how you will use the entire quantity (this can include freezing it). Food waste is a problem that impacts us all and we all have a role to play in ending it. Be a hero. Shop smart, reduce waste, save the planet.
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