This article on zero-waste eating tackles our responsibility as consumers. Each of our choices affects not only how eco-friendly our diet will be, but goes beyond that – do we choose to be part of the problem and feed the so-called “throwaway culture”, or to help develop in our environment a more responsible lifestyle that appreciates food and the people who produce it.
You appreciate food by consuming it. Make a habit of creating shopping lists before leaving the house and avoid food scraps. The first step is to always go through fridge and pantry inventory and only then buy the missing groceries for a meal you plan on making. A shopping list has many benefits, a healthy planet being just one of them. A University of Pennsylvania research has shown that people who stick to the shopping list and resist impulse buying can save up to 23% a year as compared to shopping without a grocery list.
If you’re keen on keeping things digital, how about using meal-planning apps? For example, the SideChef app features many recipes that you can add to your desired menu. As soon as you do, SideChef automatically imports the necessary ingredients into your grocery list. When you start writing up a rough plan of your meals a few days in advance, your kitchen becomes orderly and you reduce food scraps to a minimum.
Do you understand dates on food labels? If not, you should. Many American and European studies have shown that there is one thing in common to the majority of people on both continents: they are baffled by manufacturers’ system for food product dating. The issue of marking the shelf life of products is complicated for several reasons. First of all, not all companies use the same methods for calculating shelf-life. Secondly, not all brands label dates for food safety in the same way. While some use the label “Use by…” to indicate the date by which the food will presumably retain its safety and nutritional value, others may use “Best before …”, a label that shows the period during which the product retains the best level of freshness, but still keeps being edible after its expiry. Learn to distinguish between different types of date markings and avoid throwing away perfectly good food, but also use your senses to weed out foodstuffs that are no longer safe to use (based on their smell, different color or texture).
The most important rule in zero-waste grocery shopping – and one of the best ways to influence food stores – is to leave aesthetics aside. Many interviews available online cite farmers as saying that sometimes up to 50% of healthy and edible produce are put back into the soil, just because they do not meet the strict aesthetic criteria of supermarket chains and food dealers. Granted, the famous saying goes “you eat with your eyes first”, still, it would be insane to let perfectly good food go to waste because of its imperfect look. Do not shy away from a shelf with fruits and vegetables at a discounted price, as they are usually under-categorized because of the strict aesthetic criteria. Let safety and nutritional value of groceries be your guide to shopping, not their appearance. If you plan to process them thermally later, blend them into a smoothie or chop them and make a salad, their original appearance doesn’t matter anyway.
At all times, and especially during emergencies such as the one we’re going through right now, your money should be going to small local producers and farmers. Not only will you be returning money to the local economy and helping domestic businesses and farms survive in the market, but you will also be choosing food with a smaller carbon footprint. It is easier to find out how locally sourced foods were grown and meet the actual people behind the product. It is important to learn more about the power you have as a consumer and fund the world you want to live in. Explore which companies produce organic food, implement regenerative farming practices, comply with environmental regulations and give back to the community. Do strive to always sift through what’s on offer at the moment and find the best offer according to your financial capabilities.
The video is available here.
We hope that you liked our videos, that you learned something new and that you will take our suggestions on board and rush to the green markets, grocery stores and your own kitchens armed with new habits and curiosity.