About 11 million tonnes of food are thrown away in Germany every year, starting with production and processing, at large-scale consumers, in retail and at home. That's an insane amount, isn't it? Private households account for the largest share, 59%. In 2020, we threw away the equivalent of 78 kg of food per capita. This includes unavoidable food waste such as nut and fruit peelings and bones, but it also includes entire foods or products that could easily be avoided. With our 4 tips, you are guaranteed to throw away less food!
1. trust your senses and not only the best before date
According to the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the best-before date (MHD) is not a throwaway date. It merely indicates the time until which a foodstuff retains its specific properties such as taste, colour and consistency under appropriate storage conditions. If this date is exceeded, it does not mean that the food is automatically spoiled. Provided that the food is stored correctly, you can usually continue to eat it. The best way to proceed is like this: Look at the food. Does it still look normal? Can you see any mould? If not, smell it. If the food still smells normal, then you can try it carefully. Does it taste good? Then bon appétit! You don't have to worry about the food being spoiled.
The use-by date is a little different. You should not ignore this, because after this date the food could be associated with microbiological risks for our health. However, this only applies to very perishable foods such as minced meat. These products then also bear the label "consume by...". This is not necessary for our products, because we do not use any animal products that are so perishable.
2. shopping should be planned
Do you know how it is when you go shopping spontaneously without a shopping list and end up with much more than you actually need? In the end, a lot of it ends up in the bin because we don't really know what to cook with it. To avoid this, think about what you want to cook this week and then only buy the things you really need. Buying in advance saves time, but should only be done with food that can be stored. Animal products in particular should only be bought shortly before use, as they do not have a long shelf life. Fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, will keep for a few days if stored properly. Another tip to avoid wasting food when you go shopping: Go for fruit and vegetables with small blemishes. These often remain in the supermarket and end up being thrown away, even though the food is by no means bad. These small defects do nothing to the taste and can simply be cut away.
3. storing food - but the right way
Every food has different preferences when it comes to storage. Animal products clearly belong in the fridge and should not be eaten beyond their use-by date - but what about bread, fruit and vegetables?
Bread is best stored in a bread box or clay pot, as this protects it from drying out. It should also not be too moist: If water accumulates, mould will quickly form. It is also better to buy bread in pieces, as sliced bread increases the risk of mould because there is more "surface to attack". Bread crumbs also promote mould growth, so you should always remove them after cutting a slice. If you live alone, a whole loaf of bread is usually a lot. However, you can freeze it without any problems and simply bake or toast it again when needed.
Dried foods such as pasta, rice, flour, cereals or muesli products can be kept for several months. The rule here is: store at room temperature, dry and well sealed. These foods are susceptible to moths, which is why if you have opened the products but not completely consumed them, it is best to store them in an airtight jar. This way, the pests have no chance to settle in.
Almost all vegetables stay fresh longer in the refrigerator - many refrigerators have an extra vegetable compartment where most varieties feel comfortable. Only aubergines, tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkin like it less cold.
With fruit it gets a bit more complicated: some varieties retain their vitamins better when they are refrigerated, others prefer it warmer. However, as a rule of thumb, you can remember that local varieties do well in the fridge, whereas exotic fruit, except for figs and kiwis, is better stored at room temperature. Some varieties develop ethylene, a ripening gas, during storage, which causes fruit and vegetables to go bad more quickly when stored nearby. These varieties include apples, tomatoes, apricots and plums. Therefore, these varieties should be stored separately.
4. preserving food: Old methods rediscovered
If you do buy too much, there are a few methods to preserve food for up to a year while keeping nutrient losses to a minimum. You can find detailed instructions on the internet, but here is a brief summary of the different methods:
Freeze: The earlier you freeze food, the more nutrients are preserved.
Preserving: Here, the fruit is first cooked or briefly boiled and then filled hot into jars and sealed. When the mass gets cold, a vacuum is created, which makes the jar airtight and prevents germs from penetrating.
Preserving: Almost anything can be boiled down, but this method takes a little more time, but the shelf life is longer. The food is filled into jars, poured with liquid and then heated for 20 to 120 minutes, depending on the food. Pasteurisation is when the jars are heated to 60 to 90 degrees. This method is gentle on vitamins and achieves a shelf life of several months. Food that is heated to 80 - 100 degrees for a longer period of time has an almost unlimited shelf life. This is called sterilisation, because the food is made almost germ-free. Disadvantage: Heat-sensitive vitamins such as vitamin C are lost.
By the way, our soups are also boiled down and can therefore be kept for several months without artificial preservatives.
Graphic discard: Adobe Stock, VectorMine, #434999193
Image Vegetable shopping: Adobe Stock, exclusive-design, #272593401
Image refrigerator: Adobe Stock, stokkete, #139537401
Sources: Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, NDR, Smarticular, Federal Centre for Nutrition, Consumer advice centre