1.3 billion tonnes of food is discarded at a global level each year. This is a third of all food produced for human consumption. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's estimates, the amount of this food could feed the entire 815 million hungry people worldwide four times over. In Slovenia in 2019, 67 kilograms of food per person was discarded on average, 27 kilograms of which were still edible.
What are the reasons for throwing away so much edible food? Maybe the supply is too large, maybe it is because of fast shopping without giving any thought to our actual needs.
Every one of us has already been in a situation when we were putting groceries in a fridge and we asked ourselves: ''How are we going to eat all this food before it goes bad?''
We can get rid of this uncomfortable feeling of throwing away food because it went bad before we could use it if we carefully plan our grocery shopping and with a few tricks of how to prolong the freshness of food.
We store herbs and keep them fresh by providing them with enough moisture. The type of herb dictates the way it is kept fresh for as long as possible. We cut the stems of soft and more sensitive herbs such as basil and parsley, and we store the leaves in a small container with water. We can cover the container with a plastic bag through which air can still flow. This procedure ensures the freshness and use of herbs for up to two weeks. Other, more robust herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and sage can be wrapped in a damp paper towel which can be stored in a ziplock bag in a fridge for two to three weeks.
Like with some herbs, the most appropriate way to store all leafy vegetables is to wrap the washed and dried leaves in a damp paper towel and then store them in a bag. The bag is used to keep the moist paper towel from freezing to the walls of the fridge.
Water storage is an effective way of storing vegetables and fruit if they are already cut and are not used up. With already cut vegetables and fruit, we keep their texture by soaking them in water, but they lose a small part of water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C and types of vitamin B.
Carrots, potatoes, brussels sprouts, celery, and apples can be stored in a refrigerator in a bowl of fresh, cold water, which can be changed every few days.
Most fresh vegetables and fruit are more long-lasting in the fridge drawer than on the shelves. The drawer has significantly less moisture which accelerates decomposition. To keep vegetables and fruit fresh, it also helps to change the plastic bags for paper ones.
One of the foods that rot and goes bad the fastest is avocado. Lemon juice prolongs the durability of a half-eaten avocado in a fridge. The rest of the fruit can be cut into pieces, soaked in lemon juice, and stored in a closed container in a fridge. But before avocado ripens, it is better to store it at room temperature. Lemon juice is also recommended when storing other fruit because it slows down the rotting process. Any fruit may be stored in a container with lemon juice for an extended expiration date.
Not every fresh fruit and vegetable is suitable for washing before we store it because water speeds up the rotting process. This especially applies to all berries, which rapidly develop harmful mold if moist. We clean and wash the food just before use.
Some food needs to be stored separately from another. Fruit and vegetables such as bananas, lettuce, and eggplants produce very low quantities of ethylene - a gas that promotes the decomposition of chlorophyll. Other green vegetables become yellowish-brown next to these foods. The riper the food, the more gas it produces, therefore it is better to store ripe food separately. We should store separately: bananas, apples, avocados, lettuce, eggplants, all types of melon, mangos, mushrooms, tomatoes, plums, pears, and onions. We can store citrus fruit, berries, and peppers everywhere because they are not susceptible to decomposition due to ethylene.
Ripe tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, or we can store them in a fridge in a paper bag if we cannot use them in time. Before cooking tomatoes, store them at room temperature for a while to develop more flavor in our dishes.
Freezing is a simple way of storing food and almost any vegetable, fruit, or already cooked dish can be frozen. Vegetables should be blanched before freezing to stop the enzymes that otherwise cause loss of color, flavor, and texture. All fruit must be frozen fresh. Blanching the vegetables also cleans the dirt and possible organisms. We spread diced fruit and vegetables on a tray and freeze them. After a few hours, we can put these vegetables or fruit in a container where we will have individually frozen pieces instead of one big piece.
It is best to store hulled nuts and seeds in closed containers and away from direct sunlight. They quickly soak up unwanted odors and their taste changes if they are stored in open containers. They can also become rancid if we store them close to the stove where temperatures constantly fluctuate.
Dry cereals and legumes can be stored without an expiration date when they are stored in a dry, closed, and dark place. Legumes will not go bad over the years so that they are harmful, but they do lose their nutritional value. It is best to consume legumes in two to three years.
In almost every kitchen, we can find rarely used products, so it is worth investing in zip-lock bags, glass containers, and other sealing solutions to close already open food products. This is to prevent the loss of nutrients, the existence of taste and texture, and to prevent the spread of kitchen moths, ants, or any other unpleasant and unnecessary causes for discarded food.
Leftover food from cooking can be good for our pets if it is low fat and does not contain spices.
We should not take unlimited access to fresh, healthy food for granted. The way we treat food shows our attitude to nature and all its goods.