If that statistic shocks you, there is more — a third of the world’s population is starving or malnourished. With the current rate of population growth, the world is at risk of running out of food by 2050, as food production struggles to keep pace.
We probably do not think about this big picture as we go about our day-to-day lives, shopping, cooking and eating out — but we should. Our region has some of the highest percentages of food waste in the world. A whopping 48 percent of total food waste is down to leftover home-cooked or takeaway meals, with discarded extra food from celebration meals being one of the top sources of waste, according to a 2017 YouGov study conducted across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. That is not all, a staggering $13 billion worth of food is thrown away in Saudi Arabia every year. This is food that is going straight to landfills, with food waste being considered one of the most significant contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.
It all comes down to awareness and requires a change in mindset at every level if we are to move past this. Whether it is at governmental policy level, tackling skewed trade issues; at a corporate level where supermarkets and hospitality companies take it upon themselves to reduce what goes into their bins; or at an individual level.
Just because you can financially afford to provide huge amounts of food, it does not mean that you can forget about the environmental and ethical cost.
Every little bit counts. So, the next time you are about to throw out that leftover biryani from the weekend family feast, or over order at a restaurant, just pause to think about your contribution to the issue.
To help make the transition to adopting more responsible food consumption habits easier, here are four simple hacks that will help you cut down your food waste dramatically. Your wallet – and your conscience – will thank us for it!
There is a wealth of advice out there on grocery shopping to minimize waste. The key thing to remember is planning. Even if you are not a hardcore meal planner, just have a rough idea of what you may be eating during the timeframe you are shopping for. Keep in mind meals that you already have dining out plans for and also the quantities needed of each ingredient. It is always better to buy less and more frequently so your produce is fresher. Even when it comes to pantry essentials, do not over stock only because it is not perishable and may be available at a discounted price, tempting as it might be. Buy according to your requirements and what you are likely to realistically use.
Finally, it is basic common sense but many more of us are guilty of forgetting to do this than would care to admit — check what is already in your fridge and pantry before going for a food shop so you do not double up!
Another common error that many people make without meaning to is inefficient storage. Modern fridges have different compartments for good reason — utilize these to maximize the lifespan of your produce. According to the YouGov study, 33 percent of total food waste is made up of fruit and vegetables, while another 33 percent is canned goods.
It is a good idea to keep soon-to-perish items where you can easily see them, so they do not lie forgotten at the back of the fridge or cupboard. Making a bit of an effort with how you store fresh produce also goes a long way — cleaning and packing herbs in airtight containers and separating meat into meal-sized portions, then freezing them, are just two examples.
The freezer is your best friend when it comes to avoiding waste. Whether it is fresh produce or cooked food, anything you have an excess of can be stuck in the freezer and will stay in the same condition that you froze it in, handy for a quick meal down the line. Remember, however, that the texture of some goods, such as potatoes, change when they are frozen.
Know your labels
Many people do not know the distinction between expiry dates and best before dates on packaged food. While an expiry date tells you when something will spoil, best before dates only indicate that the quality of the product may start to decline after a certain date — not that it is unsafe to eat. As much as 72 percent of meats, 68 percent of fruits and vegetables and 55 percent of canned foods are discarded on the basis of best before dates. A good rule of thumb is to rely on your own sense of taste and smell to determine what you should throw out when.
Pack your leftovers
Leftover food in restaurants is one of the largest culprits when it comes to food waste, particularly in this region. Caught between strict health regulations and our lavish dining habits, discarded food in restaurants is responsible for 32 percent of food waste, according to the YouGov study. Do not be shy to ask for any leftovers to be packed. They can make for a delicious second meal or snack, or even provide a basis for some creative repurposing if you are sensible about food safety.