5 ideas to end food waste and save money
The average Italian family throws away 6.50 euro worth of food every week, meaning a total of 8.1 billion euro of food is tossed into the bin in our country every year. This is the shocking figure to emerge from the 2014 report on domestic waste in Italy promoted as part of Expo 2015. Apart from the ethical issue, it draws attention to a financial problem that affects all of us. The question, therefore, is how to save money and limit this absurd waste, and the Italian consumer association, Unione Nazionale dei Consumatori has drawn up a ten-point plan that offers tips on how to reduce the amount of food that ends up in our bins, so here are a few:
- Always go to the supermarket with a shopping list based on the meals you’ll actually have at home, and never go while hungry, as you risk buying too much.
- 3×2 deals don’t always save you money: if you don’t actually manage to use the food you’ve bought, it risks ending up in the bin.
- Store food in an organized manner in kitchen cupboards and the refrigerator, with items that expire first placed at the front so they get used first.
- Keep the refrigerator at the ideal temperature of 4 degrees and store each food item in the right place, namely: fruit and vegetables in the crisper drawers at the bottom; fish and raw meat on the first shelf up; cooked meat on the second shelf; cold meats and cheeses up high; open preserves and eggs even higher, so everything lasts longer.
- Freeze leftover food, writing the date on the packaging. Defrosted food can be frozen again, as long as you cook it first.
In addition, many people don’t realize that the wording “best before” on non-fresh food packaging – unlike “use by” which is used for fresh produce – in an indication of quality, not safety: after the date in question, the product doesn’t pose a health hazard, but it may lose some of its organoleptic qualities, i.e. its flavour and aroma may be diminished. Dried and packaged products can be eaten even months after the stated expiry date, the important thing is to always check – both before and after the expiry date – that the product has been suitably stored, at the right temperature and that the packaging is not damaged in any way. In short, before throwing food in the bin, it’s always a good idea to open the packet, have a sniff and perhaps a little taste, and then decide.
Transforming waste into benefits
Stopping fresh food unsold in the city’s markets from going to waste by donating it to those in need, is the mission of “Fa Bene“. The project was launched in Turin and involves three markets – those of piazza Foroni, corso Chieti and corso Svizzera – in an initiative that collects good quality, leftover food plus food donations and distributes it to those most in need. In exchange, those who receive food parcels carry out up to 20 hours of voluntary work in the community each month, helping maintain green spaces and the market itself, and getting involved in local entertainment projects during celebrations to mark the patron saint’s day. So what would otherwise be an economic and environmental cost associated with scrapping the excess unsold food from the markets is transformed into a social benefit for all.
A zero waste business
“Before throwing something away, we want to be sure that we’ve got as much use out of it as is humanly possible, be it a tomato or an old chair”: this sentence on the website of Evviva eloquently sums up the philosophy behind this establishment housed in the former laundry of the Grand Hotel in Riccione, which closed many years ago. Evviva is a restaurant, café, patisserie, but also a cookery school and shop which embraces the zero-waste ethic. In practical terms this means using every part – not just the choicest parts – of ingredients in the kitchen, while furnishings and various other items have been salvaged and upcycled by artisans and artists for the interior design and for sale to the public.