By Osehobo Ofure
In Nigeria, as much as 40 per cent of our food is wasted. This waste happens at every step of the food chain, from the farms to transporting and processing, to markets to our homes.
A recent study showed as consumers we are the worst contributors of all, with up to 51 per cent of food waste occurring in our homes. That’s like every Nigerian household throwing away N400,000 every year.
Ironically, we’re tossing out the most nutritious and most expensive foods. Fruits and vegetables, followed by meats and fish are the most common foods we throw away.
This is after such foods have suffered post harvest losses from lack of storage, poor transportation facilities and poor pricing.
Why are we tossing away so much food?
No one knows for sure but some suggest it’s because
-we buy too much
-don’t plan well
-don’t store food properly
-are confused by life span and
-ignorant of how much we’re actually throwing away
Nigeria now needs a Food Waste Day as part of Waste Reduction plan, a nationwide campaign to provide information and encourage citizens to take action to reduce waste and make environmentally conscious choices.
The Initiative for Climate Education and Energy Awareness,ICEEA, is at the forefront of this campaign.
To join those efforts, here are five ideas ICEEA believes can help citizens to reduce food waste at home.
1. Be aware of food waste in your home
We tend to underestimate or be unaware of just how much food we waste. It’s easy to ignore the end of a loaf of bread, that look dirty from the pan used to bake it, the little bit of soup left in the bottom of a pot, now sour, the juice we consider had because its been in the fridge for so long without power, the fish and meat that are even smelling from the freezer, the leftover rice, beans, EBA, yam the wilted salad greens and so on.
All these little things add up. Becoming aware of these habits and considering alternatives is a good first step.
2. Take inventory and plan ahead
Before heading to the market, take an inventory of what items you already have in your kitchen, fridge and freezer. Remember to incorporate freezer foods into your weekly meal plan and to use up any items that you’ve had for days while you had light from Nepa or your gen. to prevent them from getting lost.
3. Eat foods fresh
Better to buy,cook and eat foods fresh in the wave of poor power supply. The food quality is superb fresh. How did our forefathers preserve foods without power?
And we were all brought up alive and healthy eating unrefrigerated soups and foods?
Bush meat after days on the traps in the farms ended up in the soup with overnight pounded yam!
Of course, if you’re in doubt about the safety of a food that you did keep in a fridge or freezer because there was no power, throw it out to pets but understand that it would have paid off to cook just enough and fresh than this action.
4. Store food properly
The enemies of freshness are oxygen, moisture, light and temperature. When you protect food from these elements, it will last longer.
Most fruits and vegetables (except bananas, pineapples, tomatoes and avocado) are best stored in their original package in the fridge rather than a fruit basket. Only put out a few at a time to encourage healthy snacking. Keep potatoes and onions separate from each other in a cool, dark place like on top old newspapers on the floor.
Smoke or roast meat should be well wrapped and kept in an airtight container, if fresh versions are at the mercy of power supply.
Leftovers should be avoided at all costs but if they are created, they should be eaten the day after or given out to pets, as quickly as possible.
Bread will go stale in the fridge and mouldy on the counter. Buy only what you can eat in a meal or two. Don’t advise eating bread from a freezer without power for a week.
5. Use recipes as a starting point
Experiment and test your cooking skills by adapting your favourite recipes or cooking without a recipe at all. Create your own dishes based on whatever you have in the house right now. Consider customizable and easy to prepare soups and dishes.
With all this you nay not need a waste bin or landfill at home except of course you plan on planting a garden where you can deploy the waste as compost to grow vegetables.#