Besides the negative impact on the environment, food wastage in Singapore makes households spend more money. Here's how to avoid it.
Singapore is a nation that loves food - perhaps a little too much. In 2015, it was estimated that we generated over 790,000 tonnes of food waste. If you’re trying to visualise what that looks like, just think about throwing away two full bowls of rice every day.
To say that is a waste is a vast understatement. To be fair, consumer waste does not account for the entirety of that staggering statistic. (For example, merchandisers reject ‘ugly food’ - bruised fruit, or carrots that do not fall within the accepted shape - which is estimated to make up about 45% of farm yields.)
However, if you consider that about half of what we harvest never makes it to the supermarket shelf, then what does end up on the dinner table becomes even more precious. It’s a wonder that we’re still able to have affordable, healthy and ‘beautiful’ food at every meal.
At the household level, you can help further stem the tide by following these practices. Not only will you be helping to solve a global problem, you will also benefit from the savings you will reap.
Trim or Juice “Ugly” Fruit and Vegetables
If you happen to let some fruit or vegetables get old, you may find some bruising or partial wilting. In almost every instance, eating these “ugly” fruit and vegetables pose zero health risk to you and your loved ones.
That doesn’t mean you’ll have to force yourself to eat the dark patches on a banana (gross!). Instead, just trim away the disagreeable spots or - for vegetables, any yellowed leaves - and you’re good to go.
Don’t forget there are many other ways you can use the “good” bits of old fruit and vegetables. The appearance of an oddly shaped onion or a discoloured tomato will hardly matter if you’re going to cook them down into your famous pasta sauce. Neither will less-than-perfectly-round plums or pears, if you’re planning to make jam.
And when all else fails, there’s always juicing. Suddenly, all those sad, mushy apples and grapes can once again be enjoyed as a refreshing and healthy treat.
Give “Expired” Food A Second Chance
Here’s something that might come as a bit of a shock: expiry dates on produce effectively mean nothing - in terms of food safety.
It turns out that expiry dates (aka “sell by”, “use by”, “best before” or “expiration date”) all evolved as a means to signal to grocers when to rotate their stock. (Basically, they indicate when the supermarkets should slash prices, so as to clear stock and make way for more.) They were never meant to be deciphered by consumers.
This wouldn’t be such a problem but for the fact that food waste not only comes from perishables, but even non-perishables such as canned food get thrown away regularly in Singapore.
That “use by” date printed on your carton of milk is more of a suggestion, that you might enjoy optimal flavour and freshness. It does not mean that your packet of cow squeezings will suddenly turn into poison at the stroke of midnight. (Seriously, who was the first one who decided they'll squeeze those dangly things and drink whatever comes out?)
So the next time you encounter a can of peaches that are a little “overage”, resist the temptation to chuck it down the chute while holding back tears of betrayal. Instead, go on and crack it open, then have a look, a whiff and a little nibble. If it look, smells and tastes good, you’ll be just fine.
Get Used to Ordering Twice at Restaurants
Some of us get tripped up when we order food at restaurants, often ending up with too much food that we valiantly bring home in a doggy bag, only for it to be chucked into the back of the fridge till the end of time.
When we sit down and order, we are hungry and ready to eat. This causes us to order more food, and become more willing to shell out for overpriced items such as appetisers and drinks. Restaurants know this; that’s why waiters always prompt you on everything from drinks to dessert.
The next time, try this. On the first round, order the mains each person wants to eat. And maybe an appetizer or two to share (but only if it’s to die for). Leave dessert and drinks to the second round - you can always ask for water if you need sips in between.
Once your hunger has been satisfied, you’ll find you don’t really need that brownie or soda after all. This way, you’ll save money, avoid wasting food (you might subconsciously not finish your meal just to make space for dessert) and give yourself the freedom to go to that really nice cafe instead.
Paying for groceries or a restaurant meal? Don’t forget to use the right credit card to reap more savings. Using a cashback credit card can give you instant savings that add up, whereas rewards credit cards can give you rebates that help you reduce household expenses. Find the best credit card for you at SingSaver.com.sg - for free!
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By Alevin Chan
A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.