If you have a pantry that’s brimming with food, much of which that’s been sitting there for a while. Or if you regularly find yourself tossing out stale or soiled food from your pantry, then this post is for you.
I’m chatting about simple actions you can take to reduce food waste from your pantry.
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It’s a significant environmental issue and one I’ve covered in detail before, in particular in this post. But today I want to dive a little bit deeper into just one area of our homes. And that’s our pantries.
But before I do, I just want to give you a heads up on how significant food waste is on our global environmental health. The impact on climate change from food waste is so significant, that reducing food waste has been listed within the top five solutions for climate change in Paul Hawken’s book, “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.”
In fact, the impact on climate change from food waste alone is reported by Hawken to beat solar farms and rooftop solar combined!!
I tell you this because if you’ve ever doubted that you can make a difference at a global environmental level, I want you to know that you can, in your very own homes. Reducing food waste is one of the best things you can do to help heal and improve our own local, regional and global environments.
So, let’s take reducing food waste one step further and narrow down to one little, and very important area of our kitchen, and indeed, our homes… our pantry.
This was an area that I focused with my Self-Sufficiency in the Suburbs members on in August. We all undertook a pantry purge. I challenged my members to really delve into the depths of their pantries, and find some items that had been sitting there, maybe for a few months, maybe for a few years. If these items weren’t too far past their best before / use by dates and were still usable, the challenge was there to turn them into some healthy, nutritious meals for themselves, or their families.
It was a really, really popular challenge. We got in on the act in our family, as well, like we do, and found some interesting items in our pantry to transform into meals, which we did!
Completing the pantry purge highlighted for me a few simple steps that anyone can do in their homes, to get on top of food waste in their pantry. And I’ll share these with you right now….
How To Reduce Food Waste From Your Pantry:
1. Store Food Correctly
So the first step to reduce food waste from your pantry is to store your food correctly.
I learnt this the hard way a few years ago, when I was living in Townsville, when weevils would hatch in my flour. I found the only want to stop the issue was to place my flour in the fridge or the freezer first to kill the eggs and then store in an air tight container in the pantry.
Storing your pantry staples correctly involves placing them in a sealed container, or in an airtight jar. I’ve been slowly switching over to glass jars in my pantry, and I really, really love repurposing large, one-litre coconut oil jars, for this purpose. Especially the type that have the silicon seals in the lids. These give a really good, airtight seal, so pests can’t get in, and food stays super, super fresh. Repurposing jars is particularly handy if you can’t afford a designer pantry storage system.
Storing food correctly to avoid pest issues or having food go stale is the first step in reducing food waste from your pantry. Basically you want to avoid having open packets of food hanging out in your pantry.
2. Rotate Your Stock
Step number two is to rotate your stock.
Now, this is a no brainer, and it’s common sense. But I know so many people … and I even catch some people in my household (!) placing fresher food on top of older food. You really want to avoid this!
When you return from shopping be sure to place new items to the back of your pantry, and bring older items towards the front.
For foods already in containers, like brown rice, tip the older rice into a bowl, wash the container or jar out, pour the new rice into the bottom of the container, and put the old rice on the top. It’s pretty simple, but we often can cut corners, and that can be one way that you can contaminate new food coming in.
Here’s an example… Recently I found some chickpeas in my pantry that had little borers in them. Now, if I’d placed the new chickpeas on the top of them, they all would have had borers in them. It’s easy to end up with a large amount of food spoiling just because you mixed fresher with older foods.
So, rotate your stock. New to the back, old to the front, or if it’s in a container, clean it out, and place the new on the bottom, and the old on the top.
3. Check Pantry Stocks Before You Shop
The third step is to check your pantry stocks before you shop.
I’m a real sucker for meal planning. It’s really the one system in my household, when I do it properly, that helps everything in the house to flow. I don’t get stressed each night, wondering what to cook. I can cook in bulk and freezer meals and lunchbox foods to make day to day life easier. And I can shop, knowing that everything I need is on my shopping list, and I don’t make impulse purchases.
Meal planning is really the critical ingredient to reduce the food waste in your house, and the food waste from your pantry.
You can checking food stocks in your pantry before you shop. So, build your meal plan and then check what ingredients you have on hand. Or, you can check what ingredients what you have on hand first, what’s approaching the use by, or best before date, and build your meal plan, and then your shopping list from that.
Planning your meals for the week around the items in your pantry that need to be consumed is one big step into reducing food waste from your pantry.
4. Get Creative
The final step in reducing food waste from your pantry is to get creative.
Set a goal to do a regular pantry purge, or just to use up one stagnant item in your pantry each month. Look for new recipes online where you can use up ingredients and turn them into delicious meals.
During our recent Pantry Purge monthly challenge in Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs I uncovered a couple of fancy, unopened packets in my pantry. And some of them had been sitting there for a couple years. I’m not going to lie here!
So I found some vintage Green Banana Starch and Black Rice in my pantry and I set about using them in a variety of new recipes to give them a new lease on life and to save them from going to the chickens, or getting tossed at a later date.
It was a real win-win.
After browsing new recipes online we enjoyed some new meals. I made some black rice bread rolls and a beautiful black rice stir fry (together with fresh veggies from the garden). I turned the green banana starch into pancakes, bread, smoothies and host of other delicious meals. We also reduced our grocery bill for those weeks because I got a few extra meals out of food that I had on hand, rather than buying new items. And it provided me with a little bit of fun, and broke up some of the monotony in the kitchen at the same time.
Other Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs members turned their pantry outdated food into craft items like homemade play dough and slime to the delight of their kids!
So there you have it!! My four simple steps to reducing food waste from your pantry.
To recap: Store your food correctly. Rotate your stock. Check your pantry stocks before you shop and get creative.
Why don’t you look for some of those stagnant items in your pantry, and browse online for some new recipes that you can use to turn them into delicious meals for your family?
I’d love to hear what you think. What tips do you have to manage food waste from your pantry?
Feel free to take some photos and share them on Instagram, and tag me at @lauratrottadotcom to let me know. I love to hear from you.