A yoghurt that is two days past its sell by date, better throw it away just to be on the safe side. Dried up bits of pasta still in the saucepan from yesterday‘s dinner, better throw them away too. The tomatoes bought in bulk at the beginning of the week are looking dried up and wrinkly by the weekend – get rid of them as well. Tons of food that could still be safely eaten get thrown away every day. And it’s not only the retailers and the food industry that are responsible for this, but also the consumers. At the same time, the number of people who can’t afford to fill up their fridge is increasing. And students also often have financial worries that can turn a shopping trip into a major headache. These tips are intended to help you reduce the amount of food you throw away and save money at the same time.
If you’ve bought too much and find you don’t actually need, or can’t even eat it all, then it’s worth finding out about the ‘Tafelläden’ (food banks) and food sharing. Any leftover products can be handed in at these food banks. And this also works the other way around, so if you are short of money for food, you too can make use of this service.
The ‘Tafeln’ food banks
There are five food banks in Stuttgart, known in Germany as Tafelläden, offering cut-price food to those in need. The food banks rely on donations from the food industry, retailers or private persons in order to be able to offer the widest possible range of products. Anyone who buys more than they need when shopping can take their surplus items there. Anything that keeps for a long period of time, such as pasta, tinned food or coffee is particularly popular with food bank customers. Drugstore items, such as toothpaste, shower gel or cosmetics can also be donated to the food banks.
The food sharing concept has only become established in Germany over the last five years. The ‘food sharers’ have developed an extensive network, particularly in large cities. Anyone who wants to get involved in this can sign up at Foodsharing.de, for example, to find out where someone needs something, or where food is available. The website shows where shopping baskets can be collected, and what products they contain. And anyone who has leftovers can even offer these for collection. In order to prevent so much food being thrown away there are also a few things to be aware of before going shopping.
Good Planning is Well Worth It
Firstly, it is helpful to check what’s in your cupboards before you buy that third pack of lasagna or that fifth tin of ravioli. It is also a good idea to think about what you want to cook during the week and what ingredients you actually need. As simple as it might sound, a well thought out shopping list can help when you are trying not to buy more than you need. And this is also easier on your wallet!
In order to make sure that you only buy what you really need, it is also a good idea – particularly for smaller households – not to buy the XXL packs on offer but to buy smaller amounts instead. For anyone who wants to decide for themselves how much muesli, eggs or fruit they actually want to buy and so reduce the amount of plastic packaging that comes with the weekly shop, it might be more sensible to shop at the market or your local grocery store.
It is also worth not only thinking about your behavior as a consumer, but also about how you use and handle food at home: for example, lots of people wrongly interpret the best-before date. Yoghurt, milk or cheese products with a best-before date can still be eaten after this date. Just try it, or smell it and trust what you can see, smell and taste to tell you if the item is still edible or not.
Although you do of course have to be more careful with meat, fish or poultry. These products always have a use-by date and should not be eaten once this date has expired since bacteria can multiply quickly and could make you ill.