The End of Household Food Waste?

How much food do you throw away each year because it’s past the expiration date, or worse, you find it in the back of your fridge supporting a new furry ecosystem?

In my ever extending string of blogs based entirely on speculation, I would say that I throw away in the region of £400 – £600 worth per year. And I’m not saying it’s my wife’s fault (certainly not to her face anyway), although she does all the grocery shopping and cooking (don’t worry, it’s not like that, I do pretty much all the cleaning and jar opening). 🙂

There’s actually no blame here, it’s just that way WE are. We are not planners when it comes to our weekly meals, which would alleviate much of this issue. But, like everyone else in our brave new it’s-not-my-fault,-someone-else-should-do-something-about-it society, I want to have this take care of itself, automatically.

We can, and I believe we are not that far off, it just needs to be put together.

First, the actual growers of the produce need to take the first step by ensuring that their shipments are labelled with enough information to begin the countdown process. i.e. from ripe to rotten, we should by now have a pretty good idea how long a lettuce (for example) is going to last. I don’t care if it’s organic (which will clearly reduce its life cycle), with refrigeration, preservatives, and whatever else happens to our food without our knowledge, from farm, to supermarket shelf, to your fridge, to your plate, the lettuce has only x days to live (plus or minus).

Let’s say this is done with a QR tag, and each step in the logistics is added to the embedded information, by the time you scan the code in the supermarket you will have at your fingertips all the information you need to make an informed decision related to your purchase. These lettuces in this box are 2 days newer than those ones, but the older ones are half price and so on. Instant coupons is a given.

I won’t go into the payment method, I’ve written enough on the future of payments, but you will not only have an instant receipt, you have automatically added these items to a database of all the food in your house, along with its weight / quantity, expiration date, and so on.

Now everything edible in your house, from canned goods, to herbs & spices, to meats, to vegetables are all tracked in your database. All you need do now is set your alerts so that ANYTHING that is about to expire becomes an item in your next meal. Of course, you will need to tell this database whether or not you put something in the freezer, the fridge, to left it on the counter, but the smart-fridges or smart-cupboards of the very near future will be able to track this for you by scanning your groceries as you put them away. This will in turn be added to the database so you need never spend half an hour hunting for your Fingers of Fudge.

Not only that, because you have a complete record of everything, you can get immediate help on what to do with it. Every chef in the world will want to sign up to a service whereby they can apply their recipes to what you have available, or more importantly, what is about to expire. Yes, both the chefs and the providers of this service will try to get you to buy additional items to make an amazing meal, but you will always have a choice.

Also, if you DO choose a fancy menu, this can immediately alert your preferred supermarket who can tell you whether to not the items are available, then maybe even deliver them to you.

And we’re still not done. Beyond the immediate benefits of saving a butt-load of money, these are other advantages for every player in the cycle (in no particular order);

  1. You can have your weekly menus designed for you based on your preferences in terms of likes/dislikes, calorific intake, budget and so on.
  2. Growers will eventually be able to track global trends on food purchase, and possibly be able to adjust their supply to the demand.
  3. Supermarkets can automatically alert their customers to deals on soon-to-expire produce a hopefully reduce their waste. Maybe provide free delivery if you purchase enough of these items.
  4. You’ll learn to cook far more meals than you could have ever conceived yourself.
  5. You’ll be able to track your calorie intake if you follow the menus explicitly. Good for dieters, and excellent for diabetics.
  6. By having the ingredients of everything you buy available to you, you can ensure you never buy anything, or accept a recipe for meals that contain something, to which you or a loved one are allergic.
  7. You will undoubtedly stop buying things that sit in your cupboards for years on end, like that can of string beans that seemed like a good idea at the time.
  8. You can make your food database available to your friends so that you can create a meal together without having to buy everything yourself. Dinner party anyone?

I could go on all day, and I’m sure that if you have read this far you have had several ideas of your own.

All we need now is the supermarket chains to buy in …and the growers …and the name brand goods ….and …

 

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