It’s something I’ve been getting upset about for years: food waste. Working as a student, I saw kilos of good food ending up in the bins. I drove my flat mates insane coming home -again- with boxes of bean sprouts, weak croissants and liters of milk. All saved from the garbage.
When I was asked by the Dutch ‘Voedingscentrum‘ (a semi-government run educational institution for food and nutrition) to do a campaign against food waste, I discovered that actually, we throw away most of our food at home. So I collected hundreds of tips and great recipes to prevent that waste. I bundled them together in a fun kitchen book: ‘Koken met Restjes is Leuk‘ (‘Cooking with leftovers is fun’).
During my time as Expedia Pioneer, I travelled through my own country The Netherlands and kept getting upset about waste. The challenge is even bigger at times when I don’t eat at home much. But, good thing about that is that now I’ve got even more tips to help prevent food was, especially when travelling. I’ll share them with you today:
What we'll cover in this article
How to Waste Less Food While Travelling?
Preventing Food Waste Before Departure
Wasting less on the road actually starts when you’re still at home. A few days before departure, you can already anticipate being away for a while. For example, I check what food I still have at home the nights before departure and cook with those items. I make sure to eat all perishable goods before I pack my suitcase. And when that’s not possible, I donate it to the neighbours, friends or my parents.
Is there nobody around that’s interested in your leftovers? Put them on Facebook! There are a dozen of local food-sharing groups where there’s someone to pick up your left over groceries.
Preventing Food Waste on the Go
It depends a bit on your travel style, but bringing along a cooler box (or bag) can be extremely useful. A couple years ago, I travelled with a friend throughout South Africa in a small, white Citi Golf. We couldn’t afford to eat out ever day with our student budget, but going grocery shopping every day would also be expensive. So we bought a large cooler box that we kept in the back of the car. Here, we kept butter, cheese and other fresh produce that we wouldn’t finish in one go, but used a lot.
There are also many types of smaller cooler bags that fit perfectly in your backpack. So even when you travel on foot, you can bring fresh produce to your next destination.
Choose a Hotel Without Breakfast Buffet
Most hotels server their breakfast (and sometimes their dinner) buffet-style. It’s great to indulge in this excess of food, but buffets have two problems:
1. You eat much more than you usually would
2. They are THE big wasters of food in the tourist industry. The buffet has to always be filled-up, otherwise guests might not feel they’re getting their money’s worth. What’s left over at the end of the breakfast, goes straight into the bin. It always hurts me when I see this!
This is what you can do as a traveller: choose for a hotel or restaurant where they handle food consciously. In some hotels, they donate the leftovers of the buffets to people from the slums in the area. Or they choose to not have a buffet at all, beucase it produces so much waste.
I’ve stayed at a hotel before where the owner decided there weren’t enough guests to set up an entire buffet. He asked me the night before what I wanted for breakfast en just prepared that. Perfect!
When a Hotel Buffet is You Only Option
Of course, I also stay in hotels where the richly filled buffets are waiting for me in the morning. Because there aren’t any hotels with a better alternative in the area, for example. In that case, I try to do my best to still contribute to preventing food waste. I just eat the caps of the bread, for example, otherwise they just end up staying there.. And they are really the best part of the bread, aren’t they?!
I often notice that people aren’t inclined to take something when there is only a little left on a plate. Fresh fruit, for instance: if there is only two pieces of pineapple, a grape an a slice of melon, nobody touches it. The waiters simply throw it out and replace it with a fresh bowl of fruit. Such a shame! Same for scrambled egg, the last slice of cheese or a bit of yoghurt. Next time, just go for it!
Another tip: when the buffet is almost finished, and I see for example that the basket with bread is still pretty full, I ask the staff if I can take some with me. A little cheeky, but it saves me money and the buns don’t end up in the bin, but in my tummy. Win-Win, right?!
Restaurants and Travelling
Less is more, but unfortunately, that’s a principle that a lot of restaurants don’t know yet. Sometimes I get served a main course that even two people couldn’t possibly finish. Then I’m glad when I haven’t ordered a starter. Now I usually ask beforehand how big the portion sizes are, or I look at what other guests are being served.
When the meals end up to be mega-mega, I share them with my dinner partner. And if it’s not enough in the end, I can always order desert.
Ask for a Doggy Bag
In The Netherlands, we’re not used to ask for a doggy bag. People feel ashamed. Maybe others will think they’re poor! Nonsense of course! A doggy bag is more a compliment to the chef than anything else. The food was so good, you find it a waste to throw it away.
Luckily, most countries in the world are used to give your leftover food in a small parcel to take home with you. Just try and keep the food cool, especially when it’s concerning meat or fish. If you keep it cool, you have a perfectly fine (and cheap!) lunch the next day!
I hope that I’ve provided you with enough ideas to waste less food while on the road. In my books, you can find even more suggestions on keeping food, which products you can freeze (that you didn’t know of), what you can do when you only have a little of something left and of course many no-waste recipes. And the best news is still to come: wasting less will save you a lot of money! And that money you can use to travel again.
Daisy Scholte is a travel journalist, filmmaker and cook book author on avoiding food waste from The Netherlands. On her blog ‘All Day Every Daisy’, she encourages people to explore the world in a sustainable way. She sold over 15.000 copies of her first book ‘Koken met Resjes is Leuk!’ (Cooking with Leftovers is Fun’) and has just published her second book ‘Lekker Koken met Restjes‘ (‘Cooking Deliciously with Leftovers’). Daisy and her partner Patrick are currently on a World Trip! You can follow them live via www.alldayeverydaisy.com