How to stop food waste when temperatures soar

Filed in Blog by on July 29, 2014 6 Comments
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hot-weatherI don’t know about you but the recent rising temperatures have resulted in more food waste.

It’s been upward of 26 degrees in the Zero Waste Towers kitchen and I feel as though I’m surrounded by sweating, rotting stuff.

Bananas turn brown as soon as the sun puts his hat on. Bread is sporting a green fur jacket before we’ve taken the bread knife to it and potatoes are competing with the Brussels for the ‘biggest sprout’ title.

Talking of sprouting potatoes, according to one site, if you store an apple with your potatoes it stops them sprouting so quickly – has anyone tried this?

I’ve been thinking about how we can reduce the amount of food we waste without forking out for air conditioning or moving to Iceland.

Deep Freeze

I’m pretty good at making the most of my fridge but my freezer often gets forgotten.

One of my favourite resources for discovering how well things freeze is Frost Bite.

At the moment I’m cutting a loaf of bread or home made cake in half, keeping half in the kitchen to eat and storing the other half in the freezer.

Freezer

Tomatoes

According to WRAP, the average person purchases 95gms of tomatoes per week. And in their 2008 “The Food We Waste” report, they suggest 1 billion tomatoes are wasted every year.

Tomatoes have a relatively short shelf life and it’s difficult to extend this because they store best at room temperature. With recent temperatures here in the UK, that shortens the life even more. And as you’ve probably learned from experience, all you need is one rogue split tomato in the bowl to spoil your entire batch.

Tomatoes are readily available in Tetra Pak cartons, which are great to have on standby for making soups, bruschetta topping and pasta sauces. The great thing about the Tetra Recart packaging, for example, once opened, you can store it directly in the fridge, meaning tomatoes can be stored for longer in the original packaging. It means you don’t have to tip unused contents into another container like you do from an opened tin AND you don’t need a tin opener, which also makes them a great item to take camping for an instant pasta sauce.

pomi-tomatoes-in-tetra-pak1

Move to the fridge

I don’t personally like cold food. Even on a hot day I can’t stand ice in my drinks and I never eat ice cream, but I know the fridge is invaluable for keeping things fresh.

I normally store apples on the work top, but in this weather I’m keeping them in the fridge and remembering to take a couple out to ‘warm up’ ready for the following day.

Photo of fresh fruit and vegtables in fridge

Check the fridge

While we’re on the subject of fridges, keep an eye on the temperature of yours in this weather.

When it’s hot our fridges have to work harder, so periodically check yours. Your fridge should be between 0ºC and 5ºC.

Milk

Milk goes off quicker at the moment because someone – mentioning no names – insists that walking the few feet to the fridge to put it back is simply too far in this heat.

This same someone loves custard and white sauces on their food and is partial to a bowl of chocolate blancmange late at night.

Fortunately it’s not just us tipping milk down the sink. WRAP estimate that, as a nation, we waste 360,000 tonnes a milk a year, costing us £280million.

Thankfully milk is available in Tetra Pak cartons too, which can be stored at an ambient temperature with a considerably longer life span than fresh before opening. And it’s interesting to see in recent research that over half of UK consumers are willing to pay extra for milk in environmentally-sound packaging. Tetra Pak cartons are made primarily from wood, sourced from responsibly-managed forests and carry the FSC logo. After use, Tetra Pak cartons are widely recyclable across the UK.

Once opened you treat milk from cartons like fresh, but at least unopened cartons are on standby for those 11pm ‘must have a bowl of custard’ moments.

MS-milk

Vinegar bath

Got a glut of fresh berries?

Apparently if you swish them in a vinegar bath you’ll get up to two weeks lifespan from your strawberries and raspberries.

Mix a bowl of one part vinegar with ten parts water. Swirl the berries around in the mixture, drain, rinse, and put them in the fridge.

berries in vinegar bath

Ice bath

While berries like a vinegar bath, salad leaves benefit from an ice cold bath.

If your leaves are wilting, throwing them in a bowl of icy water will revive them.

 

Is foil your friend?

I discovered on one site that if you wrap celery stalks tightly in foil before putting in the fridge, they will last for up to 4 weeks.

Again, this isn’t something I’ve tried, so I’d love to hear your experiences of this.

What about you? What are your tips for reducing food waste when the mercury rises?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth’s fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (6)

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  1. Philippa says:

    Bananas contrary to some info (including the Coop’s on their see-through plastic bags) CAN be put in the fridge. This is where I put them when they are ripening too fast. It does make the skin go black but – so what?

    They can also be frozen to go in smoothies. Ones which are riper than I would choose to eat are great whizzed up in milk (particularly cold milk) and no-one can tell whether it is UHT or not. Ripe ones are also great in banana custard (UHT undetectable).

    Bananas give off a gas and so ripen other fruit in the fruit bowl.

    UHT milk (a great store cupboard essential) can also be used up in other sauces and hot (or cold) chocolate and mixed up to make a cold coffee.

  2. giftedlyn53 says:

    Banana cake is quick and easy to use up over ripe bananas. See BBC Food.

  3. Philippa says:

    I love banana cake but never seem to get around to making it. My mother used to use up ripe bananas in it (it was worth not eating them to get a banana cake) and she used to put walnuts in one half because not all of us kids liked walnuts. Happy memories!

  4. LauraJC says:

    I’ve never made banana bread my boys (aged 3 & 4) love what we call “little cakies” which are basically a 2 egg & 4oz flour / butter / sugar sponge mix with upto 2 brown bananas (I always have some in the freezer) and a handful of raisins thrown in – this makes about 18/20 child size cupcakes, I tend to use papercases for these, really should get some re-usable ones. Overripe mushed up summer fruits (not mouldy ones obviously!) get mixed with plain yoghurt and a couple of spoons of vanilla yoghurt to make frozen lollies – I got 2 reusable lollipop molds from a poundshop with half a dozen in each mold – they usually freeze in an afternoon so almost an instant treat on a hot day. And sugar free!

  5. Naomi says:

    The second bananas start to go too far, they get peeled and frozen for smoothies and we only buy a day or 2 worth. Bread now gets stored in the freezer.

  6. Grace Wolff says:

    These are great tips for reducing food waste when the heat tries extra hard to spoil it! Thanks! I think that it is a great idea to be conscious of the food that goes bad and work hard to make it last until you can eat it so there is as little waste as possible. I can’t wait to try the vinegar bath and the ice cold water on my berries and salad!

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