It was reported recently that in the UK, we throw away up to one third of the food we buy each week. This amounts to 6.7 million tonnes of food each year.
As the food crisis increases around the world, it makes sense for us to reduce the amount of food we waste. This will save us money too – imagine saving a third of your weekly food bill!
Food waste is caused by cooking too much and then throwing away the extras, buying 3 for 2 offers and not using things before they go off, impulse buys, poor portion control or mouldy fruit and vegetables.
Many people think that throwing food in the landfill is ok. It’s biodegradable after all, so doesn’t create problems. The trouble is, more often than not, the biodegradable food gets wrapped inside a non biodegradable plastic bag! If the air doesn’t get to the food then it won’t rot down.
In the absence of oxygen, biodegradable materials (such as food, cardboard and green waste) decompose and produce methane gas, which contributes to global warming.
Here are my top ten tips to help you reduce food waste.
- Menu plan.
Think about the meals that your family enjoys most and make a menu plan for the week. Write down the ingredients you need for each meal on a list. There is nothing worse than pushing a trolley around a supermarket aimlessly with no ideas about your meals for the following week. You often end up with an expensive trolley full of ingredients that don’t go together!
- Use up your leftovers.
Before you begin your menu plan, take a look at any leftovers in the fridge, vegetable rack and cupboards. Vegetables which are starting to go soft can be made into soup or pasta sauces. Over ripe fruits can be made into pies or blended to make smoothies. Half a tin of tuna could be tonight’s pasta bake and a few spoons of cooked mince could be made into pasties.
- Write a shopping list.
Write a list from your menu plan and take it with you to the shop. If you stick to the list you’ll be more likely to resist impulse buys that don’t get used up.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
It’s a simple tip but an important one. If you shop when your stomach is growling, you’ll be tempted to buy all sorts of things you don’t need. Plus if you’re focusing on your hunger, you’re not focusing on making good choices.
- Rotate foods in your cupboards and fridge.
When you get home from shopping, put all the new food at the BACk of the fridge and cupboards and bring last week’s old items to the front. How many times have you found something mouldy hiding in the back of the ‘fridge?
- Take a look at what you throw away.
Be honest with yourself and start writing things down. Do you throw away half a loaf of bread a week? Then why not freeze it and take out slices as you need them. Take individual slices out for sandwiches the night before you need them, or use straight from frozen for toasting. If you regularly throw away vegetables then maybe you need to buy them loose and reduce the amount you buy each week.
- Check your fridge.
Are the seals good and is the temperature set to between 1 and 5 degrees? This ensures your fridge will keep your food fresh for as long as possible.
- Start a compost heap, a wormery or a bokashi bin.
If you regularly throw out gone off fruit and vegetables then why not turn them into something useful by starting a compost bin. They are easier than you might think to manage and there are a range of styles to suit all garden sizes.
Check out Recycle Now first to see if your council has a special deal on compost bins.
If you have a tiny garden, then you could try a wormery.
If you have no garden at all then why not try a kitchen composter, such as the Bokashi bin? A bokashi bin will even take cooked food scraps. Keep checking back on the site for an exciting competition to win a bokashi bin in the future!
- Portion control.
It can be difficult, especially with children who eat like a horse one day and hardly anything the next, to serve the right sized portions. Why not let your family help themselves by taking a small portion with the knowledge that they can come back for more when that has been eaten? Any leftovers can be covered and stored in the ‘fridge once they have cooled down and used the following day.
- Left overs and ingredients.
View today’s leftovers as tomorrow’s ingredients with a bit of creative thinking. A couple of sausages could be made into a pasta bake or toad in the hole, cooked vegetables can be made into bubble and squeak, a bit of pasta can be tossed with vegetables and some chickpeas for a pasta salad, a couple of rashers of bacon can be made into an omlette. The possibilities are endless; all you need to do is add imagination.
There is a great website that deals with this issue. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce the amount of food that we throw away, and how doing this will benefit us as consumers and the environment.
On the site you will find plenty of recipes, facts about storing food and even suggestions about portion control.
What about you – what is the best recipe you’ve made from leftovers? Do you have a top tip to help reduce food waste?
Please share it with us in the comments below!