Six Simple Ways to Reduce Food Waste

Filed in Blog by on June 8, 2020 6 Comments
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six simple ways to reduce food wasteI want to revisit reducing food waste because it’s such an important one and it’s one of the most popular. It also makes sense – you can save money, preserve resources and because everyone has to eat, we can all reduce the amount we waste.

Not only that but the current pandemic means that some supermarkets are not always fully stocked and that some of us can’t even get to the shops at the moment. All of this means we have to make the most of what we have at home. It means we have to get creative, be prepared to compromise and learn some new skills.

I like to focus on the positives in life and I think many of us have learned to be really resourceful throughout lockdown. We’ve also finally started to understand that food is a precious resource, it’s not a disposable commodity. So with that in mind, let’s look how to make the most of food and how to waste less:

Take a food inventory

Much of the time we don’t even know what foods we have in our homes. So the first thing to do is take an inventory – check your cupboards, pantry, freezer, fridge and anywhere else you might have food squirrelled away. Write a comprehensive list of everything you have and you can refer back to this as a foundation on which to base meals.

Know your dates

While you are sorting through your cupboards, make a note of anything either coming up to, or already past its ‘best before’ date. There’s something to understand here – a ‘use by’ date is based on safety, so you need to adhere to them. You’ll find them on fresh meat, eggs and some salad items. But the ‘best before’ you can safely ignore. You’ll find these on tins and packets. Food past it’s ‘best before’ date might have changed colour, texture or taste, but it’s still perfectly good to eat. Having said that, make a note of dates and make a plan to use things up in date order from now on. More info from the government here.

Get creative

Unless you’re a keyworker, full time carer or are now homeschooling your kids, many of us have more time on our hands. What better way to use that time than learning how to use up some of those ingredients in your home! There are heaps of websites to inspire you. A good site will split recipes into helpful categories, such as Keto, gluten free and vegan and is super simple to navigate. You should also be able to  search by ingredient, which takes the guess work over what to cook for dinner. Using a recipe site is a great way to add some new meals to your weekly regime.


how to reduce food waste


Understand portion control

One of the number one reasons people waste food is because they’ve cooked too much. Use this time to understand what a portion is for YOU. Not anyone else, not the manufacturer’s suggestion, but YOU. For example, I know a generous handful of rice is a portion for me. My daughter needs just under a handful of pasta for a meal. My husband has as small cup that he keeps to measure a portion of rice for himself. Take time learning what each member of your household can eat. You might prefer to weigh things for a more accurate result. The British Nutrition Foundation give some guidelines on portion control here.

Use leftovers

We have banned the use of ‘leftovers’ at zero waste towers and use the word ‘ingredients’. It’s a subtle mindset shift that can help you waste less food. By seeing any leftovers as ingredients for tomorrow’s meals it helps you to think about new creative ways to use things. Even a tablespoon of sweetcorn, half a small tin of tuna and a couple of cherry tomatoes can be tossed with some leftover pasta, coated in mayonnaise and you end up with a great lunch that you’ve made for virtually nothing.

Hold a CORN night

We have a CORN night once a week. Put simply it means ‘Clear Out Refrigerator Now!’ and you literally pull everything out of the fridge that needs using up and serve it buffet style. You might end up with some intriguing combinations, but often it ends up being my favourite meal of the week. By combining foods you might not usually mix you can create some new favourite recipes too. Yes, on the odd week you end up with a dull looking plate, but it tastes good and you can feel good knowing you’ve saved all that food from being wasted.

Now that we’ve talked about food waste, I want to acknowledge that many people have written to me recently with real fears about the Coronavirus and what this means for them, their families and even the environment. I find that professional help and support can be invaluable, so if you’re worried, concerned or frightened about the current situation, don’t be afraid to get some online therapy such as telephone counselling to help you through. I speak to someone once a week and it’s an absolute ‘must’ for me.

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. Marijo1951 says:

    It’s said that one of the most commonly wasted ingredients is salad, whether half a lettuce or half a bag of mixed leaves. I have two excellent ways of making sure I use them all.

    One is soup – some salad with a leek or a few spring onions (or an ordinary onion if that’s all you have) plus some celery or fennel, a potato and some frozen peas, maybe finished with a bit of dairy and parsley, cooked briefly and whizzed up together. It’s very fresh and delicious.

    The second is pesto. I once heard Emma Bridgewater on the radio say that pesto can be made from any greens, any nuts and any cheese and I’ve made a point of proving her right. My current batch, frozen in portions, is half a bag of watercress and rocket, a few cashews and some slightly past its best feta. It’s delicious.

    I would say that if your salad includes red leaves, go for the pesto. I’ve made a soup that was a bit murky, rather than bright green, slightly off-putting, but in fact it tasted very good.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Thank you for sharing some wonderful ideas for salad leaves, Marijo! I have heard you can cook them, but I’ve never tried it. I have, however, recently started making juices and that’s a great way to use up leaves. The pesto sounds great, I do love feta cheese!

  2. Norman Stokes says:

    Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot.

  3. Shivya Nath says:

    A CORN night is such a great idea. I hate the feeling of finding something in the refrigerator days after it should have been eaten. Definitely going to do this every once in a while!

    • Mrs Green says:

      Glad it resonated, Shivya and thank you for leaving a comment. I’ve just emailed you with an opportunity, so please check your inbox 🙂

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