UK households throw away a combined 7.1 million tonnes of food each year. That’s roughly equivalent to each home chucking £540 directly in the bin – that’s madness when you think about it! It’s not just the food (and money) we’re throwing away but all the energy that went into growing it and getting it to you – the labour, water and land to grow the food, the energy and transport to bring it to our shops and to keep it fresh on the long journey, and then the energy, labour and land to dispose of it from our kitchens.
When we throw away a tomato or a loaf of bread, it’s not just a potential meal we’re wasting, it’s all those resources that we’re wasting too. Read more here on how food waste has become a $1 trillion problem.
None of us feel good throwing away binloads of edible food, but by taking small steps, we can start to reduce our food waste today. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean entirely overhauling your kitchen right away. Choose one thing this week and stick with it, then slowly build on it over time.
Peek into your food bin. This is a good starting point when working out what you waste. Do you tend to throw away mouldy bread every week? Freeze your loaves before they have a chance to turn. Mouldy fruit? Rotten tomatoes? Leftover dinners? Make a list of what you waste the most. Being more mindful of how and what you waste is a good first step towards reducing it.
Organise your fridge so that you can see what needs using up. Whenever you restock your fridge, keep a shelf reserved for leftovers or any food on the turn so that it doesn’t get missed. It’s also helpful to remove any unnecessary packaging (plastic-wrapped veggies for example) to keep your shelves and veggie drawer neat and ordered.
Spring clean your cupboards. Take stock of what you’ve got in your store cupboard and keep a store of dried foods, like rice and pasta, a few spices, beans and tinned tomatoes that will bulk out the vegetable odds and ends, leftover meat or fish and miscellaneous sauces you’ve got in the fridge.
Forage from your fridge and get creative. The next time you’re heading out to the shops, stop and take a good look in your fridge first. How often does our meal-planning begin with that half-empty jar of curry paste or floppy celery stick lurking on the back of a shelf? Make one meal this week using whatever’s in the fridge and get creative! It might just become your favourite staple dinner.
Ignore best-before dates. Best-before dates aren’t an indicator that your food is unsafe to eat. They are just a measure of quality and are used by shops to rotate their stock. Use-by dates on foods like fish and chicken are the only ones you should stick to. Rather than relying on best-before dates to check your food is ok to eat, look at it, smell it, touch it or have a little taste. Avoid it if it looks or smells odd.
Use your freezer. Going away for the weekend? Use your freezer to store bread and milk rather than leaving them to go off. You’ll be surprised by what else you can freeze. Here are some ideas: freeze chillies or ginger whole to grate straight into your cooking. Dregs of red wine, leftover gravy or stock can be poured into ice cube trays to add to your cooking for instant flavour. Freeze fresh berries and chopped fruit to add directly to your morning smoothie. Store veg peelings, herb stalks and chicken bones in a bag in the freezer to make into a tasty stock later. Squeezed lemon rinds can be frozen to flavour water or to grate straight into the cookpot.
Shop cleverly. BOGOF deals can be tempting but they often encourage us to buy more than we really need. Plan your meals and make a list before you go shopping so you’re less likely to impulse buy.
Love the unloved. When we think about food waste, we might not think about the waste that happens far before it gets to our shopping bags. The chicken carcasses and fish heads; the carrot tops and ‘wonky’ vegetables that have somehow been deemed unworthy of our kitchens. Buying whole chicken or fish or root vegetables with their leaves intact and eating them in their entirety, as well as choosing the misshapen ‘wonky’ vegetables is a sure way to reduce waste further up the supply chain.
Shop local. Shopping more directly from our local producers at farmers’ markets or via veg box schemes is a good way to shorten supply chains, reducing the risk of waste in transit. It also means you can ask questions – what gets wasted most? What can you do to help create demand for the perfectly edible food and ‘wonky’ vegetables that usually get chucked?
Download the Karma app to intercept more deliciously edible food from ending up in landfill. Find out more about Karma here.