I found out a pretty scary fact the other day. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is part of the United Nations, if you think of food waste as a country it would be the third highest green house gas emitter behind only China and the USA. And even more mind blowingly, according to the charity Wrap, the average UK person wastes around 68kg of food each year! For context, that is equivalent to 1.2 times my weight.
Why is this an issue? The problem is far more than the fact that we’re clearly wasting a lot of money on food we aren’t eating. It is a lot of food we are sending to landfill each year. Despite what people think, organic material that is put into landfill actually doesn’t decompose. This is because it needs oxygen and without it will release the greenhouse gas known as methane, which has about a three times bigger impact on our climate than CO2 does.
That has all been a pretty rubbish start to today’s post so let’s brighten things up a bit. You’ll be pleased to hear that there are some really simple ways we can all reduce our food waste! Here are just a few.
Before you go shopping
If you want to reduce your food waste it really starts before you go shopping. For me, it is really important to keep a rough inventory of what I have in my fridge, freezer and cupboards. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated but its something I like to update every month or so to make sure I am not wasting anything.
The next thing you want to make sure you are always doing is meal planning. Like I said yesterday, the first place you want to head to when you start your meal planning is your cupboards. You want to come up with some simple recipes using the ingredients you already have. If you are stumped and there is a misc can of something that has been sat there a while there are some really useful tools online such as this one, where you can search by ingredient to make sure you are using everything you have. Once you have planned your meals, it is super easy to write up your shopping list and head out. This will only take you 10-15 minutes each week and can save you a lot of money.
One final tip… as my mum told me when she was dropping me off at university for the first time – NEVER shop hungry. The reason for this is when you are hungry everything will start looking appealing and you will buy things you don’t need.
In the shop
Remember that list you wrote? You’re going to want to stick to that. I mean it, if you don’t have chocolate cookies on your list do you really need them?
We talked earlier in the week about buying loose veg (see here), and the beauty of this is you can buy exactly the quantity that you need. If there is a great deal on then sure get multiple but ONLY if you will use the item anyway and it will keep. Don’t buy more than you need of fresh fruit and veg unless you have a plan as to what you’re going to do with it because I guarantee you’ll find it growing new life in the bottom of your fridge in a few weeks.
Another great tip is to pick up wonky veg. Lots of shops now are selling off wonky veg for a lower price. Wonky simply means that the food doesn’t look as perfect as they would like but there won’t be anything wrong with it. Alternatively, there are plenty of great wonky veg boxes you can order online like this one.
Storing food properly
You’re now home from the shop and you’ve stuck to your list. Well done! It is now important that you store your food properly. Yes, I mean keep fresh food in the fridge and dried goods in air tight containers but more than that there are some super cool hacks online to keep your food fresher for longer.
Something else you can do, is meal prep, if that’s your style. Personally, I float in and out of this based on what we have planned for the week. If I have some berries, for instance, I always make sure than when we get back from the shop we spend 20 minutes or so washing them and storing them in an airtight box before putting them in the fridge. This will make them last so much longer. Also, you can do things like storing your carrots in water which will, apparently, stop them going floppy. I haven’t actually tried this one but I will next week and let you know how it goes!
If you have some more food storage hacks that you have tried put them in the comments section below.
Dates on food
There are three main dates that will be written on food you purchase: display until, best before and use by.
Display until is simply a note to the people in the shop that they can’t stock this product after a certain date. This has nothing to do with you consuming it. Best before is saying the product is most likely going to be best before this date but in most cases its still perfectly safe to consume. Finally, use by, this is the manufacturers recommendation as to when you should have consumed the product by. However, in most cases this date is reasonable arbitrary. Because the manufacturer wants to err on the side of caution, its best to use this as a guide. If it doesn’t smell funky and there’s nothing fluffy growing on it then 9 times out of 10 it’s probably safe to eat. Provided it all smells and tastes as it is meant to I will more than likely still eat whatever it is and I am yet to be ill from it.
With this tip, its important to do what you are comfortable with and do remember that I am not a nutritionist I am just speaking from personal experience.
Use your freezer
For those of you who know me well, you will know my freezer is my pride and joy! Yes, that’s a little tragic. Seriously though, so many things we buy can be frozen. There is no need for us to be leaving things in our fridges to go off when we could prolong the lives of our food by just popping it in a reusable freezer bag or a box.
There are so many things that you can freeze that most people don’t realise such as grated cheese, herbs, cake, whole avocados, bagels and so much more. Think about it this way, if you’ve seen it in the freezer aisle then you can probably freeze it.
My favourite thing to do is save the bread crusts from loaves of bread by popping them in the freezer. Then when I am feeling like some toast it is so simple to just pop it in the toaster from frozen and I have saved some bread from what would have otherwise been thrown away.
I feel very strongly about freezer usage so I am sure you’ll be seeing much more about it.
Get creative with food scraps
One of my new favourite things to do is save fruit and vegetable scraps in the freezer. Did you know you can actually eat things like onion peel and carrot tops? These things might not be very appealing but they’re great to make stock from. When my tub of vegetable scraps is full I have previously made vegetable stock powder, which means I no longer have to buy stock cubes. This reduces the non-recyclable foil/paper that they are wrapped in, there is no food waste and it’s totally free!
Fruit scraps are also great! You can make all sorts of things with them. Citrus peels for instance can be added to white vinegar to make cleaning agents or added to vodka (or liquid glycerin) to make orange or lemon extract! Banana skins can be used to make fertilizer for your house plants and apple cores (not the pips) can be used to make apple cider vinegar. Again, this is mostly free!
If all else fails, there is always the compost bin. It is important to make sure you know what can and can’t go in the compost bin but it is a great way to break down food without releasing methane. I live in an apartment but am currently in the process of making an indoor compost bin that will live under my sink. Before you ask, no it doesn’t smell bad.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a garden or you don’t fancy the idea of having a compost bin inside there are really awesome community compost schemes that you can try out where you can take your food scraps! If you want to find your nearest one have a look on here.
I could go on forever about reducing food waste so I had better stop! I hope you enjoyed today’s post and I am sure I will talk some more about this in the future. If anything here is particularly interesting to you then let me know and I will move them up my priority list.