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8 ways to reduce your food waste

If someone gave you £700 to spend on food you’d be pretty chuffed, wouldn’t you? You could take care of the grocery bills for weeks! But, amazingly, this is exactly how much food the average UK family throws away each year.

Photo credit: Riverford

If the financial perspective isn’t enough of a motivation, there’s also the environmental point of view to consider. Precious resources are being used by hard working farmers to create food that never gets eaten.

We’re especially susceptible to wasting food at Christmas time. It’s a time to indulge and we like the cupboards to be well stocked, ready for any eventuality. It’s easy to be tempted with the incredible deals and beautiful packaging, especially when the festive cheer and generous spirit kick in.

However, there are many things we can do to reduce food waste:

#1 Plan your meals
It might sound a bit over-organised, but a weekly meal plan will help you buy only the ingredients you need and avoid the ones you might waste. You don’t have to decide what you’ll have on each night – just a list of 5 or 6 suppers will do the trick. Also, allow room in your plan to use leftovers: why not have a ‘fridge tapas’ evening once a week, where you eat up all the bits and bobs from the fridge.

#2 Buy ugly veg
Lots of food waste comes from shops rejecting fruit and veg because they do not meet the specific size or shape requirements. This leaves farmers with mountains of perfectly tasty produce that goes to waste. We can help by shopping for fresh produce in farmers markets and small grocers and by using veg box schemes where these practices are less common.

#3 Make friends with your freezer
If you find something is about to go off, freeze it. This is a great way to deal with food that goes from perfect to over-ripe in seconds, like bananas. Got a bunch of bananas looking a bit brown? Peel, slice up and freeze them for smoothies. The same applies to green beans – blanch for a minute, refresh in cold water, then freeze. Invest in a marker pen too otherwise you’ll have a freezer full of containers and no clue what’s in them. It hardly seems worth the hassle at the time but when you’re in need of some quick greens you’ll be glad you bothered.

#4 Weigh food so you don’t make too much
Rice, potatoes, couscous and pasta are the worst culprits here. Just get into the habit of weighing them in the pan so you get the portions right.

#5 Too good to bin
We are used to seeing things like cauliflower leaves, Brussels sprouts tops and bread crusts as unusable. Which is a shame because they are incredibly helpful. Pretty much all green leaves can be wilted with a little butter and eaten just as you would kale or spinach. And crusts make the best breadcrumbs: collect them in a freezer bag, when you have a good collection, blitz them in food processor to make breadcrumbs. You can also keep the breadcrumbs in the freezer and grab a handful as needed. And if you like making stock, keep leek tops, carrot ends and the like to add flavour to your stocks.

#6 Have a good larder for leftovers
Having a good stash of staples in the cupboard will help you avoid food waste. Things like lentils, chick peas, tinned tomatoes, anchovies, eggs and so on can be used to make a tasty meal out of leftovers. Why not try Fridge Frittata which is, as the name suggests, a selection of vegetable odds and ends from the fridge mixed with eggs, a little cheese and a slug of cream then baked in the oven at 185oC for 20 minutes.

#7 Use food waste apps
Technology can also help with food waste too. There are a host of new apps, like Olio, which connects you to neighbours and local shops so you can swap surplus food.

#8 Compost
Sometimes food is just too far-gone to save. But we can still avoid wasting it. Raw vegetable waste (as well as tea and coffee) can go into a garden compost bin. Mixed with old newspapers, grass clippings and a few egg boxes, this will turn into a nutritious garden fertiliser within a year. Other food waste can put in your food waste bin, provided by most councils, and will be recycled into compost on industrial levels. It’s not as good as avoiding the waste in the first place, but at least it will serve a purpose in future.

So, it’s as simple as that, a few little steps that can help save us money and reduce what we waste. It’s important to value what we buy and eat and when it comes to organic, you definitely don’t want to waste any of its deliciousness!

Kathy Slack

Kathy Slack

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