Reducing your food waste is easier than you might think; just a few simple changes can have a big impact. Jane Rylands, from Belling, who specialise in kitchen appliances for the family home, told us how we can reduce our household food waste.
The amount of food waste that we create post-farm in the UK equates to around 10.2 million tonnes, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). Of this number, roughly 7.1 million tonnes come from the home. By making some small changes to our shopping and eating habits, we can save money and help the environment. In this article, I’ll share my top tips for reducing food waste in your home.
The first port of call for reducing the amount of food waste is to alter our shopping habits. I’d recommend buying frozen produce where possible: frozen fruit and vegetables will last a lot longer and greatly reduces the chances of fresh food spoiling quickly in the fridge. They also as well as provide a convenient way to include more vegetables in your family’s diet.
Learn about expiration dates
We often throw food away when it’s past the date shown on the packaging, but these dates actually mean different things and it’s not always necessary to get rid of a particular item of food just yet.
- Sell by: This date is for the supermarkets and tells them when the product should be removed from the shelves. Food past this date is still safe to eat and can usually be disregarded by shoppers.
- Best before: This is all about quality. Food after this date is still safe to eat, but the taste and texture may have changed slightly.
- Use by: This is about safety. Food after this date should not be eaten, cooked or frozen as it may be unsafe to eat.
Don’t insist on perfection when shopping for vegetables, either. 50 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables are discarded from supermarkets in Europe each year, according to research from the University of Edinburgh. Shops and consumers are now being urged to buy fresh produce even if it seems slightly bruised or is past its ‘sell by’ date. A lot of the time, perfectly good food is thrown in the bin simply due to aesthetic reasons, so don’t be put off by vegetables with a slightly unusual shape or texture: it’s likely to be just as tasty once it’s cooked.
Store food correctly
Always store food according to the label to prevent premature spoiling. Foods including bananas, kiwis, spring onions, figs, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, tomatoes, and pears, as well as stone fruits like avocados, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, plums and apricots, all emit an ethylene gas when they ripen, which causes the food around them to ripen faster than their normal rate. So, these foods should always be stored separately to other fresh produce to avoid them spoiling earlier than they should.
Plan your meals
Another easy way to avoid food waste is by planning your meals in advance. Arrange them around any leftover food you have in your house so you can use it up. Try to avoid recipes which need an uncommon ingredient, otherwise you won’t get through it all and you’ll end up throwing it away. If you do need to use this kind of item, try to plan other meals in the week which incorporate it into the recipe.
It’s also a good idea to plan meals that will build on each other, so if you make a roast chicken one night, you can plan to use up the leftover meat in a pie or soup the next evening.
If you do have food left over, instead of throwing it straight into the bin, use the scraps to make stocks and stews. Any extra parts of fruits and vegetables, such as stalks and stems, can be added into smoothies to give your family an added vitamin boost.
Freeze to preserve
Fresh herbs can be saved by freezing them into ice cube trays with a little olive oil. These cubes can then be thrown into pasta dishes as a great last-minute alternative to dried herbs. You can also preserve fruits such as cooking apples which may be going soft by making apple sauce and freezing it for a later date.