Diet has been the major focus of a lot of environmental campaigns recently, and it is clear our diets have an impact on the environment. We are being told to be vegan, to be flexitarian, to be plant-based, and well it can be a little daunting for many people…….but there is something that we can all do, irrelevant of what diet we have; we can all reduce our food waste.
Combating your food waste is one of the simplest ways to reduce your environmental impact. You may be thinking ‘oh but I don’t waste food’ and many of us don’t think we do, but on average a UK household throws away 8 meals per week (WRAP, 2020)….it is surprising how those ends of bread and scraps add up.
Here are some facts and figures on food waste (WRAP, 2020)
85% of the UK’s food waste comes from households – meaning we waste more than industry
4.5 million tonnes of edible food get thrown away per year
6% of the food we buy at the shops goes in the bin – that is effectively like buying 6 bags of shopping and just putting one straight in the bin when you get home, crazy isn’t it!?
And then this one to inspire you and fill you with hope for the future (WRAP, 2020)
Food waste has reduced by 26% between 2007 and 2018 – so clearly we are doing better but we can do better still
Here are my simple yet effective top 5 tips to save food waste
1. Learn to love your leftovers
You may have a small portion of potatoes left from a meal one day, a few pieces of broccoli from another day, and sausage from your weekend cooked breakfast. On their own these leftovers might not seem worth keeping but when we collect a few days’ worth it really adds up. After a few days you have enough food to whip up a leftovers lunch or dinner.
RESOURCEFUL RECIPE: One of the best ways to use up leftover veggies or meats is to make them into a pasta sauce. Reheat all the veggies (and meat if you eat it) and boil some pasta, then stir it all together. Take it a little further by adding pesto, harissa or a tomato pasta sauce. Really whatever you to hand – extra points if it was a leftover sauce too!!
TIP: Just make sure you put the leftovers in a pot straight after your meal and put them in fridge as soon as they are room temperature – don’t leave them on the side overnight and then chuck them in bin!
2. Don’t neglect the sad looking veg
The veg drawer in most people’s fridge has a few miserable looking carrots and onions that often get neglected and then thrown away. Have one day a week where you dedicate a meal to these unsung heroes. My mum called meals like this ‘fruits of the fridge’ when I was a child, and they are probably the reason I’m now so passionate about food waste.
RESOURCEFUL RECIPE: A curry or a soup are great one pan wonders than thrive of having an eclectic mix of sad veg. Heat some oil and soften the veg, then go to town adding spices for added flavour and maybe add a tin of pulses to bulk it out. Add stock, coconut water or both. Bring to the boil, and simmer till all the veggies are soft and the curry has reduced and thickened.
TIP: The bagged salad that you forgot about that is now a bit soggy: cook it in a frying pan with some other greens, some cumin and citrus juice and you’ve saved it from the food waste, and added some diversity to your greens.
3. Same goes for fruit - Don't GIVE UP ON IT
Bananas are notorious for going browner than we’d like. Do not blindly throw them away. Peel it and freeze it. The same goes for any other fruit too; if it isn’t going to last, freeze it and make yourself a delicious smoothie.
TIP: If you have a piece of fruit that just won’t ripen, that can go in a smoothie too as long as you have a high-powered blender. It may not be as sweet as if it were ripe so you may want to add something to sweeten your smoothie.
4. Use the all of the fruit or veg! And I mean all of it!!
Fruit and veg is often wasted before we’ve even cooked it. Huge chunks of veg are lost when we cut off the stalks and ends. For example, many people cut the top off a pepper and throw it away, but you can use that bit too. Cut the top off and then pop the stalk out with your thumb and now you have a whole lot more pepper for your money!
RESOURCEFUL RECIPE: The dark tops of leeks are often a lot thicker and less soft, but you can still eat these. Start cooking them first before your cook the main stalk or keep them for an odds and ends soup.
TIP: The stalks of broccoli and cauliflower are also edible. I love them roasted with the florets and a little paprika, but if you aren’t quite that convinced add them to your odds and ends soup – you can always cook and freeze them till you need them.
5. Be realistic with your bread
You come home from with your fresh aromatic loaf, but are you really going to manage it all before it goes stale? Probably not. There are a few things we can do here. Firstly, cut the loaf in half, and cut half into slices, bag up the sliced half and freeze it. Secondly, the half that you are keeping out needs to be bagged well so that it doesn’t go stale too quickly. Often the bags the bread comes in have perforations to let the bread cool after baking but this also makes the loaf go stale quicker so put it into a plastic bag and use a clip or wire tie to secure it.
TIP: You can buy plastic bags from a lot of different stores, but did you know that you can wash them dry them by hanging them over a utensil and then reuse them? Or you can even wash and reuse the bags from sliced bread.
All of these tips are really easy to implement into your life. The don’t require you to change your diet and you don’t have to give up anything. These tips will help you save money and save the planet – what’s not to love?
And if you are looking to take you environmental impact a little further here are some handy tips for your next shopping trip
1. Try to buy seasonal produce – this helps reduce the distance that your food has travelled, and often is cheaper too!
2. Take your own shopping bags to the supermarket, and even keep a few in your car for when you inevitably forget.
3. Before you go shopping look in your fridge and make a shopping list. Decide what you need, maybe even roughly plan a few meals, and that way you won’t arrive at the supermarket and buy stuff you already have or don’t need.
You may not be perfect when you start out but keep at it and in no time you’ll be a food waste warrior saving the environment! Happy eating!
The facts I’ve cited in this blog post came from the following reference – if you want to learn a LOT more and have a little nerd session then click here to read the full report.
2020. WRAP. Food surplus and waste arisings in the UK. [Online]. Available from: https://wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Food_%20surplus_and_waste_in_the_UK_key_facts_Jan_2020.pdf