Seven Tips to Reduce Food Waste
Oh friends, climate change is on my mind, and apparently the minds of so many of you. It feels like there is a stirring in popular culture similar to that caused by Blue Planet II (what would we do without David Attenborough?). I’ve been thinking about restless young people marching for our planet, about Greta Thunberg and about the Climate Change: The Facts programme. It is all lodged in my mind and I flip between feeling helpless and hopeful.
I find myself thinking about Climate Change: The Facts the most. On the programme it listed actions we could all do now to help prevent climate change. Reducing food waste was one of them. I was pleased to hear this as we already operate on nearly a zero-waste system when it comes to food. We still have much we can improve on - we currently eat more dairy than I am comfortable with, for example - but we do have minimising food waste down.
However it occurred to me that not everyone might know where to start on reducing food waste. So here are my top seven tips to keep the feeling of hope alive and the helplessness at bay.
Plan your meals
If you take one thing away from this list, let it be this. Meal planning not only helps to reduce food waste (you buy what you need to cook with, that’s it), but also helps to save money and encourage you to cook more adventurously. Give yourself half an hour, grab your favourite cookbooks and put together a week of delicious meals. If you need some recipe inspiration, The Happy Foodie weekly email is a great resource.
Write a list (with weights and measurements where possible)
So you’ve made your meal plan for the week and now it’s time to shop. Write a list and stick to it. Use weights and measurements where you can. If a recipe calls for 700 grams of tomatoes, only buy 700 grams of tomatoes. And beware of multi-buy offers. Only take advantage if you actually need the product and the amount offered. What’s the point in buying two packs of spinach for a pound if they both go off in your fridge?
Stretch out your ingredients, use up leftovers and save your future self time by batch cooking. Make double, triple or quadruple portions depending on your needs and then freeze what you don’t need immediately. Consider investing in a large, oven proof pot and some reusable containers for your freezer to make your cooking and storing more manageable. Need some recipe inspiration? Elly Pear is great on batch cooking and reducing food waste. I love both her Let’s Eat and GREEN cookbooks.
In addition to freezing your batch cooking, also be open to freezing leftovers and ageing fresh ingredients. If you find you’re hot hungry for all of your bean chilli - don’t serve it. Package up the leftovers and freeze them. Even if you have half a portion, this could be the base of a delicious breakfast taco in the future. Start to think laterally about leftovers (has there ever been a more douchey sentence?).
Also be open to freezing ageing ingredients. If I have spinach or kale looking worse for wear in my fridge, I freeze it then add it to soups, stews or smoothies at a later date. If I have a bunch of browning bananas, they get peeled and frozen for banana bread or smoothies. The same goes for lonely lumps of cheese, odd sausages and half-eaten loaves of bread. Once you get into the habit of using your freezer contents to supplement your meals it will become second nature.
Hesitant about freezing foods? Familiarise yourself with BBC Good Food’s guide to freezing and then get into it. Freezing is a great way to preserve food, reduce waste and save money.
Utilise leftovers, odds and ends
Try to use all of your produce where possible. Love Food Hate Waste call eating the whole ingredient or food and letting no edible parts go to waste Compleating. It feels pretty odd that we throw away so much edible food because we’ve labelled it as rubbish, but it’s an easy habit to reverse. Some of my favourite foods you shouldn’t chuck include Parmesan rinds (add to a soup, stew or sauce for an intensely rich, savoury flavour), crusts of bread (blitz into breadcrumbs or tear into chunks, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and roast for DIY croutons), broccoli stalks (never throw it away! Just chop it up and chuck it in whatever you’re cooking). For more information about Compleating check out the Love Food Hate Waste website. I’d also advise following the likes of Melissa Hemsley, Abel and Cole and ZeroWasteChef on social for everyday inspiration.
If your local council provides a food waste recycling service - use it. I use my food recycling for scraps I can’t utilise in the kitchen including used teabags, eggshells, banana peel and onion skins. You’ll need to double check your local council website for the kinds of foods you can recycle, but many accept all foods.
If your council doesn’t offer food recycling and you have adequate space to do so, consider composting. Check out WRAP’s tips on home composting for food waste.
If you’ve bought too much, don’t panic and don’t throw it. Redistribute your spare food instead. Download the Olio app to connect with your neighbours and local community to share surplus food. Not applicable to individuals, but special mention to FoodCloud too, who partner supermarkets and retailers with charities to donate unsold food items.
That’s my lot. Here’s to hope, not helplessness.