Love Food Hate Waste – What Can We Do to Reduce Household Food Waste?
24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes, and 5.9 million glasses of milk wasted daily and 86 million chickens thrown away each year!
Did you know the bad/stale bread, milk, potato or chicken that we are binning is contributing to a staggering 24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes, 5.9 million glasses of milk wasted daily and 86 million chickens thrown away each year! The best part is that we can easily reduce this avoidable household food waste by 1.7 million tonnes per year by 2025; that is halving our food waste by 2025 from 2007, and saving up to £45 billion by 2025, not to mention saving our vulnerable food system and the planet. (Source: WRAP 2012 Report on UK Household Food Waste. )
Climate change poses significant risks to our food system from agricultural yields, and supply chain resilience to food quality, safety and prices. We need to adapt to and mitigate the impact of these extreme weather events to ensure a more sustainable and resilient UK food system in the coming decade. Aside from consumers consciously opting for more sustainable, ethical and healthy food choices, suppliers providing eco-friendly packaging and government and industry’s concerted efforts to optimise organic waste streams, one major area where opportunities are abundant for improvement is in our homes - by reducing our household food waste.
Some of the main reasons for our food waste are ignorance about storage and food labelling, over estimating our weekly grocery shopping portions and falling for the ever prevalent and decadent 2 for 1 deals in the supermarkets.
Tips on how to reduce household food waste:
Saving and reducing waste does not mean foregoing what we enjoy. It means careful planning.
- Know what you have stored so that it can be used by the right date and in the right way – be it in your pantry, fridge or freezer.
- Stock up with a variety of tinned and dried food with a longer shelf life, and frozen food so that you are never out of options when you need to whip up a meal with leftovers. Keep checking on your dried and tinned items for meal ideas instead of just depending on fresh produce. We tend to forget we have these stocked up.
- Know your use-by-date items well so that they are used in time and do not land in the bin. Move items around in your fridge so that items that need to be used sooner are more accessible and this way you will not forget them.
- If you think you are not going to use your just bought items soon, especially meat, dairy produce and even bread, freeze them to extend their shelf life. Large packets of food can be portioned into amounts you will use before freezing.
- Know your food labels well:
- Best Before – refers to quality rather than food safety - which means you can eat them even after the date;
- Use By – refers to food safety- which means they must be consumed by that date;
- Display Until & Sell By are for the shop staff not the shopper – ignore these;
- To extend the life of food, freeze it before the Use By date and when using, defrost and consume within 24 hours.
- Have a system of putting a list of any item you run out of – like a sticker on your fridge, so that when you go grocery shopping you shop only for items you really need.
- Go slow on your portions of bread, rice and potatoes when serving. We tend to go overboard and end up binning these. Serve food in serving bowls instead of directly on the plate so that portions can be taken in incremental amount as required. The leftovers can then be used for another meal.
- Get into the habit of using leftovers for another meal – e.g. leftover rice can be turns into a tasty fried rice dish; bread can be used in a pudding and potatoes can be used in casseroles.
- If you make a large portion of a meal than required as it saves time and is economical, the trick is to dish out half to serve. The other half can be frozen for another meal. This way, you safe time cooking once for two meals and the family does not end up eating the same meal twice.
- Do not go grocery shopping on an empty stomach as you end up buying more than you need.
- Unless it is an item you use a lot of, avoid the 2 for 1 deals as in the long run they can prove costly rather than cost saving as while you eat one, the other expires.
- Avoid throwing any fruit or vegetable that you think have bad parts as they have been sitting around for quite a bit. Cut away the bad parts and cut into small portions to freeze – e.g. fruits such as bananas, grapes, peas and yoghurt and even leftover birthday cakes. They make good snacks and portions for kids’lunch boxes. The vegetables can be used for stock and soups.
By reducing your food waste you can Save! Save! Save!
- Saving Money - up to £200 for an average person and £700 for a family per year;
- Saving our landfill space;
- Saving the environment as there is less likelihood of the waste in the modern landfill environment either not decomposing or having been buried too deep and producing the lethal methane gas into the environment.