Did you know that every year, we throw away 7 million tonnes of food? This works out at a staggering £12 billion, and much of what we discard could have been eaten. Reducing food waste is so simple, and if you follow these tips below, not only will you spend less money on food (because what you buy will go further), but you’ll also be doing your bit to help the environment.
Be smart when unpacking food
When you unpack your weekly shop, don’t just put the new items in front (or on top) of what’s already in your fridge or pantry. Instead, move older items to the front and new ones to the back. That way, you’re less likely to forget about the older stuff and use them before they expire. This is known as First In, First Out, and it’s a great habit to get into!
Buy precise amounts
It’s tempting when shopping to buy more than you actually need, but if you’re planning a particular dish, it makes sense to buy the exact portion size rather than buying a big bag just to be on the safe side. For example, if you’re cooking a roast chicken and fancy some roast potatoes on the side, consider using pre-made ones, such as McCain roasted potatoes – one bag is enough for five people. They don’t need peeling or parboiling either, which cuts down on waste and also saves time in the kitchen.
Use your freezer
The freezer is one of the most useful things to have in your kitchen, because it’s ideal for storing large quantities of food and keeping it in perfect condition. So, if you’re stocking up on ingredients, you can buy bigger bags of certain items and just use the amount you need for each meal. That way, you’re less likely to throw away food so often, and you’ll also cut down on your amount of food waste.
Soups are a fantastic way to reduce your food waste. They can be made with so many ingredients, but leftover vegetables are the perfect place to start. If you have some veg lurking at the back of the fridge, don’t throw them away – just cook them in a pan with some oil or butter, add some stock and herbs, then blend. It’s always satisfying to make a delicious meal from just a few ingredients, and soups are a great way of doing just that.
Start a weekly meal planner
This may sound obvious, but by planning your meals each week you’ll find it much easier to know how much food to buy. Creating a weekly meal planner may seem daunting, but once you get started, you’ll find it really helps with your weekly shop. For example, if you cook a joint of meat on a Sunday, you can plan soups and stews with the leftovers on Mondays and Tuesdays. Meal planners are a great way of reducing food waste.
Buy mishapen produce
Finally, retailers are starting to get the message that we don’t all want perfectly-shaped fruit and vegetables. When we buy some red peppers, we’re unlikely to be using them in a glamorous photoshoot, so does it really matter if they’re a little mishapen? A number of supermarkets now sell ‘wonky’ veg boxes, usually at reduced prices, too – and savvy shoppers are taking advantage.
Don’t discard stems and stalks
When preparing vegetables such as cabbages and cauliflower, it’s tempting to cut away the stalks and discard them. But with a little imagination, you can turn vegetable stems into delicious recipes. They need to be cooked a little longer, but they’re just as tasty as the rest of the vegetable!
Every time you peel some fruit and vegetables, don’t throw away the peel. Instead, put it in a container, and once a week, add it to your compost bin. You’ll soon have plenty of compost packed with goodies that will add nutrients back into the soil. Using the entire fruit or vegetable is so much better for the environment, too.
The art of pickling goes back centuries, and used to be how people stored vegetables before refrigeration. It’s really easy to do, and has become very popular in recent years – think kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut. No matter which vegetables you have left over, you can bet there’ll be a pickling recipe that suits.
Check what you’re throwing away
Similar to starting a meal planner, it’s a good idea to make a note of exactly which foods you’re throwing away on a regular basis. If you frequently throw away half a loaf of stale bread, next time freeze half when you first use it. By keeping tabs on what you throw away, you’ll shop smarter next time round.
Stock is such a useful thing to have in the kitchen, and it’s really easy to make. If you have a leftover chicken carcass, don’t throw it away – put it in a deep pan, add some veg, black peppercorns and bay leaves, then enough water so that everything is covered. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a couple of hours. You’ll be rewarded with an aromatic stock that will transform your recipes. You can freeze stock in handy quantities, too.
There are many ways of reducing food waste – the suggestions above are just a few of them. Try to introduce some, and you’ll be surprised how much less food you throw away – and you may notice your weekly shopping bill come down a bit, too!