The statistics surrounding food waste are staggering, with figures so high that it's difficult to get your head around them. Absorb, if you can, this from Love Food Hate Waste - in the UK, we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year. That's shocking but even more so is the fact that more than half of this is food and drink that we could have eaten.
So, how do you solve a 7 million tonne problem? By breaking it down, of course. Instead of attempting to reduce the overwhelmingly huge number, if every household took just a little more care and attention over its use of food and drink the level of waste will reduce. Here are ten ways to do your bit…
It pays to plan your weekly food shop - if not every single item then at least all main meals for the next seven days. Write down a meal planner, all the ingredients needed for each, and you know you're buying exactly what you need. If possible try to use common ingredients that can contribute to more than one meal; buy chicken to fuel a casserole and also a stir-fry, for example.
Stick to the shopping list
With shopping list in hand, you stay in control. Don't deviate from that list because if you've prepared properly you won't need anything else. Anything extra runs the risk of being wasted. So, that means walking past the freshly-cooked BBQ ribs in the deli. If you buy those, you'll have to eat them, which means possibly dumping whatever else you had planned as a meal later.
Double up on some items
Avoid wasting food by buying more food? Well, yes - but there is logic. If you plan to buy a pack of steak mince for make a chilli you may well notice your supermarket offers a bigger pack for just £1 or so more. It might then be worth buying the larger amount and using that to create two meals - a chilli and a spaghetti Bolognese. It helps to manage portion sizes and is an economical way to shop for food, particularly if…
Use your freezer
… you use your freezer properly. It's not just for storing food you've bought frozen, it's for safely preserving meals and is your best friend when it comes to reducing food waste. Back to the example above - eat the chilli when cooked, then cool and freeze the Bolognese, saving it as a meal for another day. That saves money buying new ingredients and also ensures none of the food is going to waste. For tips on what you can and can't freeze, this infographic from below is a useful guide.
Get creative with recipes
A little research and creativity can cut down on waste. What might look like a few lonely-looking items of food can be used to whisk up a really tasty meal. For example, if you have four eggs out of a carton of 12 left, half a chorizo sausage and two potatoes, why not make a quick Spanish-style omelette? You don't have to think of all of these yourself - websites like supercook.com are brilliant recipe-planning tools.
Approach offers with caution
Wow! Those special offers in the supermarket are great, aren't they? Such a superb deal for shoppers, yes? Actually, probably not. Take a step back and consider whether these really do provide good value. Two huge packs of crisps for £3 - instead of £2 each - might be worth getting as these have relatively long shelf lives but anything that is perishable is probably not. You pay more money than you had planned to, and the chances are you won't get round to eating the extra quantity.
Go shopping after you've eaten
In other words, don't go shopping on an empty stomach. It's human nature to buy more food when we're hungry - it all looks so appealing - so you'll inevitably pile more produce into your trolley. And then get home, unpack it all, and watch several items go stale over the next few days because you didn't actually need (or really want) to buy them.
Read and understand food labels properly
Too many of us don't understand food labelling properly and so ditch produce prematurely when in fact they are still perfectly edible. For instance, food is considered to be in better condition by the best before date - it's not the date it should be thrown away on if not eaten.
Check your cupboards and fridge before shopping
How often do you come home after a weekly shop with items that you believed you needed, only to open the cupboard and fridge doors to find some of those same items already in situ? You've bought a fresh two pints of milk but still have over half a bottle remaining. There's a new pack of cheddar cheese but an unopened one in the fridge. And so on. Take ten minutes before you shop to review what you have actually run out of.
Dinner becomes lunch
It's so easy to over-estimate the quantity of some foods for meals. All too often, we cook double the amount of rice, or pasta, for dinner and are then left with a significant quantity. What to do? Throw it away? No - allow it to cool and store in a Tupperware, and eat for lunch the following day.
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