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How to reduce food waste

2.3 billion people are joining the planet by 2050 – this will require a 60-70% increase in global food production. At this moment in time over 1/3 of all food produced globally goes to waste. Here at E.C.O we believe in cutting down on food waste and we want to help you see how you can cut down too.

In the home food waste is worth £800 per year to the average UK family, which collectively adds up to £15 billion per year. Not only will this article help you reduce your waste, we also hope it will reduce your weekly food bill and give you some extra cash to spend on what you want! As long as it’s not single-use plastic!

Not only does cutting down on food waste save you money you will also be doing something for the planet as 25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten. If we buy less food and use what we do by in the most effective way we can help improve these statistics and help the planet. As well as future generations.

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Tackling food waste at the source – shopping for food

  • Plan your meals. Look at your week ahead of time and factor in where and when you will be eating. Only buy food for specific preplanned recipes so you don’t impulse buy. Check your cupboards beforehand so you don’t double up. Click here for printable meal planners.
  • Buy what you need. Sometimes buying in bulk is a good idea, usually for perishables. But if you require 2 parsnips don’t buy a whole bag. It will reduce plastic but also you won’t have to chuck out the ones that you don’t use.
  • Consult your cupboards and freezer. Plan your meals around things you already have in the house instead of getting to the shops and trying to remember how much pasta you have left. Or whether you have any frozen peas left.
  • Buy wonky. There are shops and delivery companies that sell wonky veg that would otherwise go to waste. Check them out to save them from going in the bin. (read our article about OddBox)
  • Be flexible. If you are usually an impulsive buyer or don’t like eating the same thing twice then think about how you can tackle that. Ensure you buy staples that can be used for many things then just top up in the week to create the dish you’re in the mood for. If you have left overs and won’t want to eat them the following day think about freezing the rest rather than chucking it.
  • Look at best before dates. Food is stocked in date order, if you know you’re going to eat something at the latter end of the week rummage around for the later dates on packets so it won’t go off before you get to cook.
  • Go to the reduced section. A lot of food waste comes from food’s ‘best before’ dates in supermarkets. This isn’t the ‘going mouldy’ date as most people believe, and (as long as it’s not meat) food is usually good for another two or three days.
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Tackling food waste at home – storing and cooking

  • Sort your stock at home. When putting your shopping away make sure you bring older items to the front so you use those first.
  • Be aware of your waste. Write down things you throw away on a regular basis and see if there are patterns. Think about what things could be bought in smaller quantity, what things could be frozen, what things could be bought in tins for longer shelf life and what things should you have eaten but were lazy and now have to chuck.
  • Designate a leftovers night. When planning your meals for the week leave one evening for ‘leftovers’ or ‘freezer food’ night. You can start to empty your cupboards of things throughout the month and ensure any perishables have time to be eaten. If you’re prone to making big portions this is key to reducing food waste. There is no point in having 7 dinners which all have left over portions.
  • Cook multiple meals at the same time. Saving time and saving food waste, you can cook multiple meals that use the same ingredients. You can cook a chilli, a bolognese and a curry all at the same time using many of the same ingredients (we recommend using a meat substitute!) that can be frozen in portioned batches, used for dinner and pre-made lunches. This means the perishables can be used up if there are too many for one dish, you have more free time to do other things and there are multiple meals completed at once. Win, win, win.
  • Be creative. If you are following a recipe but have something that is going off in the fridge, chuck it in! Recipes couldn’t evolve without experimentation! Throw some potatoes in a curry, through some spring onions on a salad, make a side dish to add to your meal with half a tin of sweetcorn and some frozen peas. Try to think of new recipes (or just Google) with the food you need to use up.
  • Keep waste to a minimum. Carrots, potatoes, courgettes, aubergines all have edible skins. Keep them on. Use vegetable water for gravy or cooking other items in instead of draining. Make stocks from left over vegetables (and the water), if you’re a meat eater use the bones to make a stock. You can also use zesty fruit peels in water to have a refreshing drink. When you see waste think ‘can i use this for something’ before you throw it away.
  • Best before is b*llshit. Don’t be freaked out by ‘best before’ dates. This is one of the most common reasons for food waste (as we mentioned above watch out for meat dates). We would say you still have two or three days especially if it has been in the fridge.
  • Check your fridge is working. Some fridges don’t have an effective seal, some have a blocked filter which can cause inconsistent temperatures. The freezer might need defrosting. All these things can lead to food waste so stay on top of maintaining your fridge and freezer.
  • Make liquid food. Overripe fruits can be made into smoothies. Overripe vegetables can be made into soups. Use it all!
  • Donate food. Sometimes you might just have bought too much stuff. Give it to neighbours, friends or donate to food banks for the homeless.
  • Compost. Composting isn’t just for old ladies. Many food waste items can be composted and used in the garden. Check out what you can and can’t compost here.
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Tackling food waste with your mouth – during meals

  • Stop being so bloody greedy. We are all victims of eyes being bigger than our bellies. Think about splitting dishes between friends rather than ordering two lots. If you know you’re not very hungry or if you’re going to eat at a place with huge portions ask for a smaller sized meal.
  • Doggybags. Bring your own container with you incase you might want to take leftovers home from a dinner out. You then will save money on lunch or dinner the next day!
  • Serve smaller. If you’re used to over cooking, start with smaller servings and go back for more. If you know you want to keep some for the next day serve that portion then feel free to tuck in to the remaining amount. Many of us eat as much as we want then don’t have enough for a full portion for another meal and it either gets left in the fridge or we end up eating two meals the following day.
  • Skip the tray. This is a new one for us but in our research for this article. We found out that if you have to carry the food in a cafeteria or food chains in your hands rather than pile up food onto a tray you’re likely to eat less. Makes sense I guess!
  •  Educate other people. A lot of people have no idea how much food waste occurs in the world, or that they are a culprit themselves. Talk to your friends and family and ask about their cooking and shopping habits. They might be doing something you can pick up and visa versa.

If you have any great tips to reduce food waste please let us know and we can add to our list! It is really easy to make a small effort to change outcomes of food waste from your very home. Even if you pick up one of these tips you’re contributing to reduce the global issue, so keep it up!

Grace works for a School Improvement Partnership and is our resident ocean lover. Having worked as a scuba instructor in Indonesia she has picked up her fair share of ocean plastic. Her favourite eco product is Oliva Olive Oil Soap.

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