Food waste is both an environmental and economic global issue. Resources, like energy, water, land, labour, financial capital go into producing food however, around 1/3 – amounting to 1.3 billion tonnes – of all food produced annually for human consumption gets wasted/lost.
Food waste occurs at all stages of the supply chain but in 2015, 7.3 m tonnes of food went to waste in households. Furthermore, the average UK household lost £470 a year because of avoidable food waste, while those with children lost £700.
When food ends up in your bin, it usually goes to landfill and emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20-30 times more potent than CO2- due to a process called anaerobic decomposition. This occurs due to the absence of oxygen in landfill and directly contributes to climate change.
Unfortunately, we have all had to throw food for some reason or another – sometimes we have simply overbought, had a change in plans or simply forgot. .
Other than simply eating all of the food you buy, here are five ways for you to reduce your household food waste:
1. Plan your meals before going to the grocery store
When you know what you will be cooking, you know which fresh produce to buy and in how much.
Buying loose produce (not pre-packaged) also helps – often tomatoes/sweet peppers/carrots come prepackaged lots of 200g-500g-1kg bags, which we purchase and do not eat all of. Loose produce is also more environmentally friendly as it comes without packaging!
2. Learn how to store your produce
Sometimes the way you store your produce leads to premature ripening, moulding or rotting. If you get yours from the farmers’ market, ask them how you can store them for optimal usage. If not, many retailers have written storage instructions on the packaging. Otherwise, Google can always help!
Keep these are room temperature (not in the fridge): potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, onions and bananas. More tips like these are coming soon.
3. Buy the ‘ugly’ produce and the lonely bananas
19% of consumers would not purchase imperfect, wonky fruit and veg (out of a survey of 2000 consumers across the UK, US, France and Germany). When this happens, supermarkets no longer want to carry these ‘ugly’ fruit in their store, sending them to waste.
Oddly shaped fruit, crooked carrots and bulgy potatoes all have the same nutritional values and taste as the pretty ones.
Depending on your location, you may have a store or fruit/veg box that sells ‘ugly’ produce that grocery stores did not want.
For those living in London in the UK, Oddbox works directly with farmers, takes their wonky and surplus produce, then deliver them to your door at a fair price for all.
4. Use your freezer
Freeze food that you know you won’t eat in time. Fruit, veggies, meat, bread, baked goods, pasta, rice, broths, soups and sauces can all be kept in the freezer and used at a later date. We usually store ours in old glass bottles, but we make sure to not overfill, as when it freezes it expands and may cause the glass to crack.
Don’t forget to record what each thing is, the date it was put into the freezer and when it should be used by.
5. Understand the difference between Use By and Best Before
Use by dates indicate when a product may no longer be safe to eat. These are usually found on foods that need to be in the fridge, such as fish, meat products, pre-prepared foods and dairy products.
Best before dates are an indication of quality rather than safety. You can still eat food after its best before date, but its’ flavour and texture may not as good as before the date indicated. Foods that have a longer shelf-life are usually labelled with this.