One of the things I was most looking forward to when I moved out was being able to manage my food waste. I loved living with my parents but I vividly remember flinching every time I opened the fridge at the sad lettuce leaves, sour cream cheese and that jar of olives that have been around longer than I have but everyone is just too scared to touch. And I know they’re not alone. According to Dr Lily Da Gama, aka The Food Waste Doctor we waste 40% of the food we produce! What’s more, if food waste was a country, it would be the world’s 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter. This is because of the methane gas that’s released when the food breaks down, which is known to be over 26x more potent in global warming than CO2. So yeah, that’s something worth flinching about.
When I got my own place I was keen to make sure that I got the most out of the food I bought – not just for the environment but for my pocket too! A study by Hotpoint found that on average Brits bin 11% of their weekly shop, which works out at £9.44 a week. Here’s how I manage my food waste:
- Learn to love your freezer
Most people buy frozen food to keep in the freezer, but it’s such a good way of storing leftovers! If you make a big batch of chilli or curry, you can just pop the leftovers in a reusable tub and there’s your dinner or lunch sorted for another day. I also buy bunches of fresh herbs, chop them up and keep them in the freezer for when I need them. The same with chillies, ginger, and things like lemongrass that I rarely use but can go off quickly. If you’ve got a banana browning or some spinach wilting, chop it up, pop it in the freezer and then save it for a smoothie another day. I tend to keep a daily check of what’s in the fridge and if anything starts to turn, I’ll get it straight in the freezer so it lasts longer. I’ve done it with milk, bread, cheese and a whole tonne of other things. You’ll be amazed at how much you can freeze!
- Make a weekly meal plan
I can’t imagine food shopping with no plan of what I’m going to buy. On Sunday we normally sit down and plan our meals for the week and what ingredients we’ll need. That way, we’re only buying what’s required and aren’t tempted to buy extra that might go to waste. It’s super satisfying and something I actually look forward to now!
- Ignore Best Before dates
In all honestly I can’t remember the last time I checked a Best Before date! Best Before dates are different to Use By dates in that they’re just advisory and are a guide of when the product will be at its optimal condition, but a lot of people get these confused and chuck out perfect good food just because it’s past it’s Best Before. Some food including tinned goods can last years beyond their Best Before date! I tend to trust my gut instinct when checking food for freshness, by look, smell and taste.
- Put down the peeler
I’ve adopted a whole new attitude when it comes to looking at fruit and veggies, and am always thinking of ways that I can use the whole product. Many of us peel potatoes, carrots and root vegetables because it’s ‘what we’ve always done’ but actually it’s pretty unnecessary and the majority of nutrients comes from the skin. I tend to keep the skin on as much as possible, and if I am peeling it, I’ll try my best to use it up. For example, I love making oven baked chips out of the skins of potatoes, sweet potatoes and squashes! Another of my favourites is keeping cauliflower leaves for things like stir fry or as taco shells, they’ve got such a lovely peppery flavour. It seems crazy to me now how we can throw that away yet pay out for things like spinach and kale! The same when it comes to fruit – I’m now officially one of those people that eats kiwi’s whole, and I actually love it! Although my boyfriend is still yet to agree on this one…
What are your favourite ways to reduce your food waste?