Updated: Mar 15
Food waste is a real problem that not only costs us money but also causes pollution, it wastes water and destroys land that could be left to be claimed by nature. Land that could become home to many plants and animals.
Food can be wasted at any stage, from production all the way through until we get it home and then don't eat it and throw it away. We can't do anything about food that is wasted on farmed or production factories, but there is plenty that we can do to reduce the amount food that we personally waste which will save money and also help the planet. If you want to find out more about what food waste is and why it's a problem take a look at our post Is Food Waste Really A Problem?, but in the meantime have a read of what we can all do to reduce the amount of food waste created everyday:
1) Plan food portions better. When you're shopping, cooking and even dishing up be aware of food you are using. At the supermarket avoid buying fresh foods just because they look tempting, shop with a purpose in mind and plan meals as you go so that you don't end up with more food then you need.
Don't cook more food then you need for a meal unless you plan to store it for later, such as a lunch, but remember that some foods don't reheat well. Foods like potatoes and mushrooms should be eaten at the time of cooking and not reheated later.
Don't overfill plates, keep portion sizes sensible and don't load up with food just because you're hungry. It makes sense that you're hungry when you plate your food, you haven't eaten for a while, but don't let this dictate that amount of food that you put on the plate as you'll end up with more than you can eat which will cause wastage, or, if you eat it all, weight gain, which is also bad.
2) Use as much of the food as possible. When you are cooking there is often an amount of food that could be eaten that will be removed and thrown out, this happens a lot during peeling. Potatoes, carrots, apples and other fruits and vegetables are often peeled, but this isn't always necessary. If you are making apple sauce then leaving the skin on isn't going to work and mashed potato isn't so satisfying when it has lumps of skin in it, however, whenever possible leave the skin on. Some peels can be used for making other meals, you could use them to make a vegetable broth or add them to a soup or stew, but if you don't have to peel them then don't. Eating boiled potatoes with the skin on is better for you as most of the fibre in potatoes is in the skin and this is the same for most plants. Also, don't chop off the less pretty parts of a fruit or vegetable just because they don't look as nice, an easy way around this problem is to pour sauce or gravy on them so you can't see the lumps and bumps.
3) Storing food in the freezer isn't just good for food waste, it's also better for energy use. A full freezer uses less electricity as, without all of the air gaps and everything touching, all of the items stay cold together. It also means that when the door is opened cold air doesn't rush out because there's so little air in there. Bread is one of the most wasted foods, but bread can be frozen to be used months later. When it is defrosted it is as soft as fresh bread and makes great sandwiches. Food that is frozen can be kept for months and retains it's nutrients better as well so that frozen food can be better for you than fresh food. As long s the food is prepared correctly, some foods can only be frozen when they are cooked, food must be kept airtight and liquids need to be stored in a way that means that they won't leak before they freeze solid, you can kept food for a very long time. This also means that leftovers can be kept to reduce waste and can be used as a lunch or dinner another time. Food does need to be frozen while it's still fresh though, food that is stale will not be made fresh again.
4) Dried foods, such as crisps and biscuits go soft if they are not stored in an airtight container, and sometimes they will become stale in a large container. But these can be saved and made crunchy again by putting them in the oven at a low temperature for a few minutes. Just put them on a baking tray, spread them evenly and put them into a warm oven. You will have to eat them straight away, once they've cooled, you can't keep putting the same crisps and biscuits in the oven and reheating them. This trick can also work for cakes and breads that have gone a little stale, warm them and they will soften and be much nicer to eat, just sprinkle them with water before they go in the oven. Food that shouldn't be eaten should not be treated this way though, it has to be thrown out.
5) Find alternative uses for food that isn't as fresh such as using brown bananas to bake with, using stale bread to make breadcrumbs, stale cereal can be used to make cereal bars. When a meal has leftovers they can be stored in the fridge or freezer and added when cooking a different meal later on. Try adding leftover lentil bolognese to a bean chilli, it really does work.
6) For food waste that is unavoidable, say your fridge breaks or you become ill can can't eat for a while you can compost your food waste and in some areas there is food waste collection by local councils. This should be used for the things that you can't eat such as avocado skins or onion peel but they can be used for any food waste. This is far better than sending food to landfill where it will rot, producing methane and toxins, poisons, that pass into the soil. Instead the food waste can be composted to produce soil and fertilizer, fed to animals, or used to produce energy or fuel. Waste food that is composted at home can be used in the garden which is better for soil, grows better plants and is organic.
There are a lot of ways that we can all reduce our own food waste and even though it may not seem like you're doing much to help it all counts, we all need to work together to solve this problem. And remember to spread the word, talk to your friends and family about not wasting food, they'll thank you hen they're saving money.
What things do you do to reduce food waste in your home? Let me know in the comments.