Food waste is a huge problem. If food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of CO2, after the USA and China. Much of our food waste, comes from our homes. It's bad for the environment and it's bad for our pockets. Here are 10 easy ways to reduce and avoid food waste at home.
1. Plan your meals
Meal Planning can save money, reduce stress, and cut food waste. Taking a shopping list to the shops or grocery store helps keeps us focused and not buy things on impulse we don't need. Plan meals around what we do have in the fridge or cupboards, rather than what we don't. Plan in meals to use up leftovers.
2. Measure out portion sizes
Measuring portion sizes and avoiding cooking too much can help reduce food waste. We often cook too much pasta, rice, and potato. These can all be frozen to avoid waste. Freeze pasta and rice on a tray then transfer to a sealed bag once frozen. Mold mashed potato into balls about the size of an egg and freeze on a tray before transferring to a bag or container.
3. Freeze leftovers
Freeze leftovers straight away if you are not going to be able to eat them. Regularly use up the food in the freezer to avoid waste. Too often, food stays in our freezers for long periods until we no longer want to eat it. Remember, food will never go off in your freezer, but the texture and taste may deteriorate over a long period. Check out my Freezer Tip on Reducing Food Waste. Schedule in 'Eat the Freezer' days to make sure you use up what you have.
4. Use By and Best Before Dates
A lot of food gets wasted because people misunderstand Use By and Best Before Dates. Use by dates are safety dates whereas Best Before dates are only about the quality of the food. You can safely eat food past the Best Before Date.
5. Enjoy a free lunch
Food leftover from last night’s dinner can make a great lunch the next day. A lot of food is wasted this way when it is perfectly good to eat.
6. Eat Me Up Shelf
A food waste tip from the team at Zero Waste Week is to have a shelf in your fridge dedicated to food that needs using up. You can even label it so that all family members know what needs to be used up. Storing leftovers on one shelf means you can easily see food that needs eating soon and are less likely to forget about it.
7. Have recipes for commonly wasted foods
Knowing which foods commonly get wasted in your home and having a few easy recipes to use them up helps. For example, a vegetable soup is great for using up veg that is past its best and you don’t need to follow a specific recipe. Bananas that have started to go black are great for making banana muffins or even banana milkshakes. Don't be afraid to get creative to reduce your food waste.
8. Build meals around leftovers
Making a conscious effort to use up leftover food in another tip to reduce food waste. It's also a good money saver. If you only have one courgette left in the fridge, make a dish that will incorporate the courgette rather than dismissing it and shopping for a completely different meal. If you know you will have leftovers from a particular meal, put them in your weekly meal planner. There are loads of ideas on my recipe page.
9. Store Food Correctly
Taking care to store food correctly can avoid food wastage. Often we throw food away because it has spoiled. The Love Food Hate Waste website has great tips on food storage. Fruit and vegetables are the most common items people don't know how to store correctly. Root vegetables, ie those grown with their roots in the ground, should be stored in a cool dark place, but not the fridge. Fruits such as bananas, avocados, tomatoes, peaches, and pears produce ethylene gas when ripening which means they should be stored separately as they can make other things go off quicker.
10. Value our food as a gift
When we value something, we take care of it and are less inclined to waste it. Considering where our food has come from, the energy and resources that have gone into producing it, and the fact that many people do not have enough to eat can help us appreciate our food as a precious gift.
If you have any food waste tips you'd like to share to prevent food waste at home, please leave them in the comments below.