Despite efforts to reduce food waste, UK households still throw away 4.5 million tonnes of food every year, according to a study from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
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Food waste is not only bad for the economy but also for the planet. Luckily, making sustainable changes is a lot easier than you might expect.
Reasons to reduce food waste
Reducing food waste has many benefits. Perhaps one of the most obvious is saving money. Those 4.5 million tonnes UK residents are wasting? They’re costing us £14 billion – and part of that is coming from your wallet if you’re constantly throwing food away.
In addition, food thrown away increases your carbon footprint, as it takes energy and resources to produce, ship and dispose of food. Landfill sites are also a significant source of methane emissions, so the less waste you produce in any form, the better.
How to reduce food waste at home
Plan your meals ahead
It’s best to plan a menu for the week before you shop. This way you know you’ll only be buying exactly what you need – and exactly what you’ll use.
If you can’t plan ahead at least to avoid buying too much of anything, especially fresh foods. Fruits and vegetables perish faster than most people think, so buying too much at once is likely to result in waste.
The same is true of bread, dairy products and anything that goes bad or expires quickly. If you don’t have a food budget, keeping track of how much you spend on groceries can help you see how much you’re wasting.
Stock up on non-perishables
Keeping a steady amount of dry staples around guarantees you’ll never run out of food. Grain products like pasta and quinoa, frozen vegetables and fruits, canned beans and other long-lasting foods are perfect to complement those fresh veggies without leading to waste.
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And with these supplies in your cupboard, you know you’ll always have back up meal ideas just in case.
Store food correctly
To reduce food waste in your fridge, make sure leftovers are stored in air-tight glass or clear containers so you can see what’s inside.
Outside the fridge, you can prevent spoiled and rotten produce by separating foods that produce ethylene gas while ripening. Foods that do this include bananas, tomatoes and avocados. Keep these away from other fruits and vegetables to prevent premature spoilage.
Use what you have
Get creative in the kitchen by making substitutions to take advantage of foods before their expiration date. Use kale instead of spinach in a recipe if that’s what you have. And don’t be afraid to add wilted green leafed veggies to sauces or soups rather than throwing them away.
Use your freezer more
Slice and freeze bananas, pineapple and other fruits before they go bad. Bread can be frozen for toast later. Sauces, curries and soups freeze well if you have leftovers you can’t finish up in the next few days.
Have a leftover night every week
If your fridge is full of little bits of food you can’t seem to finish up, find a way to combine them. You can create great stir-fries or casseroles using what you have. You can even combine bits of fruits and veg to make a healthy smoothie.
Don’t let labels confuse you
Wording like ‘sell by’ or ‘best before’ on labels is not meant to be a hard expiration date. Most food is still perfectly fine to consume way past those dates. This is especially true of dry, canned and frozen foods. The rule of thumb? Always throw away food that looks or smells spoiled. Otherwise, give it a try.
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