There are lots of reasons that we should be trying to reduce food waste. Our leftover food when put into landfill creates methane as it breaks down. This is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In fact, methane is 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Every year we throw away more than 10 million tonnes of food waste which creates more than 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. That’s the same amount as 3.5 million cars! So when we reduce food waste we are actually making a big contribution to tackling climate change.
You might think that supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and other businesses are the biggest sources of food waste but our homes are actually responsible for over two thirds of food waste. In fact, households in the UK create about 7.1 million tonnes of food waste annually. That’s the same weight as over 1.1 million African bush elephants!
Perhaps the most shocking statistic though is that 5 million tonnes of the food we throw away is edible. That equates to around £15 billion of food each year which works out as £70 a month or £840 a year for a family of four. So you can actually save a lot of money too when you reduce food waste.
Our food waste infographic illustrates just how much food we throw away on a daily basis as well as some tips on how to reduce this food waste.
How Can We Reduce Food Waste?
So what else can we do to reduce food waste? Here are some tips that you can try out.
1. Do A Kitchen Audit and Meal Plan
Before you even think about going shopping you should carry out a kitchen audit to see what you already have. “Where did those peppers come from? I’m sure we used them all!” You’d be amazed at what you can find hiding in your fridge or cupboard.
Once you know what you have that sit down and make a meal plan. Simply put, figure out what you are going to eat and what ingredients you need for it. Try to make use of what you already have first and only plan to buy what you need for your meals. This is a great way to not only reduce food waste but save money as well.
2. Use Silicone Food Preservers
If you’ve ever cut an apple in half and tried to save the rest for later you’ll know that they can quickly go brown and become pretty nasty. They aren’t the only thing either. Lots of fruit and vegetables don’t keep well once they have been chopped up.
There is an easy way to keep all those other halves from getting spoiled though by using stretchy silicone food preservers. They are a great sustainable alternative to cling film or tin foil as they can be used over and over again. Plus you can use them on tubs and dishes as well as fruit and vegetables.
3. Use Your Judgement
There is a difference between “best before” dates and “use by” dates. You should always stick to “use by” dates as they are for safety purposes but you can use your judgement on “best before” dates. These just advisory and a suggestion as to when the food will be freshest. Plenty of food will be still be perfectly edible just after the “best before” date and some will be fine for days or even weeks afterwards. So don’t throw it out without having a look at its condition first.
You can apply this when you are shopping as well. Short dated food is usually marked down so you can often pick up a bargain and reduce food waste at the same time.
4. Use Stackable Food Containers
Keep your food fresh for longer and save space at the same time by using stackable food containers. These have secure lids that are completely airtight as well as being leak and spill proof too.
You can also save a lot of space by stacking them on top of each other on your shelves, in your cupboards or even your fridge or freezer. They can be used for anything including vegetables, fruit, nuts, cereal, pasta, beans and more.
5. Freeze Leftover and Excess Food
If you have leftovers or excess food that will go off before you get a chance to eat it then pop it in your freezer. There are lots of things you can freeze which you might not think about including bread, rolls and fruit so this is an easy way to reduce food waste.
If you need to freeze liquids or anything else you want to keep together then try reusable silicone food storage bags. They help to preserve your food and can be used over and over again so are a great replacement for disposable plastic bags. Bags like these can also be used to keep food fresh outside the freezer too. Use them as a lunch bag or on a picnic and everything will be as tasty as when you made it. Plus they are leakproof so you won’t have any nasty accidents to deal with either.
6. Store Food In The Right Place
Did you know that your food should be stored in a certain way in your fridge and freezer? This handy infographic from Serious Eats illustrates where you should be putting everything.
There are also some foods which we often stick in the fridge that are better stored at room temperature or in a cupbaord as well. Some common ones include:
- Avocados: these are best kept at room temperature if hard or if they are ripe and you plan on using them right away.
- Stone Fruits: store fruit like peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots at room temperature to let them ripen.
- Olive Oil: it can harden and create clumps in stored in the fridge so better kept in a cool and dark cupboard.
- Cucumbers: keeping them in the fridge will make them watery and pitted.
- Peppers: they lose their crunch when kept in the fridge making them soft and squishy.
- Pickles: they are already preserved so you don’t need to keep them in the fridge as well.
- Chocolate: best kept somewhere dark and dry for maximum flavour.
- Watermelon: keep it out of the fridge when it is still whole then put it in after it has been sliced up.
So storing your food properly can really help to reduce food waste in your home.
7. Dehydrate and Dry Foods to Create Snacks
Dehydrated food is a simple and easy to make your own tasty and healthy snacks as well as making the most of your food. The range of things you can make just by dehydrating them is huge including beef jerky, banana chips, vegetable crisps and fruit leather. These can last for a month or more when stored in an airtight container like the ones mentioned above. Dried orange slices are also a great seasonal decoration around Christmas time.
To make your dehydrated snacks you can either use your oven on a low temperature for several hours or get a food dehydrator machine. These are great if you want to keep it as simple as possible. All you need to do with a dehydrator machine is pop your food on and set it off. If you’re using the oven though you’ll need to check them and turn it occasionally.
8. Pickle and Ferment Your Own Food
Fermenting leftover vegetables is a great way reduce food waste by using up those leftovers and it is much simpler than you think! You can literally ferment whatever vegetables you like using just salt and water. That is it! You can add more spices, herbs or other flavourings if you want to but it isn’t essential.
All you need to do is mix your salt and water together then pour it over your vegetables and stir them up. Then leave them at room temperature but out of direct sunlight. You can use a mason jar for this or a fermentation jar. If you go for the mason jar you’ll need to periodically let out some of the gas that builds up during the fermentation but the fermentation jar does this automatically so you don’t even need to worry about that.
You can use this method to make Kimchi, which is a traditional Korean dish, made from spicy fermented cabbage. It is similar to sauerkraut but made with Korean flavours like garlic, ginger and chilies. Fresh kimchi is full of healthy good bacteria, or probiotics, that are great for your immune system, boosting energy and digestion as well as lowering cholesterol.
9. Donate to Local Charities and Foodbanks
Lots of people living in poverty rely on charities and foodbanks to provide the food they need to survive on a day to day basis. So donating to a charity or foodbank is a fantastic way to reduce food waste and help others too. This is especially the case around the festive period but don’t forget that people need support the rest of the year as well.
You probably already know that foodbanks accept dry and canned foods like pasta, rice, cereals, tinned tomatoes and tuna. However, some can also accept fresh produce too as long as it hasn’t passed its “use by” date.
Always check what the charity or foodbank will accept before donating though as it often depends on what facilities they have for storing food. Some things foodbanks usually don’t accept include:
- Homemade Food: You might think it is a thoughtful gesture but usually foodbanks will need everything to be commercially packaged.
- Bulk Products: These require splitting and repackaging before being distributed which many foodbanks can’t do themselves.
- Anything in Glass Jars: These can break easily causing safety problems.
To find your nearest foodbank try searching for “foodbank near me”. If you are in the UK you can also use this Foodbank Finder from The Trussell Trust.
Bonus Tip: Compost Your Leftover Food
You might find that even after using all these tips to reduce food waste that you still have some leftover food that you need to dispose of. Rather than just throwing it out you can compost it which creates less methane and helps to return nutrients to the soil. I’ve written a full guide on How To Compost To Reduce Waste that includes everything you need to know about what can be composted and how to go about it.