The general consensus seems to be that approximately one third of all food produced is wasted. Much of this is an issue before the food hits our homes, or even our supermarkets, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider how our personal eating and shopping habits contribute to the problem. Once we start properly considering what we do personally, we might even be able to start confronting the problem on an industrial and political scale.
On a personal level, the average family loses approximately £60 a month on food that never gets eaten. Crazy! So if we start considering what we buy, think about how much money we’d all be saving! We’d definitely be able to treat ourselves to that ethically produced treat we’ve been eyeing up…
So Which Foods Exactly Are We Wasting?
According to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘War on Waste’, we waste a quarter of all carrots, potatoes and bread that we purchase, one third of bagged salad and one fifth of grapes, among a plethora of other goodies!
According to WRAP, there are multiple reasons for our food wastage; because we buy more than we need, we don’t know how to store the food that we do buy, and we find labelling on food confusing.
Approximately 80 percent of the food that we throw away is because it hasn’t been used in time, or because too much has been cooked, prepared and then not eaten. In order to combat food waste, we need to readjust our approaches to purchasing and storing food.
So, let’s start with what foods to buy.
Before You Go Shopping:
Take a look in the fridge, and see what you have at your disposal. I have seen some bloggers who have an “Eat Me First” box or shelf, which will be a visible reminder of which items you need to incorporate into your next meal.
When we are shopping, without wanting to generalise, it feels like there is a ‘more costs less’ approach to our purchases; remember that food waste is taking money from our purses too, so that is not the case.
It takes a while to adjust, but try to plan your meals for the week in advance of going shopping, consider what products you might be able to stretch out over several meals, or will be able to re-purpose. If you’ve made too much mashed potato for dinner, why not dress it up as hash browns for breakfast the next day, or if you’ve made too much chilli, pop it in a wrap with some salad and have it for lunch.
If you still want to approach meals with spontaneity, try not to bulk buy food. One of the most significant changes I’ve made to my shopping habits is to avoid buying fruit and veg in bags – this has a twofold benefit: I’m saving on plastic (if you take reusable cotton bags to purchase loose items), and I’m buying food in smaller, more manageable quantities, which relieves the pressure of cooking larger meals. If you only need a couple of carrots, just buy a couple – don’t feel pressure to buy ten! This goes for multiple purchase offers too (Buy two for £2, save 20p) – are you actually going to eat that second pot of hummus, or that extra bag of salad? Is the 20p saving really going to be worth it?
Be Aware Of What You Throw Away, And Why.
Are you looking at the labels and letting them convince you the food won’t be good anymore? Let your nose and your eyes make the decision for you. Food tends to be pretty good at telling you when you shouldn’t eat it just by how bad it smells and looks. And don’t be afraid to cut off the mould! I used to be so squeamish about this kind of thing, but now I get a weird sense of satisfaction by being able to cut off a gross bit of a piece of veg, and putting the rest in a pan.
Also, try to think outside the box – which of your food scraps can you repurpose? For example: Why not take your vegetable scraps and make a stock with it? Why not save that aquafaba and make some meringues?
Catch it before it’s too late!
If you think something is going to go off, learn whether you can store it in the freezer. If I’ve got a banana that’s about to go bad, I’ve taken to cutting it up and freezing it, so I can use it for banana bread or for banana ice cream at a later date.
My freezer has become one of my best pals in my food waste journey. I recently read an article which said that contrary to the belief of some, frozen fruit and veg doesn’t have less nutritional value than fresh. Finding bags of frozen berries has been a real gem for me as fresh fruit is notorious for going off very quickly. I add a couple into my muesli in the morning, but you can also use them in pancakes and smoothies.
The other blessing of a freezer is that if you cook too much, you can stash it away for a lazy day. Buying and making less has taken a while to get used to, so for the most part, I have been making one pot dinners, banging them in multiple lunchboxes and stocking up for the zombie apocalypse (or for a lazy day).
My Favourite Recipes to Help Avoid Food Waste!
Frozen Banana, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Milkshake
This milkshake is easily adaptable to what you have in the fridge (or on the side). If you don’t fancy chocolate, pop some berries in. I’ve read an article just today saying that Britons throw out 1.4 million bananas per day. You’re missing out on delicious milkshake fuel, people!
- 1 medium banana (chopped and frozen),
- 1 tbsp creamy peanut butter,
- Half a cup of dairy free milk (or milk)
- One quarter tsp vanilla extract
- A handful of chocolate chips, or a handful of fruits
- Blend together until smooth, add the chocolate chips at the end, pulsing briefly before you enjoy!
Find recipe here.
Buffalo Cauliflower Lettuce Wraps
This is a great way to use vegetables which are often headed for the dustbin. Don’t forget that you can play around with these recipes, and utilise what you have in the fridge.
This recipe makes six lettuce wraps, so make the portions smaller, as required. It only takes 30 minutes, so it’s a real winner for a quick lunch too.
- 3/4 Cup of Flour
- 1 Cup of Milk (You can use any type of dairy or non-dairy milk)
- 1 Teaspoon Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Paprika, Parsely, Onion Powder, and Cumin
- 1 Head of Cauliflower cut into bite size pieces
- 3/4 Cup of Buffalo Sauce
- 6 Leaves from a head of Romaine
- 1/2 Cup of Pinto Beans
- 1/2 Cup of Diced Tomato
- 1/2 Cup of Avocado (1 Small or 1/2 Large)
- 1 Lime
- Whisk the flour and all of your spices. Add the cup of milk and whisk until combined. Add the cauliflower in and toss until it’s fully coated with the batter. Place the coated cauliflower evenly spaced on your prepped baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Pull the cauliflower out of the oven and toss in the buffalo sauce. Once coated, distribute evenly on the baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
- While the cauliflower is baking, assemble your toppings. Add a pinch of salt and squeeze of lime juice to the diced tomato, pinto beans, and diced avocado. Wash and pat your pieces of lettuce dry. Scoop 1the topping mixture into each lettuce wrap, and evenly disperse the buffalo cauliflower.
Find recipe here.
This is a great recipe for using veg sitting in the back of the fridge and it takes no time at all. It’s also a perfect recipe to freeze.
- 200g chopped raw vegetables, such as onions, celery and carrots
- 300g potato
- 1 tbsp oil
- 700ml stock
- crème fraîche and fresh herbs, to serve
- Fry the chopped raw vegetables with the potatoes, peeled and cubed, in a little oil for a few mins until beginning to soften.
- Cover with the stock and simmer for 10-15 mins until the veg is tender. Blend until smooth, then season. Serve with some fresh herbs. Will freeze for up to 1 month.
Find recipe here.
Vegetable curries, like soup, are brilliant for using leftover veg. You can always bulk out with potatoes, if you have them. I freeze curries on a regular basis, as they come in so handy for lunch and dinner meals.
- 1kg mixed vegetables (I usually just grab what I have, a pepper, a carrot, some mushrooms, anything that looks like it’s going off and should taste good)
- 3 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 tin chickpeas
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 300ml vegetable stock (1 stock cube)
- 400g rice
- 1 tbsp curry powder (add more if you like it hotter)
I usually don’t cook this much, and sometimes I leave things out, for example I won’t always add potato. Furthermore, as I’m only cooking for one, I usually only include one onion. A top tip is also to have a bag of frozen spinach in the freezer which is perfect for adding to daals and curries.
- In a large pan, combine all the ingredients except the rice, add the vegetable stock and mix thoroughly.Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally.Cook for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the stock has reduced to produce a nice, thick sauce.
- Cook the rice as per the instructions.
- Serve together.
Find recipe here.
As a nation, we are getting better at minimising food waste, and there are both wonderful local and national initiatives confronting this issue head on to educate and inform.
Remember that there is no right and wrong way to deal with food waste and thinking about it is the first step of the journey. What hints and tips do you have to reduce your food waste? Tweet us at @Revival_Collect
Please see these resources below to learn more about food waste and to make changes to your approach to food. Thank you for reading!
Advice on food expiration dates: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/food-expiration-dates-explained_uk_5805ea90e4b096d12146d593
Advice on storing food: https://www.forksoverknives.com/best-tips-for-storing-fruits-and-vegetables/
Advice on freezing food: http://www.canyoufreezethis.com/
I don’t eat meat, but here are loads of ideas about how to use leftover meat and dairy dishes: