Fight Food Waste: Little Wins. Big Impact.
If you aren’t already sick of hearing the phrase ‘cost of living crisis’ and seeing food shortages everywhere you turn, I’ll be addressing it here. But don’t despair, it’s not all doom and gloom. Whilst we patiently wait for the multitude of factors causing these issues to settle, we can combat the helplessness by finding small opportunities to take back some control.
Whilst we can’t do much as individuals to change what food is available to us, or how much it costs, we can control what we do with the food we do buy and consume.
It seems deeply ironic that despite the rising cost and shrinking availability of food, that across all stages of the food journey, so much is still going to waste. And whilst so much of this waste is the responsibility of the corporations that produce our food, there’s still room for us to do a little to combat food waste at home. And save some money in the process.
“4.5 million tonnes of edible food is thrown away each year by UK households. Shockingly, 25% of this wasted food is due to cooking, preparing or serving too much - this costs UK households £3.5 billion each year.” -WRAP
So in light of the current food climate, with ‘Food Waste Action Week’ taking place this month, and in the spirit of saving money, time, and the planet: here’s some tips and tricks for preventing food waste both at home, and out and about.
Shop by weight. Check your recipe before cooking, and purchase the exact quantity of each ingredient you need. Buying loose with us means you're able to buy exactly what you need, so if a recipe calls for only 5g of Za’atar spice, you can buy exactly that. If you don’t buy too much, ultimately, you can’t waste it.
Save some for seconds. Plate a small-medium sized portion and enjoy! Still hungry? Have some more. If not, simply freeze or refrigerate for another day. Smaller portions mean you can avoid overwhelm and properly savour your food (even if you know full well you’ll be going back for seconds).
Store leftovers well. Cover chopped fruit in lemon juice. Store loaves in wax pouches, or slice and freeze. Store fruit and vegetables in glass jars. And chopped veg in jars filled with water so they retain their crunch. Invest in food bag clips, or save and reuse airtight containers for food that is at risk of going stale. Save takeaways containers so you can pop cooked leftovers in the fridge or freezer.
Cook with leftovers in mind. If you know you’ve got a habit of cooking too much, try cooking foods that can be reheated, or that taste just as good cold; pasta, noodle, and potato dishes can all be consumed cold or added to salads, to make easy cold lunch dishes that can be taken to work or school.
Get the most out of your greens. Many fruits and vegetables can be consumed with the skin on. So ditch the peeler and simply rinse before cooking/eating. Alternatively, pop peels into a container in the freezer, and once you have a fair amount use it to make your own veg stock or gravy.
Self-Preservation. With pickling vinegar readily available, and many people having access to air fryers and ovens, it’s really easy to turn leftovers into food you can eat for weeks to come by pickling, drying, dehydrating and preserving yourself at home. Jams and chutneys are also a delicious way to preserve leftover fruit, herbs and veg.
Share with plants and animals. Water from boiling foods, cooled down, and coffee grounds are both great for plants. Pumpkins and squashes can be put into trees for birds and squirrels to enjoy. Bruised and soft fruit can be left out in the wild for badgers and foxes.
Stock Rotate. Is there a stray tin of kidney beans at the back of your cupboard? Or that jar of sauce you thought you’d try out? It’s easy for certain foods to get lost at the back of cupboard as you restock with staples. Next time you stock up, put the new goods at the back and bring the old stuff to the front. It’ll force you to consider using it up each time you open the cupboard looking for inspiration.
Donate. If you’ve purchased something by mistake, or acquired a few too many sweet treats, or just simply know you won’t get round to eating something before its expiration date, consider donating to a local food bank or community kitchen.
Re-home. You can pop past ‘Best Before’ and nearing ‘Use By’ dated foods onto OLIO, a food sharing app, and it’ll get snapped up by someone who can use it.
Look, Smell, Taste. Foods with best before dates can be consumed safely after the marked date has passed, tinned and dried foods are likely still edible a good few months afterwards. Foods with a close use by date can be frozen and defrosted when needed. Just remember to double check before you start cooking.
Browse the reduced section. Scout the reduced section of shops and supermarkets for meal options. Reduced fresh foods are ideal if you are buying food you plan to consume the same day anyhow. The best time to check is between 7pm - 9pm on weekdays. Store cupboard foods are sometimes only reduced due to slightly damaged packaging, discontinuation, post-seasonal, or missing items from a multi-pack: all still perfectly good with no reason to be wasted (I’m sure Christmas tree shaped biscuits taste just as good in June as they did in December).
Check out Too Good To Go. TGTG is an app where you can purchase surplus food and drink from shops, restaurants, hotels and cafes. You can typically get around £10 or more worth of food for around £3. Loads of businesses participate in ensuring they don’t end up with any waste at the end of the day (including us). You could get sandwiches and cakes, groceries, doughnuts, a continental breakfast, and even veg, bread, milk and cheese from us at The Larder.
Visit a Community Fridge. Or food rescue initiative to save food waste. The nearby West End Community Fridge rescues surplus foods from supermarkets and distributes the food to visitors of the fridge, saving it from entering landfill. You can also collect supermarket surplus food from volunteers through the OLIO app. You can sometimes even get surplus food for free directly from supermarkets, such as pumpkins after Halloween, and vegetables after Christmas and Easter.
Take Tupperware. Pop a container into your bag before you head out for a meal. That way you can take home any leftovers, without having to take any single use home packaging with you. Carrying a small flask is also a great idea if you are a fan of hot drinks (but not so much when they get cold). Coffee is not always cheap, so you may as well enjoy it warm, with no need to rush.
Try the special. Often special dishes are made up of ingredients that have been over-ordered, or that need to be used up. Ordering the special means you get to try a delicious new dish, and help the place you’re eating at prevent food waste.
Give away your gherkin. Sadly, we live in a world where not everyone appreciates a pickled cucumber atop their burger. If you are lucky enough to be in the company of a gherkin fan, donate it to them! In fact, if you are out for food, and receive a garnish or side that you aren’t too keen on, offer it to others at the table to combat the amount of food waste restaurants have to throw away. So next time you’re faced with a divisive side dish, such as a salad or olives, offer it to others, or better yet, give it a go! You might just surprise yourself.
So that’s it! Our tips on preventing food waste and getting the most out of the food you buy. You can find out more about Food Waste Action Week from WRAP, and Zero Waste Scotland.