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One of the things we tend to be quite bad at as a family is having way too much food waste.
Since our council has a food waste recycling requirement and we use a separate bin for for food waste it’s easy to see how much we throw away. It’s something I’d like improve, and that we’ve gotten a little better at since starting to do things like meal planning.
Did you know the UK throws away 13 billion pounds worth of food that could have been eaten every day? That’s an incredible amount! It breaks down to the average UK household throwing away £470 worth of edible food each year.
This seems like loads at first, but actually when I think realistically about how much we end up wasting from over cooking, or the kids not eating stuff because, y’know, they decided they just hate peas today even though they liked them fine last week, I can kinda see how it all adds up.
Those figures show that reducing your food waste can help your wallet as well as the environment.
Here are 11 simple ways to help reduce food waste:
1. Meal Plan
Meal planning is a great way to reduce food waste and save money, because it helps to only buy and use what you need.
Write down a plan for each meal, and then make your shopping list from your plan. Check your cupboards to see what you already have first, so you don’t buy anything you already have.
Related: How to eat well on a budget >>
2. Buy what you need
If you know you’re going to need 4 potatoes and 6 carrots this week – buy them loose rather than buying a big bag and having some left over that will probably go unused.
3. Check your dates
Make sure to check the use by and best before dates on your food, and make sure you plan to eat it in time.
Most things can be frozen, so if you’ve got something in the fridge you’re not sure will get eaten before it’s use-by date – just label and pop it in the freezer to use later.
Put your longer date items further back in your fridge so it’s easier to see and eat the short date items first. This way they’re less like to get wasted.
4. Use your leftovers
How often do you store your leftovers but end up chucking them anyway? Try to remember to use them. Left over meat from a roast can be used for sandwiches for lunch the next day.
5. Cook smaller portions
If you find you have a lot of food getting left over, try and cook smaller portion sizes. I’m not saying go hungry, just try and learn to cook to how much your family eats. For example, I would always end up making way more pasta than my kids could eat – measuring out smaller portions to cook means we end up with less thrown away.
6. Find another use
If you have things that are just on the edge of being edible, try and find another use for them. Over ripe bananas are perfect for making Banana Bread, other fruits could be made into jam, and even your vegetable peelings could be used to make crisps!
Bread that’s just slightly too hard for good sandwiches can still make perfectly good toast, or slightly more stale bread can still be used for croutons or breadcrumbs. There are lots of ways to find a different use.
7. Store your food in the right place
How you store food can make a difference to how long it keeps. For example, bananas are best stored at room temperature rather than in the fridge, but they also release gas which can cause other fruits to ripen more quickly, so it’s best to keep them separate rather than in your fruit bowl.
8. Buy imperfect veg
A lot of fruit and veg gets wasted because it looks a bit funny – often known now as ‘wonky veg’. Buying this means that food gets eaten that may otherwise have been thrown away – it’s often offered at slightly cheaper prices too.
9. Use it all up
Try and use as much of things as you can when you cook them. You don’t need to peel the skins from potatoes, carrots and other veg, just leave them on and cook. The skins often have more nutrients in too, so win-win.
10. Use your freezer
Made too much? Freeze it and have another time. Date ending before you’ll get to it? Freeze it. Going away but still have half a loaf of bread left? Freeze it.
You’ll still have some food waste of course, so you could try and use it for composting to turn your waste into useful plant food.
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