Over the last few years, research, documentaries and statistics have shed light on the horrific amount of food that is wasted in the UK anually. Here in Britain, we throw away over 12 million tonnes of the stuff every year. Those figues are the worst in the EU.
The recent BBC documentary Hugh’s War on Waste highlights this issue as something that is widespread. Supermarkets reject huge amounts of produce on the basis that it isn’t ‘cosmetically’ appealing, fast-food chains dispose of food that has been ‘sitting’ for too long, and us normal people across the land toss anything nearing its use-by date straight into the bin for fear of food-poisoning.
My own feelings towards food and wastage are strong – something that likely stems from my days of being a student, when I planned out meals and ‘clubbed in’ with others to keep the cost of food to a minimum. Part of me feels that what actually lies behind the huge amount of food thrown out by people each week is laziness combined with a lack of understanding.
Wouldn’t you like to reduce your waste, and in doing so, bring down the cost of your weekly shopping bill? If so, read on.
Plan your weekly meals
I have done this since my days as a student, and will go on to do this until the day I die. When I sit down to write a shopping list, I first note down five or six different meals that my partner and I will eat that week (allowing a couple of days for a takeaway, or lazy option of beans on toast – something along those lines). Then I list the ingredients that I will need, ensuring that I check to see if I have the items in first. For things such as spices and herbs, I usually have plenty in, and so don’t need to buy new. The same often goes for things such as pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.
I always try to think ahead, and factor in a combination of different meals – some easy ones, such as eggs and avocado on toast, or omlettes, as well as more time-consuming meals where the left-overs can be taken into work the following day, such as pasta sauces, or curries. You can find my vegetable curry recipe here – it’s perfect for lunch the next day.
Check the fridge or freezer before going shopping
This is surely a must for everyone; by seeing what is leftover from the previous week, I can better plan my meals for the days ahead. Say, for example, there are a good amount of mushrooms left that are starting to wrinkle a little – well that’s an omlette in the making. Or perhaps I’d frozen a chicken breast a week or two ago – that would do well in a curry, or chicken soup.
Yes it takes a little longer to check your fridge and cupboards before heading to the supermarket, but it could certainly save you money in the long run.
You don’t have to buy multi-packs
I’m really not a fan of multi-packs. For example, buying a whole bag of onions with just my boyfriend and I to feed always seems unnecessary – in the past they have gone rotten before we can get to them all.
I really do feel like the supermarkets are largely to blame here, as they package up fruit and veg in an attempt to lure customers in to spending more money overall.
I could buy a bag of 4 or 5 smallish looking peppers for £1.20, but I don’t need 4 or 5. Alternatively, I could buy one individual pepper (these are often much larger) for 60p. Yes, my one pepper is technically not as good value as the multi-pack, but I’m actually spending less overall, and just buying what I need. I know there won’t be any waste here.
Use up over-ripe fruit and veg in baking, smoothies, and soups
The temptation to bin fruit and veg as soon as it starts to look a little sorry is strong. With the opportunity now to recycle organic items, we may feel like throwing food out into the green bin is not big deal, as it’s going to be turned into compost, or something along those lines.
But it’s still wasteful.
Over ripe fruits can work great in baking – ripe bananas, for example, are ideal for cakes. Click here for my delightfully warming banana and chocolate chip loaf recipe.
Strawberries, raspberries and grapes are great blended up in smoothies, and most veg can be tossed into a pan with stock, spices, and herbs to make a delicious soup. And don’t ever bin ripe tomatoes, no matter how soft they look; they make a delicious pasta sauce – click here for a recipe.
Use-by dates are not necessarily to be trusted
Use-by dates can be incredibly unhelpful. As a general rule, I tend to go for a sniff test as my means of deciding whether food is edible. Meat that has passed its best can certainly be singled out this way, as can dairy items, dips, sauces, and much more. It is, of course entirely up to you how you want to play this one, and I am certainly no expert. However, I do feel that unless something is way past its use-by date, then it is probably OK – although do take extra care when it comes to meat.
Make good use of the freezer (but don’t forget to check it regularly)
Some of us, myself included, have the best intentions when it comes to freezing. However, having stowed cling-filmed items safely away, we often never take a second look at them.
I think the trick here is to be organised. Get yourself a permanent marker, and note down
the date and name of an item on its freezer bag, before storing it away. Make sure you raid the freezer before shopping, as mentioned above, to plan your week’s meals around what’s in there. And try not to let it get too full, because that means that you’re not actually using any of the things that you are freezing.
Let’s not forget, freezing can be incredibly timesaving. I often make simple tomato pasta sauces in big batches, for instance, before freezing in smaller amounts – these can then be defrosted and used for simple mid-week meals.