You’ve done it again, you’ve cooked way too much and in the bin it goes. I don’t wanna be that person but c’mon, you’re wasting your time, your money and food. And we waste so much food. In 2015, Brits chucked away 7.3 million tonnes, or £13 billion worth, of perfectly edible food. Honestly, doesn’t the thought of that make you feel awful when there are people starving? It’s about time we did something about it. Here’s how to cut down on food waste.
How to cut down on food waste
Use your leftovers
We’ve spoken a lot about batch-cooking and meal prep on MVF recently. Now, an accidental meal prep doesn’t quite give you the same sense of achievement than planning and preparing everything, but it’ll save you some time, effort and money. Don’t scrape that plate unless it’s into some tupperware. If you’re leaving half of your meal, why not have it for lunch tomorrow instead of throwing it away?
Just cook less
No, I don’t mean more takeaways. Cook less volume. I’ve been incredibly guilty of this in the past. Whenever I prepared pasta, I ended up making enough to feed a family of 6 – not fantastic when you’re just cooking for 2. Pay attention to the food packing labels and measure out your portions properly. You’ll be surprised how much longer your food lasts when you’re not cooking too much of it. Fixing your portion distortion might also help you achieve better results on the scales.
Do you know the difference between a ‘best before’ date and a ‘use by’ date? If you don’t, there’s a high chance you’re getting rid of good food.
A ‘use by’ date indicates when the product should be consumed by. Now if you know anyone old school or particularly brave, they’ll tell you to do a sniff test and see if it smells okay. However, experts do not recommend this; suggesting that we’re not quite advanced enough to smell low level (but still dangerous) levels of bacteria. If it’s past the use by date, it is probably best to bin it.
A ‘best before’ date, on the other hand, has nothing to do with food safety, but you should still use some judgement. The best before date is basically the manufacturer’s ‘get out of jail free’ card. If there’s a flavour, texture or any other change in quality after the date then tough luck ‘cus we told you when the date it was best before. Got it? I just discovered some posh cocoa powder at the back of the cupboard that has a best before date of about a year ago – still tastes posh to me.
Use your fridge/freezer properly
We’ve mentioned good options for freezing foods before but you also need to ensure that you are using utilising your white goods properly.
Check the manufacturer’s website or manual to find out the optimal temperature for your device. It’s also worth checking the label on your food, as things like tomatoes are far better stored at room temperature than in the chiller.
You should probably organise your fridge too – the produce drawer is called that because it’ll keep produce fresher for longer. And make sure you’re keeping cooked food at the top and raw at the bottom to avoid any issues with cross-contamination.
Meal plan and only buy what you need
You’re probably wondering how you know how much you need to buy, but you’ve got to work that out for yourself. Plan your meals, taking into account how many people you’re serving and what portions they require. Yes, it’s dull and can take ages but it is worth your time. If you’re a bit more of an optimist, this is your opportunity to get creative and maybe even try something new.
How annoying is when you put away the shopping to find you already had half of it in the cupboard/fridge? Should you throw away the old stuff or try and use it up? What if the new stuff spoils in the meantime?
Before the big shop, grab a pen and some paper and write down everything you’re already stocked up on and approximately how much of each item, just in case you do need some more soon. The fridge is probably your priority, followed by your cupboards and if you’re on a budget – check your freezer too so you’re not spending money on duplicates.
It’s annoying and a little bit time-consuming but again, it’s worth it.
Take that piece of paper and use the ingredients on it to make magic. Taking a ‘rolling inventory’ so you always know what’s in can also help you to plan better. I use this pad from Knock Knock (I promise they’re not paying me, I just find it incredibly useful).
If you have to chuck it…
Try and bung it into a food recycling caddy or if you’re green-thumbed turn it into compost for your garden. Reduce, reuse, recycle and all that, right?