Food waste is a major problem in the UK and its something that I just can't stand.
Did you know that 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away every year in the UK - and this costs the average household a whopping great £50 a month!
There is so much you can do to prevent waste and save yourself money in the process. Here are my five top tips for doing so:
1. The main way to stop wastage is to plan ahead and only buy what you are going to eat. Write a meal plan. Write a shopping list. And stick to them! Check in the fridge, freezer and store cupboard before you write your list so that you don't double up on things unnecessarily. If you do end up with leftovers after a meal - USE THEM! If you've always got onions, potatoes and eggs to hand you can transform any left over veg and meat into hashes, frittatas and tasty omelettes.
2. Store your fresh food properly so that it doesn't spoil.
- All fruit (except for bananas) last heaps longer when kept in the fridge.
- Freeze chopped onions (including spring onions) in tupperware or a plastic bottle.
- Bag up and freeze (dry - not damp) spinach. It will shrivel but will still be perfect for use in curries and pasta sauces.
- Don't store onions and potatoes together. Both should be kept in a cool dry cupboard (out of direct sunlight). Place an apple in your bag of potatoes to stop them sprouting and thus extend their shelf life by a good couple of weeks. Onions can also last up to three months (so ignore those daft 'use by' dates again).
- Freeze herbs in ice cube trays with olive oil and defrost straight into the pan when you need them. Another time saver as well as a food saver.
- Don't be embarrassed to shop in the reduced section of shops. Most things can be frozen (see below). Parmesan, which can be super expensive, is fine to freeze. Just grate it, bag it up into portions and whack it in the freezer - then you can bring it out when you need it to sprinkle on pasta!
- Keep bread in a bread bin. I hate supermarket sliced bread and only buy freshly baked stuff without preservatives which has a notoriously short shelf life. Kept in a bread bin it will last two days and still be fine for toasting on the third.
3. Freeze stuff. Freezing is a wonderful, natural preservative. Food can be frozen any time before their use by dates - ignore the whole 'freeze on day of purchase' nonsense. Tinned tomatoes and baked beans can also be frozen once opened, so if they don't get eaten within a couple of days and are going to go off, just pop them into the freezer in a tupperware pot and defrost to eat at a later date.
4. Cook in bulk and freeze extra portions. Not only does this mean there is no wastage, you also get a nutritious, homemade, effortless dinner on another night! So it saves food, money AND time. Brilliant, non?
5. Compost organic matter that can't get used, like vegetable peelings, egg shells and teabags. Most local councils provide food waste recycling services now so even if you live in a flat and don't have a compost heap, there really is no excuse not to! Composting costs nothing and is a natural process that turns your kitchen waste into nutrient rich food for the garden so it is brilliant for the environment and the only kind of waste I don't mind! Food that goes into bin liners is taken off in huge quantities to landfill, where it rots and creates methane which is a hazardous gas and the second main contributor to global warming. Food waste that is taken away by local recycling services is used as a natural fertiliser by the government and also to create biogas (which is, in turn, used to fuel cars and to generate heat and electricity for the home).
It turns out I'm not the only one that feels passionately about preventing food waste. I was gobsmacked by the hundreds of responses I received when I tweeted for ideas to reduce food waste recently. Heaps of you shared your top tips and it made me ridiculously happy to know that there are other like-minded people out there! Here are some of them:
@mylittleacorns suggests freezing over ripe bananas. I'd never even thought of doing this and think its BRILLIANT. Banana bread is a great way of using up bananas but sometimes you've not got the time to make it there and then. If you freeze them they can then be defrosted to bake with at a later date. You can also freeze bread scraps - once you've collected a substantial amount (in a pot in your freezer) heat them through in a frying pan, blitz them in the food processor and store in an airtight container to use in recipes.
@contentedcalf says 'Anything that's a bit mushy gets juiced/smoothied!' As a newly converted juicer I love this! She also says 'I take all the wrappers off the veg & use common sense as to whether they're OK to use. Usually way past printed use by date!' I couldn't agree more.
@mumsmoments recommends using veg up at the end of the week to make soup or stock (ditto leftover chicken and bones) and using leftover pasta in the next day's lunchboxes.
@mytwomums say 'most left over veggies can be blitzed in a blender to make a pasta sauce'.
@angoewright70 advises 'try and only make one meal for the family, even the hottest curry can start off for the kids before adding the spices'. I couldn't bear to have to make different meals for different members of the family and think this is a great tip.
If you're conscious of the amount of food you're throwing away then why not make a few changes to reduce it. There are some great suggestions above and most of them will take no effort at all. Not only will you be saving the environment, you'll be saving money too. Two brilliant reasons to stop wasting food, if you ask me!