6 ways to waste less food and save money
What kind of society has such an abundance of wealth and food that it throws away half of it uneaten, often unopened! Food waste makes up approximately 20 per cent of rubbish in the West and 70 percent of that amount could have been eaten if people had only been a bit more mindful and a bit better prepared.
Food waste doesn’t just waste the planet’s resources. From the costly water and energy used in its production to its packaging, shipping and handling, uneaten food is massively wasteful and could be costing your household a small fortune each year
Proper food prep and planning
The easiest way of solving your household food waste problem, even for the busiest households, is to plan your meals for the week. Strive to buy local and often and eat your most perishable foodstuff first: berries, bananas, peaches and avocados, then longer life fresh fruit and veg (apples, sweet potatoes, onions) later in the week. And if that’s way too much organisation for you, buy frozen fruits and veg instead, then it doesn’t matter if your evening dinner plans change.
Proper food storage
Anyone that knows how to cook knows how to store food right? Erm, no. Not really, most of us are pretty bad at it. It’s obvious that we should store food correctly to maximise it’s shelf-life, nutrition, flavour and freshness. Yet most of us have little idea how to do it.
Don’t store your fruit and vegetables together, especially bananas – the biggest culprit – as it hastens ripening and thus spoiling. Those two drawers at the bottom of your fridge, they’re not for randomly shoving your fruit and veg in: In fact, one is for fruit and one is for veg.
Ensure everything is dry when you store it to discourage mould and don’t pack fruit or veg too closely. Instead pack it loosely to encourage airflow.
Perishable fruits like berries should be chilled, though they’re tastiest unrefrigerated and eaten quickly. Apples and pears last longer in a cool, dark place.
Squash and root vegetables and garlic, onions sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins should be kept in a cool, dark place. Potatoes and sweet potatoes do best in a paper bag. For longer storage you can even store root vegetables, like carrots and parsnips, in a tub of sand.
Most vegetables should be stored in a plastic bag or container in the crisper of your fridge. Tomatoes should be stored with the fruit on the counter and never in the fridge.
The best way to store leafy greens – including lettuce, bok choy, Swiss chard, kale and spinach – is to rinse them then wrap them in paper towel before refrigerating them in a container or plastic bag.
Mushrooms are best stored in a paper bag in the fridge as the bag soaks up any moisture from the mushrooms, stopping them rotting.
Be mindful of expiry dates
A ‘sell by’ date is not the same as a ‘use by’ date. One is for the supermarket you bought in in and the other is a guide for you. But it is only a guide. A ‘use by’ date is a guide to when best to enjoy a food at its best, not food safety. If it looks or smells bad, don’t use it. If your greens have gone brown at the edges, then trim off the brown and enjoy your greens. Come on it’s not rocket science. If stored properly food that’s past these dates is usually safe to eat. If you’re really unsure throw it out: use your common sense and trust your nose.
Why not make a commitment to never throw food away? You can use dinner leftovers as a new ingredient for a further meal: as a base for soup or sandwiches. Or simply take your leftovers for lunch the next day. Saving yet more money.
If you have too many greens or spinach, why not blend them into healthy smoothies or pestos for storage in the freezer. Over ripe fruit, especially bananas, can become smoothies, sorbets or baking ingredients. Stale bread can become breadcrumbs…there are numerous possibilities for second life food.
Don’t toss them if you can regrow
Those white hairy ends on the spring onions you usually toss out…or the leftover mint sprigs you didn’t need…just add water and sunlight and you’ll be your own windowsill cottage gardener within weeks. Put them in a small glass until the roots sprout then replant them to grow your own personal supply.
If all else fails…compost!
All fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags (avoid those with use plastic in the bag) and eggshells (unless your vegan) can become manna for your garden if you own a compost bin. And if you don’t have a garden your local council should collect it gladly; if not any local community gardening club will love you for it. You may even get a few lovingly grown vegetables in return, saving yet more cash.