How to reduce food waste

Six simple ways to keep food waste down and help the environment | by Felicity Cousins

How to reduce food waste

We’ve all scraped leftovers into the bin or found something shrivelled at the back of the fridge when we’re looking for the mint sauce, but it’s a shock to learn that 17 per cent of all food produced never makes it to our mouths. An even larger amount is lost before it even reaches consumers' homes. Food waste also contributes to 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, which are driving the climate crisis.

The facts about food waste

In March of this year, the UN Environment Programme released the Food Index Waste Report 2021. The report, which analysed data from 54 countries, found that globally we chuck away 931 million tonnes of food each year, and nearly 570 million tonnes of this happens at the household level. The Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 aims to halve this food waste by 2030. Here’s a quick guide to how we can take positive action towards that goal.

1.Plan your meals

If we sat down for twenty minutes before we went food shopping, we could plan each meal, snack, or midnight feast, and reduce our waste. Getting to the end of the week and finding a slimy box of mushrooms at the back of the fridge doesn’t have to happen.

2.Storing food

Sprouting potatoes, rubbery carrots, mouldy crusts, could be a thing of the past if only we stored our food correctly. Each year 5.8 million potatoes are thrown away in the UK. That’s a lot of potential mash for the kids, so keep your potatoes in a dark cool place, and if they sprout, chuck them in the garden and…

3.Grow your own

It’s much harder to throw away something you’ve spent time and effort growing. Allotments are a great way to meet like-minded folk, but you can always try growing vegetables and herbs at home. Old decking planks can be repurposed for raised beds, or, if you don’t have much space, try thinking outside the box… Lettuces do well in hanging baskets (where slugs can't reach them), tomato bags are easy to plop down on a patio, and sweet peas make for the perfect space-saving vertical garden.

4.The big freeze

Whizz your leftovers into soups, or use them to thicken sauces in another meal. Fruit can be blitzed into a smoothie or chopped up and frozen. Cooked veg can also be frozen (better still, blanch raw veg for three minutes, and dunk in iced water before freezing—this keeps the bright colours), milk freezes well (drink a glass or two before you freeze the carton to give the milk space to expand). Frozen grapes are great as edible ice cubes on a hot day.

5.Shop locally

Reduce your food footprint by shopping locally and support the shops, farms, and producers growing food near you. Buying locally also means you can drop the weekly shop, only sourcing what you need, when you need it.

6.Eat with the seasons

We wouldn’t consider eating a brussel sprout in June so why do we buy imported strawberries in December? Eating with the seasons is another great way to learn new healthy recipes, and reduce our food carbon footprint. Check out the BBC's handy resource for a month-by-month guide to seasonal recipes.

Restaurants and food retailers will have to play their part, but even if we take a couple of these simple steps on board we can make an impact. Hopefully, the Food Waste Index Report will have more positive figures to report on in the coming years.

Article written by Felicity Cousins (@BooCousins)

Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

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