Throwing away food feels wrong.
The socio-economically conscious feel guilty about where this food could have been put to better use, and the perpetually hungry get frustrated that they didn’t eat the food before it went bad. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone. But with a little forethought, you can bring your food wastage down to a minimum. Just follow our top tips that’ll help you reduce waste, save money, and even help you do your part for the environment!
The economies of scale have always been a great way to save money – buy more and pay less per item. When it comes to things like toilet paper and canned food, buying in bulk is a great idea (assuming you have space), but don’t buy fresh items in bulk unless you actually have a plan for them. Fruit, veg, dairy, and meat have very limited lifespans and succumbing to the temptations of bulk-buy savings will usually lead to overestimating your consumption and wasting food. This will also waste money – probably more than you saved by buying in bulk in the first place.
The speed at which fruit goes off varies depending on their situation. For instance, did you know that a banana that’s been broken off from the bunch will last more than two weeks, but bunches of bananas that are still attached will only last five to seven days? Remember to also check your apples, onions, potatoes, and pretty much everything you’ve bought for any spoilt produce. Any ‘bad apples’ will have a jeopardising impact on their neighbours!
There are many of us that will throw away food the moment it has reached its ‘best before’ date. It seems reasonable enough – why risk getting poisoned? Except you’re not at risk – or at least hardly any more than you were the day before the ‘best before’ date. This is because ‘best before’ is referring to the quality of the food and the point at which it will start to lose flavour. Passing the ‘best before’ date does not mean the food is unsafe to eat – that is the ‘use by’ date.
The ‘use by’ date is all about safety and when you eat something past this date, you risk getting food poisoning. So, while you should be wary of the ‘use by’ date on your food, you can be confident that a product a day or so beyond its ‘best before’ date is still OK to eat, and so no need to throw it away! This, of course, is redundant if the food is crawling with mould! Learn more about ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates here.
Frozen food is often stigmatised as being less fresh or worse quality, but the truth is that freezing fruit and vegetables shortly after harvesting keeps them fresher than if they are shipped off to your local supermarket’s ‘fresh’ aisle. Best of all, they will last in your freezer for ages, so you won’t be wasting any, and they work just great in smoothies.
For those anti-preservative folk out there, it’s also worth noting that, with freezing, there is no need for other, less natural preservatives.
One of the problems with so much food waste is that all that waste ends up in landfills, where it decomposes very slowly (even organic matter takes a while). It does this anaerobically (i.e. without oxygen) meaning lots of methane is released into the atmosphere. By collecting all your organic waste (apple cores, egg shells, banana skins etc.) you can allow it to decompose aerobically, which isn’t just better for the environment but also great for your garden if you mix it in with your soil. If you haven’t got anywhere to store your compost or simply have too much waste for home composting, some local boroughs have a food waste collection service.
If you don’t have a garden, don’t worry, there are still ways for you to make a compost in your kitchen.
Probably the simplest, most effective piece of advice we can offer to help reduce your food waste is to make a note of what you need before you set off. It’ll make impulse buys less tempting and buying something you already have less likely. There are even several apps you can use to help if you’re the kind of person who simply cannot abide a pen and paper. You can find some examples here.
Those are our top tips for reducing food waste in your property. Have we missed out any essential ideas? Let us know on our House and Home Twitter page! In the meantime, happy shopping!