Eat more, waste less in just one day, with these easy hacks to a more sustainable way of consuming food
The phrase ‘bitten off more than you can chew’ rings a rather unsavoury truth when it comes to food waste. In fact, some of the following statistics could make you think twice about how we dispose of our unwanted consumables. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation claims that roughly one third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted globally, which is about 1.3 billion tonnes per year. In addition to this, an area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten. Confusion over food expiration dates, oversized portions, and a dislike for ugly or wonky vegetables all contribute to this problem. So, how can we break out of these bad habits? “As consumers, we need to remember that every purchase we make, either reinforces the status quo – or is a little step towards making a bigger change in the world,” says Emilie Vanpoperinghe, Oddbox co-founder (oddbox.co.uk). “The problem is, the impact food waste has on the environment is not yet fully appreciated – we believe that if more people understood it, they would make better choices every day and the whole industry would be forced to change.” If you want to do your bit, here’s how you can make a difference in just 24 hours.
Fruit and vegetables have endless benefits for both your health and the planet. Firstly, make sure you opt for loose varieties that are locally sourced. Ditch the unnecessary plastic that supermarkets coat them in, as fruits, like oranges and bananas, have their own natural protective peels. Use a brown paper bag that can be recycled in all other cases. Also, if you notice your bananas starting to turn brown and overripe, or if your berries are going soft – throw them into a blender, not the bin. Making smoothies with fruit or vegetables that have turned a little mushy, is an easy way to ensure they’re still being eaten. Finally, remember that fruits and vegetables can easily be repurposed as compost, as food waste is biodegradable. All you need to do is make a pit in your garden and put your waste in this, instead of a bin.
A use-by date on your food is about safety and refers to the day in which you should safely eat a product before it could harm your health. These are seen on foods that go off quickly, such as meat products. A best-before date, on the other hand, refers to the quality of an item. The food will be safe to eat after this date, but it may not be at its best. For example, the flavour and texture might not be as good.
There are an abundance of dishes that can be made with a little imagination and the remaining foods in your fridge, as Rosalind Rathouse, who runs classes in how to avoid food waste at The Cookery School on Little Portland Street (cookeryschool.co.uk), points out. “I make a great ‘bottom of the fridge’ soup using leftovers. The secret is to always brown onions or leeks in olive oil (garlic can be added too, if desired) as they give a lovely flavour to anything. Then throw in cut up veg and salad leftovers, as well as any herbs, and cook until tender. Blitz, and season well. Seasoning is so important as it makes the difference between a droll bowl of soup and a tasty one. For a treat, roast leftover bread, cubed and tossed in olive oil and add the croutons to the soup, just before serving.”
“Freeze anything that you will not eat the same day,” recommends Rosalind. “When you take this dish out a few weeks later, it feels like a treat as you don’t have to cook and you have a ready-made meal. If you are only freezing leftover herbs, it’s good to know you have them in stock when you have been unable to find fresh ones on that particular day. I keep frozen parsley as a stock item in my freezer, but I only use it for cooking purposes.”
“Supermarkets dictate to growers what to produce, based on customers’ expectations,” says Emilie. “They have very strict requirements about product appearance, so they look good on the shelves. They believe consumers expect each pack of tomatoes, apples and courgettes to look exactly the same and shop with their eyes. In order to meet supermarket demand of the perfect produce, as well as ensure there is never a shortage, the growers have to hugely overproduce. This way, there’s always an abundance of perfectly good, and fresh fruits and veg with wonky or surplus produce often ending up in landfill, or left in the field and having a negative impact on our environment. But, there is another way. “At Oddbox, we rescue the perfectly tasty, wonky produce and deliver it to our customers every week. Each of our boxes actually reduces food waste, so together, we can make a huge impact.”
Bought too much during your weekly shop? No worries! Head chef, Benn Hodges at EatFirst (eatfirst.com) has some imaginative ways to use excess ingredients. “Ferment and pickle kale stalks and broccoli stems for use as pickle in special dishes. Use the trimming from your veggies to create a delicious natural vegetable stock. Simply bring to the boil and leave to steep overnight in the fridge. Turn the tomato trim from the top of your tomatoes into delicious tomato and chilli jam. Finally, dehydrate mushroom peelings and use it in furikake rice seasoning.”
“Supermarkets will reduce food prices early in the day, sometimes the night before, at around 25 percent off the retail price,” explains blogger, Laura Gaga (reductionraider1.wordpress.com). “These discounts will increase throughout the day and final reductions can be between 75-90 percent, with the hours of seven to eight in the evening being the optimal time to grab a bargain. Get into the habit of checking the reduced sections irrespective of which store you are in, including petrol stations or mini supermarkets. There is usually an allocated crate in the fruit and veg, dairy, meat and bakery aisles. Look out for dry goods too – usually products with damaged packaging, or when a store needs to clear a line, will be discounted.
Suddenly remembered you’re out for dinner tomorrow and won’t get a chance to use up those last few carrots? Download Olio and donate them instead. “Olio is a food sharing app where users can advertise food that they no longer want, for whatever reason – moving home, or a change of dietary requirements,” says Laura. All you need to do is take a photo of your unwanted food, then share on the platform and people can message to take it off your hands. “Businesses, such as Deliciously Ella and Pret a Manger also distribute food which would otherwise be wasted.”
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