How to reduce food waste and eat more sustainably
We all want to do our bit for the environment and eating more sustainably can have a positive effect – read on for our guide to cutting down food waste.
Lately we’ve all been thinking an awful lot more about sustainability and we all want to do our bit to leave the planet better than we found it. Increasingly, we are taking up vegan and vegetarian lifestyles in a bid to help the environment.
However, you don’t need to commit to an entirely new lifestyle to eat more sustainably.
Food waste may not be the first thing which springs to mind when you consider sustainability, but it is an increasing problem. In the UK, we throw out around £20bn of edible waste every year.
According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), household food waste makes up 70% of that figure. So, what can we do to reduce it?
Put simply, we need to be more mindful about what we buy and eat. Food waste is absolutely avoidable, it just requires a little extra thinking when it comes to planning and preparing meals.
Think about the environment and shop local, eat the produce you buy root to tip and embrace traditional preservation skills to dramatically cut down the amount of food which you put in the bin – we’ve got all sorts of tools, tips and advice to help you reduce food waste at home.
3 apps to help you reduce food waste
Connect with neighbours to se what food is going spare in your area. Make sure surplus food is shared, not thrown away, by snapping a quick pic and posting it for someone to come and collect. Join the food sharing revolution here.
Rescue unsold food from restaurants, cafes and shops for half the original price. This is a great way to try something new and save good food from heading to the bin at the same time. See what’s available where you live here.
Too Good To Go
An app that lets everyone do their bit to reduce waste, Too Good To Go lets you try delicious food from local businesses while helping them to reduce waste. Find out how to use the app to contribute to a better environment here.
Embrace 'granny skills' to reduce food waste
Rebecca Sullivan, author of The Art of the Natural Home, says the key to living sustainably is looking back to previous generations. She is an advocate of embracing ‘granny skills’, essentially all the things our grandparents did as a matter of course, which have been lost somewhere in the last few decades.
She explains: ‘My grandmother is the queen of sustainability, but not because she’s a hipster and because it’s on trend and because it’s cool to do so. It’s because she had no choice.
"She grew up very poor and at that time you didn’t eat food flew in from Peru because you fancied asparagus in the middle of the winter. You ate what was local and in season and you didn’t waste a thing. It was no nonsense stuff."
Getting the absolute most out of the produce we buy is the first step towards wasting less. Learning how to prepare, cook and preserve food is therefore essential.
"Cooking from scratch and all those things we would consider to be a granny skill – fermenting, preserving, pickling – they’re all simple things that we’ve forgotten how to do but once upon a time everyone had to do it for themselves." Rebecca is sure that these are skills we should pick back up.
Doing so would certainly cut down the amount of food going straight from the fridge to the bin and could have the added benefit of improving our health.
Fermenting, for example, transforms the sugars and starches found in various foods and cultivates probiotics which are good for digestion and promote gut health.
Rebecca says, "My grandmother had three jobs and five kids and still cooked from scratch." She argues our priorities now are really no different and there is no reason not to choose a more sustainable lifestyle – we just need to find our inner granny.
Find more tips from Rebecca on the In The Moment Magazine podcast.
What is root-to-tip eating?
Root-to-tip eating is another skill which would have been commonplace 50 years ago and could now help us tackle the food waste problem.
Much like using meat nose-to-tail, eating vegetables root-to-tip is about finding a use for every part of everything we buy and wasting as little as possible.
This might call for a little more invention in the kitchen, but it will bring new flavours to your meals too. Carrots and broccoli are among the most wasted vegetables with tops and stems regularly finding their way to the bin rather than our plates.
This is easy to avoid – there are plenty of recipes out there to transform leftovers and unwanted bits into tasty meals.
6 tips and tricks for reducing food waste
Make a list
One of the biggest problems when it comes to food waste is simply buying more than we need. Reduce temptation to purchase bits and bobs which you don’t really need by making a meal plan and a list of all the food you’ll need to buy for the week.
Don’t feel you have to get it all in one go – buying fresh veg too far in advance is sure to increase your waste – but just having a list will help you take stock.
Think about storage
Perhaps the simplest way to reduce the amount of food you waste is simply thinking more about how you store it at home. If something needs to be in the fridge, make sure that’s where it is.
Be careful with what you keep alongside foods like bananas, avocados and tomatoes – they each produce the gas ethylene which promotes ripening and will affect other fruit and veg around them.
Love your freezer
Embrace the freezer as another preserving tool in your kitchen. Make sure to freeze leftovers and invest in ice cube trays – they are ideal for storing small amounts of leftovers, such as fruit, herbs, stock and even coffee.
Stored in the freezer, they’re then ready to add to your cooking with no wastage.
There are all sorts of ways to use up everything in your kitchen, sometimes you just need to think beyond the meals you can make.
Rebecca Sullivan’s favourite use for leftover coffee grounds is in a body scrub. Simply dry out the grounds and mix with a few tablespoons of raw cocoa powder, raw sugar and some coconut oil. "It’s exfoliating and smells fantastic in the shower," she says.
Pickling, drying, canning, fermenting and curing are all methods you can use to make food last longer.
When you have a glut of one particular food, or just want to get a bit more creative in the kitchen, read up and try one out.
Choose wonky veg
Up to 40% of a crop of vegetables can go to waste because of the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets. Rescue some less than perfect produce by choosing to buy wonky fruit and veg from supermarkets like Morrisons, who now have an entire range of produce available, or ordering through a delivery service like Wonky Veg Boxes, who deliver straight to your door.
Photos by Ella Olsson, rawpixel, Green Chameleon, Anne Preble, Nathan Dumlao, Natalie Rhea Riggs, Markus Spiske on Unsplash