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How to Stop Food Waste

How to Stop Food Waste | The Mother Cooker

Food waste is a huge issue, one that I have tackled head on in our house this year. I’ve managed to get our whole week’s shop for £60 a week now, even £50 sometimes. So our monthly shopping budget has came down from £300 a month to £240, saving us £720 a year. Food waste was awful in our family, mainly because we would buy things we didn’t need or we’d buy too much of one thing and it would spoil. So in December I set myself the challenge of not only saving us money, but cutting down on food waste. In the UK, we throw away an average 7 million tonnes of food. That is a staggering amount of waste, when most of the time it could have been eaten. Apparently bread, fruit and vegetables are the most thrown items in our households. So I thought I would create a list of tips that have helped me so far this year, to see if they can help you too and tackle this ever expanding pile of waste. Food waste costs the average household £470 a year, that’s a lot of money.

The supermarket guessing game, turns into the supermarket grab the same.

10 tips to stop food waste
  1. Meal plan. I know this can seem like a chore, it’s Sunday, you don’t know what you will fancy Friday. But it is one of the biggest ways to save money and food waste. Try mixing in some family favourites with new recipes you find in a cook book, magazine or your favourite food blog 😉 If you can include recipes that make great leftovers, then even better. Because you can then either make another meal with them or use them to take to work for a tasty lunch.

  2. Shop with a list. Along with the ingredients you need for the planned meals, make a list of everything else you need and stick to it. I had an awful habit of being tempted by offers, or I’d buy three more tins of chopped tomatoes when I already had four in the cupboard at home. If you scan the fridge, freezer and cupboards before you leave, you will know exactly what you do and don’t need. The supermarket guessing game turns into the supermarket grab the same. Trust me, me and my 7 tins of chopped tomatoes know what I’m on about.
  3. Don’t over serve food. Husband like large portions? Does he get half way through and start to bloat? Do your children tend to waste a heap of food? Portion control is a huge step in tackling food waste. If you are making a meal that works great as leftovers then superb. Pop some in some tupperware before you serve it up, if the person really is still hungry then they can eat the rest. I find the biggest waste of food is when you are cooking a big meal for friends and family. Don’t over cook, try and look at how much someone would more than likely eat and divide it. So I would usually cook three sausages for my husband and two for me. Or even look at your plate size, small changes like that really help.
  4. Actually eat your leftovers. Following up from point 3, if you do have leftovers, actually eat them. I find this hardest if I’ve made a huge salad or too much mashed potato. Try adding the salad into your lunchbox as an extra, or use it in place of vegetables for the next day or two. Mashed potato can be made into croquettes and frozen, they are especially good for the littlest of the family. Portion off any leftovers quickly, allowing them to cool quicker and reduce and chance of the food spoiling. If you’re really not going to get chance to eat it, freeze it. Things like lasagne, chilli etc. freeze great, just remember to date the freezer bags/boxes.
  5. Use your freezer. The main item I have gotten to grips with this year is my freezer. I know it can be difficult if you only have a small freezer, but learn to stack it properly, defrost it often and you’d be surprised how much you can fit in. I’ve started chopping and freezing things like sweet potatoes and onions, freezing herbs that are on the way out into ice cube trays filled with olive oil. I’ve cut down on fresh berries and started buying frozen ones, especially things that aren’t in season, as the price sky rockets. Freezing juices of citrus fruits is also a good thing to do, I even sliced up a heap of blood oranges back in February. It’s great when you need the juice of half a lime for a recipe, just squeeze the other half into an ice cube tray instead of throwing it in the bin. This also works great with egg whites, just label the bag with the date.
  6. Store things correctly. I know a huge culprit for storing things incorrectly, my mother. I watched her put her shopping away once and I was so shocked at how differently she packed away her food to me. The main thing to take note of is where they are stored when you buy them. So things like tomatoes shouldn’t be stored in the fridge as they spoil quicker, bread should never be kept in the fridge. If you have things like avocados, ripen them on the counter first, then pop them in the fridge for a few days to make them last longer. Raw meat should always go on the bottom shelf, cooked meat and fish in the middle, eggs in the drawer if you really want to refrigerate them. I tend to keep a pack in the cupboard and a pack in the fridge, boiled eggs always cook better when they are at room temperature, same with using eggs for baking. I will be doing a whole post on the best places to store your food.
  7. Tidy, rotate and use up. Remember those four tins of chopped tomatoes? Or that soup you’ve had for nearly two years? A lot of food waste comes from the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ method. I am especially terrible with sauces and vinegar’s. I think I had a bottle of oyster sauce for three years once, I know how awful. Keeping on top of your cupboards is so worth it in the long run, even sorting through them once a month helps. If you buy a few tins of the same thing, make sure you bring the back ones to the front. Going back to to point 2, checking the contents of your cupboards on a regular basis helps with over buying. Tinned food lasts a very long time, you can use up all of it before buying more. If you’re down to the last quarter of a packet of pasta, don’t throw it, cook it and put it in a salad. If you have vegetables that are about to see better days, roast them all and blend them with a tin of tomatoes for a wonderful secret sauce.
  8. Treat expiration dates as rough guidelines. I think I watched a Tv show which pointed this out, those dates are for food safety regulations, not necessarily when the food is officially out of date. This also looks back towards point 6, if you store things in the correct way, they are more than likely going to last longer than the expiration date. Use your senses, smell being the main one, especially with things like meat and fish. Salad always tends to last longer than its date, I still used a pack of spinach 8 days past its date once.
  9. Pickling and jarring your food. Preserving your food for longer by pickling has been made so much easier with the use of special jars, such as Kilner fermenting jars. Throwing a heap of fruit into a pot and making some jam will preserve it even longer, or making a chutney. Chopping things like carrots in to batons and popping them into jars of water will make them last longer, just change the water every few days.
  10. Use apps. There is an app called Handpick, which helps with recipe ideas when you input the ingredients you already have. You simply pop your list of ingredients in and it brings up a heap of recipe options. Which one, helps with those mid week runs to the shop and two, helps stop food waste. There’s also Comparasaurus by Miguel Barclay of One Pound Meals fame, an app that helps compare all of the different supermarket prices. A great app when managing your food shopping budget.