A new report has found that British familes throw away the equivalent of a meal a day and that Britons waste a staggering 4.2 million tonnes of food a year. We’ve found the key ways you can waste less and make your food – and £££s – go further
The study, from the Waste and Resources Action Porgramme (WRAP) found the waste costs the average family a staggering £700 a year.
Moreover, research earlier this year found that the supermarket Tesco threw away 60 per cent of its bagged salads and half of its baked goods.
Although the figures sound staggering, some work has in the last four years been done to help reduce waste.
Through their Love Food, Hate Waste programme, WRAP has encouraged supermarkets to develop more packaging that extends food shelf life, offer storage advice on labels or counters, give a bigger range of portion sizes and provide recipe ideas to customers. It’s helped save about 670,000 tonnes of food waste and 520,000 tonnes of packaging waste across the UK.
But this report proves that there still needs to be more done to help consumers understand the easy ways to reduce waste in their everyday lives
Healthista editor Anna Magee – a fiend for making food go the furthest it possibly can – talked to the pundits at WRAP and dietician Claire Donnelly to come up with a definitive guide to stretching your £££s and reducing your food waste this winter.
1. Make a plan Sit down each week and look at what is in the cupboard, scour the Sunday papers and internet for fruit and vegetable specials, plan the week’s meals and make a detailed list before you hit the shops.
2. Shop online A pilot study from the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity found that people who do their grocery shopping online make wiser, healthier choices. Buying online means people often buy less high fat food and are more likely to plan out their meals, a crucial element of minimising waste.
3. Take bread out of the fridge. The WRAP report found a fifth of bread is thrown away (along one in five potatoes and one in ten bananas). It’s best not to put bread in the fridge as it goes stale three times as fast. Bread keeps better in a cool dark place such as the bread bin or a store cupboard or freeze it.
4. Make stale bread into garlic bread Got a stale roll or baguette? Split it then spread it with a generous amount of garlic butter and parsley. Wrap it in foil and place in the freezer. You’ll have ready to cook garlic bread to go with your pasta and other Italian dishes. When you’re ready, cook from frozen in the oven on a medium to high temperature for about 30 minutes.
5. Make stale pitta bread into pita chips Slice them into triangles and brush with a little olive oil, add some sea salt and fresh herbs and place into an oven at about 180 degrees for about ten minutes or until crispy.
6. Keep potatoes in a brown paper bag or hessian sack and store them in a dark cupboard – but don’t buy too many at once. Keep them cool too. away from the heat of the stove. Also, don’t store them near onions, bananas, or other fruit — this will encourage them to sprout faster. Also, it’s best to take them out of the plastic bag and put them in a basket or breathable cotton sack. Plus, make sure they’re dry before storing as damp potatoes will rot or sprout faster.
IN THE FRIDGE:
7. Set your fridge Up to 70 per cent of our fridges are too warm, meaning food won’t last as long as it could. Milk goes off much quicker if the fridge is just a few degrees too warm. Research from WRAP has found having your fridge at the right temperature – between 0°C and 5°C – can help preserve food for longer.
8. Pack it right Certain foods are less likely to go off if they’re placed on certain parts of the fridge. On the top/middle shelf place ready to eat foods such as dairy, cooked meat, leftovers and packeaged foods. On the bottom shelf, place meat poultry and fish in airtight containers. Keep veggies in the coolest part of the fridge, usually the salad drawers.
9. Pick milk in white bottles Cravendale use white bottles because they protect the milk from prolonged visible light that, over the life of the product, could affect its shelf life. Asda also sell fresher for longer filtered milk.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLES:
10. Avoid buy one get one free on bagged salads Tesco recently revealed that 68 per cent of its bagged salads get thrown away. Avoid buy one get one free for things like this that go off quickly.
11. Freeze grapes Tesco’s research also found a quarter of its grapes went to waste. You can freeze black grapes along with berries and then add them to smoothies without even defrosting them. Just make sure you wash and remove them from the vine and freeze individually. Bananas are good for freezing too and can be added to smoothies and cereal. Obviously remove from their skin first and slice.
12. Buy frozen If you find the fresh fruit and vegetables you buy are always going off before you get to use them, consider buying frozen varieties. They’re just as nutritious as they’re frozen the moment they’re picked with no additives. Plus, at this time of the year frozen berries are often more economical.
13. Blend or juice the excess Having a good blender or juicer means you can pulp every last bit of most fruits and vegetables into a nutritious drink just before they go off.
14. Keep them in their packaging Fruit and veg packaging has been designed to help it stay at it’s best for longer, so don’t take the packaging off until you’re ready to eat the food.
15. Puree some veg before freezing High water content vegetables (like tomatoes) may be better pureed before freezing, particularly if intended for use in that condition.
16. Do small extra-shops You don’t have to buy all your fruit and veg in your weekly shop as it goes off the quickest – supplement it during the week with a small shop or two of fresh fruit and vegetables to help you buy only what you will use. Tesco has introduced ‘It’sFresh’ ethylene removal technology to their tomatoes helping them stay fresher for an extra two days.
17. Boil up all the bones from Sunday roast and make a stock base to use on Monday for risotto, pasta sauce or a hearty soup. Boiling up cooked chicken bones cooked takes only an hour and a half or from a raw chicken, about six hours. In Chinese medicine the broth is considered a blood nourisher and given to women post-menstrually.
18. Remove meat fat before freezing Greater amounts of fat on meats like pork increase the risk of rancidity occurring during frozen storage, so trim off excess fat before freezing.
19. Freezer bags are your friend You can freeze meat before it’s use by date and once you have defrosted, use it within 24 hours. Portion out the meat before freezing so you only defrost what you’re going to need that night.
20. Buy split packs One way of helping prolong the life of the food we buy is to buy split packs allowing us more flexibility in only using what we need and freezing what we don’t want to use straight away. M&S introduced split packs for their ham, Sainsburys provide split packs for many of their bakery products and Tesco now have split packs for bacon.
21. Use Waitrose skin packs for steak they extend shelf life of meat by three days.
22. Store before you eat If you cook a big bolognaise dinner for four but have made enough for eight, store half of it away in a container before you sit down to eat – research has found this tiny thing makes you less likely to go back for seconds too.
23. Encourage your supermarket to sign up to reduce waste The Courtauld Commitment from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is a voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing waste within the UK grocery sector by five per cent by 2015.
24. It’s the Use-by date that matters Does anyone really know the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’? It can make all the difference – here’s a guide:
- BEST BEFORE these often appear on frozen, dried and tinned foods. Even if the date has run out, it doesn’t mean the food will be harmful and cause food poisoning. Instead ‘best before’ dates are more about quality than safety. So for certain foods best before dates don’t always mean ‘toss-by’. However the one exception is eggs. Do not use these if the ‘best before’ date has expired.
- USE BY these are used on products that go off such as meat products, smoked fish, ready prepared salads, milk, and ready meals. Do not use any food that exceeds the use by date, even if it smells fine. You run the risk of food poisoning.
- SELL BY or DISPLAY UNTIL these are used by shops to help with stock control. So they’re instructions for shop staff rather than shoppers. As a shopper focus more on the above.
For more ways to reduce your food waste along with recipes and practical tips visit lovefoodhatewaste.com
CLAIRE DONNELLY is a dietitian and has a masters degree in public health nutrition. She was the 2012 winner of the annual Caroline Walker essay in public health nutrition. Claire is passionate about health, nutrition and well-being, and is an advocate for lifelong learning.
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