Updated: Mar 3, 2021
This week, it's Love Food Hate Waste Action Week. One their website and social media, the organisation have set a challenge to put as little food in the bin as possible for just one week. One statistic they shared on their instagram shocked me: "each year, UK households throw away 4.5 million tonnes of food that could be eaten. If everyone in the UK stopped throwing away food for just one day, it'd do the same for climate change as taking 14,000 cars off the road for a whole year."
Sometimes, the battle to save the planet from climate change can feel overwhelmingly impossible. Yet what this highlights is that sometimes it's the smallest shifts in behaviour that can have the biggest impact. It's not realistic to think that we can all run zero waste kitchens (although wouldn't that be nice) but what this statistic also shows me, is that that doesn't matter. Even if I can consciously waste less food for just one day, or maybe two or three, I will be making a difference. If everyone made that small change... well, there's real power in that.
Here are 5 things that help on our journey to avoid food waste:
1) Ignore Use By Dates
Use by dates can be a helpful guide but they aren't hard and fast deadlines for when something must be eaten. For meat, fish and dairy, use your eyes, nose and common sense to determine whether or not the food is safe to eat even if it's one or two days past its best. For fruit and vegetables, the dates are often completely arbitrary. Root veg such as carrots, beets and parsnips can last for weeks and weeks in the fridge without losing freshness. Even once they do begin to turn and go a bit soft, they can still be eaten, especially in stocks, soups or casseroles. Also, it's ok to cut off the mouldy/ squishy bit and eat the rest.
3) Plan Your Meals
Going to the supermarket without a plan = danger. Draft up a quick meal plan before you head to the shops and remember to take a quick scan around the fridge to double check what you already have so that you don't duplicate.
2) Plan For Your Leftovers
I love leftovers as they make for some of my most creative and delicious lunches and dinners. When I do my meal plan, I will usually leave one night unplanned in anticipation of the fact that I will have some leftovers to use up. Sometimes this means we literally repeat a meal we've had earlier in the week, but sometimes it leads to some rather weird and wonderful creations. It's like the Masterchef Invention Test and I love it.
3) Love Your Store Cupboard
A well stocked store cupboard is one of the best tools you can equip yourself with for avoiding food waste. Having an array of spices, pulses, oils and vinegars (all of which last for months, no YEARS!) makes it a whole lot easier to pull together something delicious from nothing.
4) Store Foods Properly
Potatoes and onions can be kept for months in the dark. Packs of herbs like to be wrapped in a piece of damp kitchen paper. Mushrooms keep better once you remove the cling wrap. Salad perishes quicker once you've opened the bag but most other vegetables prefer to be out of the plastic. I use recycled mushroom containers in my fridge drawer to help keep veg organised once I've taken it out of its packaging.
5) Shop Small
Buying less is a surefire way to avoid waste but another way we can waste less is by supporting small supermarkets where we can just buy what we need. Using a butcher, fishmonger or greengrocer means that you can buy exactly the quantity that you need, rather then having to buy a whole packet of something at the supermarket.
This week I'm challenging myself to avoid throwing anything out! I've got a few leftovers in my fridge from my supper club at the weekend - some mashed potato, a pack of marinated anchovies and some olives. I've got half a tub of ricotta, some pureed spinach and a bit of vegetable stock leftover from recipe testing at the weekend too.