UK homes threw away around £13bn of food in 2015 alone. That’s around 7.3 million tons. And more than half this amount was classed as “avoidable”. The average household in Britain wastes around £500 of food every year, most of which could have been eaten with the necessary planning and organisation.
The truth is that most of the food we waste in our homes is avoidable. By planning shopping trips and meals better, we can save ourselves a huge amount of cash every year. And together, we can make a big difference to the environment.
We’ve compiled a list of simple ways you can drastically reduce food waste in your own home.
1. Change your shopping habits
We’ve been conditioned to buy food in bulk over the years. Supermarkets tempt us to spend more by offering bulk discounts, which sound great at first. But we often end up putting food in our baskets that we simply don’t need. Shopping this way can lead to serious waste.
One way to reduce this type of waste is to switch from big shops every week or two to smaller, daily shopping trips. Plan what you need for the following day, and make a quick stop at the supermarket when you have a few spare minutes. This is also a great way of staying active.
Never shop hungry, and always enter a store with a shopping list. Impulse purchases are much more likely when you’re shopping on an empty stomach without a plan of action.
2. Store your foods in the correct way
The incorrect storage of foods accounts for a huge amount of household waste in the UK. Whether you’re not sure how to store different foods or you’re struggling for space, there are a few quick ways to improve your food storage.
For example, instead of storing cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and onions in the fridge, store them at room temperature. And store foods that produce high amounts of ethylene gas separately. This gas speeds up the decomposition process. Such foods include bananas, avocados, pears, spring onions and tomatoes.
3. Use your leftovers
Make a commitment to keep leftovers for at least a day. If you have a microwave and a blender in your kitchen, there are many possible uses for leftover food. Store it in a sealed, plastic container, and put it in the fridge when it reaches room temperature.
For example, imagine you made a large roast lunch on Sunday. Gather together all your leftover vegetables, and seal them in airtight containers. The day after, you can chuck everything into your blender and make a fantastic vegetable soup in minutes.
4. Save your seeds
According to Healthline, the USA alone wastes around 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkin seeds a year. But it might surprise you to discover that pumpkin seeds are laden with beneficial nutrients. They’re packed with magnesium, which regulates blood pressure and blood sugars. And they taste great when prepared in the correct way.
Rather than dipping into a packet of crisps when you’re peckish, dip into a bowl of pumpkin seeds. Toss them in some olive oil, and roast them in the oven. They taste great and fill you up relatively quickly.
5. Save your overripened bananas
There are few things in a kitchen less appetising than a bunch of black bananas. The gases emitted by bananas gradually turn the skins black, but this is usually nothing more than a cosmetic issue. In fact, there’s evidence that black spots actually signify a more nutritious banana, delivering benefits such as heartburn relief, lowered blood pressure and increased energy.
If you’re not keen on eating blackened bananas, remove the skins and mash the flesh. As the bananas are very ripe, they’ll be naturally sweet, so you won’t need any other ingredients. Freeze your banana mash, and use it as a healthy, non-dairy ice cream substitute. Alternatively, use your bananas to make delicious bread and cake.
6. Blend everything
There’s very little in the average kitchen that can’t be blended. Whether you make a soup or a healthy smoothie, you can utilise foods you’d otherwise throw away. The next time you’re left with stems after preparing vegetables, throw them in your blender to create a delicious drink. The scraps from kale, chard, carrots and beets can all be liquidised.
And don’t stop at your vegetable scraps. Make some delicious soups by adding discarded peel, herbs, seeds and anything else that might be heading to the nearest bin.
7. Make your own stock
If you prepare a lot of food in your kitchen, you may never need to buy stock. Use your waste food to create a delicious base for your gravy and sauces. Start by frying up all the leftover bits of vegetable you have, including peels, stalks and tops. Then add water and a little oil, and season to taste. Bring the mixture to the boil, and then let it simmer for around 30 minutes. Strain the mixture, and you should be left with a flavoursome stock for use later.
Whether you’re left with a turkey carcass or some ribs, throw all of your waste meat products into a pan and boil them up with some oil and seasoning. Use the mixture as the base for a soup, or thicken it up to make a delicious gravy.
8. Use your freezer more
Freezers have a stigma associated with them, as they’re often viewed as a way to cut corners and live on convenience foods. But used in the right way, your freezer could save you a small fortune.
The next time you only need half the onion, chop the other half and freeze it. You can then use it straight from the freezer.
Make purees out of your chilli, ginger and garlic. Season to taste, and throw them in your blender. Freeze your purees in ice cube trays, and simply pop a puree cube directly into your curries and stews when you need added flavour. You can do this straight from the freezer.
9. Preserve more
Civilisations have been pickling and fermenting foods to extend their shelf life for centuries. And the process is so simple, anyone can do it in their own kitchen with the most basic of tools.
Pickle your excess fruits and vegetables the moment they cool. Just invest in some jars and lids, and the rest is easy. You can also dry certain foods in your own oven.
And if you invest in a little equipment, you can also can and ferment your leftover food. Every time you’re cooking with fresh ingredients, have your cans and jars ready.
10. Pack more lunches
How often do you grab a ready-made sandwich from the nearest shop when you’re at work? While eating out occasionally is great, it adds to food waste at home. While you’re chomping on your chicken wrap from the local coffee shop, your fresh chicken and salad vegetables at home are decomposing.
Buy some lunch boxes, and commit to making your own packed lunch at least two or three times a week. Use your leftover meats, preserved foods and anything else that is handy and ready to pack in the mornings. You can also make a fresh smoothie with leftovers and keep it cool in a thermal container until lunchtime.
Cutting down on food waste at home doesn’t just save you money, it saves the planet from unnecessary carbon emissions, too. And if you’re always conscious about saving food, the chances are you’ll healthier food more often