While food shortage remains a global crisis and people in the UK are facing the pressure of increasing food prices, nearly 7 million tonnes of edible food are thrown away in the country every year. It sounds ridiculous. And even more surprising is that over 70% of food waste actually happens at HOME rather than in businesses or restaurants. We can definitely help reduce food waste, and its impact on the environment – 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be prevented by saving food from household bins in the UK, according to WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), a climate action NGO. Let’s take action to save our planet while also saving your money on food. Here are somethings we can do.
Save money by only buying what you are likely to eat
The first and probably the easiest thing you can do is to buy only what you need. Plan before you shop. Look at your fridge, freezer and cupboard, and write down what and how many you need. You may not be aware that nearly 1 in 5 bags of food bought actually ends up being binned. An average Oxfordshire household could save as much as £700 a year by only buying food that will be eaten, according to Oxfordshire County Council. Just buy food that you are likely to eat. It helps save the Earth as well as your money!
Store your food properly to reduce food waste
Keep an eye on your most vulnerable fresh food. Put them into the fridge, which should be set to between 3 and 5 degrees. Also pay attention to the way you store your food in the fridge, which also has an impact on how long the food will stay fresh. Check this Section-by-Section Guide to Storing Foods in the Fridge. Keeping your fridge organized doesn’t just make it easier for you to get what you want; it also helps preserve your food and prevent cross contamination.
Besides, never overfill your fridge. Leaving space for air circulation is essential for maintaining the right temperature.
For those food you haven’t had time to eat, freeze them – any time before the date on the label. It makes your food last longer. You can freeze bread in a sealed bag or container for up to 3 months. Frozen food in general is best eaten between 3 – 6 months.
Eat or use all edible parts of your food
Do you know it’s not necessary to peel carrots and potatoes? Wash them thoroughly and you can eat everything. The end slices of a loaf of bread are actually perfect mini pizza bases. Simply add some cheese and topping, and they will end up as a super fast and cheap snack. For bones and carcass meat, you can use them to make stock. There are many ways that you can make the most of your food. Waste less and you can save more.
Use what you buy – including leftovers
Serving the right portions. Limiting any uneaten food going into bins. Leftover bread is actually great for making breadcrumbs. Leftover cooked chicken and turkey could be added to salads and sandwiches. If you have fruit that is going a bit soft, whizz it up in a blender with some milk or yoghurt for a smoothie. Old apples are also great in pickles, chutneys and curry. Bendy carrots, soft swede or cabbage all can be used to make a coleslaw. You can get more ideas from the food-saving recipes of lovefoodhatewaste, an initiative of WRAP.
Get to know the meaning of date labels on your food
Last but not least, be smart with the date labels. You may find three different dates on food packaging, which are:
The “Best Before” date is about food quality, giving you clues about freshness, taste and texture. After this date, the food may not be at its best, but is still safe to eat.
The “Use By” date is for food safety. Never eat food after this date, even it still looks and smells okay.
This information is for retailers only and you don’t have to bother.
We only need to stick to the “Use By” date and should not eat food after this date even though it may appear perfectly fine to eat, but could still lead to food poisoning. However, pre-packaged food is actually safe for consumption beyond the “Best Before” date. If stored properly, the food quality may even remain unchanged for a long time after this pre-set date. Here is a reference provided by lovefoodhatewaste about how long after the “Best Before” date the stated food items can be eaten.
|Canned food||12 months|
|Dried pasta||3 years|
|Pasta sauce||12 months|
Some food such as uncut fruit and vegetables and wine are not required to have a date label. In fact, more and more retailers are removing “Best Before” dates on their fresh produce in order to fight against food waste. It is found in a study carried out by WRAP that there was a significant decrease in household food waste after removing the “Best Before” dates. This is because people judge on their own whether something is still good to eat rather than being influenced by the date label.
The organisation also suggests retailers to sell fresh produce loose rather than pre-packed. This allows people to buy only what they need, making it much more likely they will be able to eat what they have bought before the food goes off.
Best before but good after
With tonnes of food that is still good to eat being thrown away every year, there is growing concern about food waste. This gives rise to a number of retailers selling short-dated and expired goods ranging from pre-packaged food to personal hygiene and household products at discounted prices much lower than they originally cost (some may be up to 80% off). Here a few of them:
- Approved Food in the UK
Established in 2009, it is an online store selling short-dated and residual stock. It claims its regular customers typically save around £60 on their monthly shop compared to high street prices.
- WeFood in Denmark
It is the first surplus food supermarket in Denmark selling goods that ordinary supermarkets can no longer sell because of incorrect labels, overdue of “Best Before” dates, or damaged packaging. Products are often sold with a discount of 30-50%. The organisation’s first shop was opened on Amager in 2016, and now they have a branch at Nørrebro.
- SirPlus in Germany
It sells goods rejected by other shops because they are visually unappealing, mislabelled, or near or past the “Best Before” date. On average, products sold there are 70% cheaper than in conventional supermarkets.
- GreenPrice in Hong Kong
Founded by four college students in 2016 in Hong Kong, GreenPrice is a social enterprise specialized in retailing of surplus and short-dated goods, with a mission to reduce waste and promote sustainable living.
Food is not rubbish; there are 795 million people in the world who are undernourished. Cherish what you have. Take care of your food when it is in your home. Make sure every edible morsel is eaten and your food doesn’t end up in the bin.