9 of the best apps to help you cut down on food waste
How to cut down on food waste. If you fail, let technology make it easier
Food waste is a massive issue, for a number of reasons. It's estimated that each year, each of us throws away over 100kg of food. That's 1.9 million tonnes of good food in the bin – and that's just in the UK.
It's almost as bad for the environment as plastic waste. We bin it and forget about it but, from there, it heads to landfill where it rots, giving off tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. If you think CO2 is bad for the environment, take a second to get alarmed about the fact that methane is 20 times as bad.
Gram for gram, there is a possibility that the food you put in your bin is causing more of a problem than the car sitting on your drive.
The amount of food we waste in the UK [Image: Which]
The cost of it all
The main issue here is the environment, I'm not going to pretend otherwise, but let's think about the other ways this affects each of us. How much do you think 100kg of food, the amount we each get rid of every year, costs? Obviously it depends what you're throwing out – if you're sending caviar to landfill you've obviously got money to burn! If we think about it in the simplest terms, bags of sugar, it's around £130 per year.
This is going to be dramatically more if you're not randomly disposing of sugar by the kilo, and throwing away the things we routinely have to. Things like the fruit and veg you forgot you had, the meat that went out of date without you realising, the tins that have been at the back of the cupboard for years, and the bread you didn't use because you overestimated how into toast the kids were.
Regardless of what your kitchen is stocked with, 100kg of waste = a lot of money, so if you can't get interested in cutting down to help the environment, you really need to cut down to help yourself.
I know! I am as bad as anyone for forgetting that the cooked ham needed eaten or discovering that (shocker!) a bread roll will not still be ok to eat after a week and a half. It is difficult and no matter how environmentally and/or financially conscious you are, we all fall foul of this now and again.
What can I do?
Planning meals is a great way to help with this. Before you go shopping, take note of what you have in the kitchen that needs eaten and plan to eat it. Then, decide what you want to have every day over and above that and make a list of what you need to make that happen. Buy it, eat it, job done.
This is easier said than done because we all want a snack now and again and things catch your eye in the shop and you can change your mind about what to have one day. It can very easily fall by the wayside. Then there are the remains of what you have eaten that make their way to the back of the fridge, never to see the light of day again.
It's worth remembering that 'best before' dates are not the day you need to eat things by and food is often good for a while beyond this. The 'used by' ones are the ones you need to be more vigilant with as these tend to indicate that the food is less safe to be eaten after a certain date.
It's probably out of date
That said, freezing is a good option and, if that date is fast approaching, you can extend the life of the food by putting it in the freezer
There is a good chance I'm not telling you anything new here, it's all very much using common sense and, let's face it, we are already doing that but still managing to waste food, accidentally or otherwise.
...Time to let technology help...
It's not the first thing you think of when you think about help in the kitchen but those in charge of making very helpful apps have realised this is an area where we are in need of assistance, and are only too happy to oblige.
In the time it takes you to download an app to your phone or mobile device, you can have a number of features that make the task at hand so much easier by recording what you have and potentially reminding you what needs eaten when. They are magical and we should all have one.
Here is a selection of the top 9 for you to choose from.
NoWaste is a free app that allows you to track the food in your house as well as your environmental impact, so you can see the rewards in terms of pounds and trees! It's really simple to use: just scan the barcode on the items you have purchased and it will recognise the product and the use by date, before logging it into your virtual larder. You can check back to see what you have from anywhere and use the app to make meal plans based on what you have. It can give you a reminder of when things need eaten and, when you eat them, tell the app and it'll update the larder. Simple.
It can also be accessed by others in the house so you don't plan a meal with something that someone has made off with a few days previously! It tracks any food that has gone to waste and, over time, can tell you how much you are improving, which is incentive to keep it up – if ever you needed it.
Nosh offers a very similar service to NoWaste, but with the addition of recipe suggestions. This is a brilliant idea as, if the food has sat untouched for long enough for it to be of attention, there is a possibility it's because you are bored with how you normally have it. This means you can use it up and mix it up a little too.
It also has a shopping list function which is really handy as, when you use something, it automatically adds it to a list of things you have run out of so that you have it for your next trip to the store.
Much the same as the other apps available, CozZo stands out because, as well as keeping track of your waste and telling you how well you're doing, it keeps track of general usage so you don't buy things you are unlikely to use.
Overbuying is one of the biggest causes of food waste. You think you'll eat all 6 croissants so you get the 6 pack, and a week and a half later, 2 of them need to be thrown out. This tells you when you've run out of something but also how much of it was used and how much was thrown out, so you don't go lifting the 6 pack the next time you get the shopping.
...Helping others by using their food waste...
This might sound disgusting, but it's an amazing thing. There are apps out there that allow your local restaurants, cafés, supermarkets, etc., to upload food they have that they are going to have to get rid of as it's too close to the best before date. You have a browse of what's available and buy what you fancy.
This stops it going to waste because you buy it on the basis that it needs eaten within the next couple of days, but it also saves you a stack of money because these goods are available at a much reduced rate. Win, win, win!
Here is a selection of apps with this genius feature.
Too Good To Go
This free app is used by tonnes of restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries, and other lovely places. They upload the things they are unlikely to use within a timeframe that they find acceptable, and upload it to the app at a dramatically reduced price. You can browse what's available, choose what you want, and pay for it. They will then reserve it for you and you go get it. Simple as that.
You can tell the app how far you are willing to travel, too. If you want to travel 50 miles for a bargain, you absolutely can, but if you'd rather stay local, just tell it and it will show you what's on offer.
There are absolute bargains to be had, people have been known to get upwards of £25 worth of groceries for less than a fiver!
This app is much the same as Too Good to Go but it includes take away food. I'm sorry – if a half price lunch or dinner is on offer, i'm going to take it. It also has a shorter turnaround time, so you can order your food and go collect it that day, rather than waiting until the next day.
This app allows you to browse groceries and local produce made by local, independent businesses, who are always paid a fair price for the service. They deliver the food to your door and this includes things like fruit and veg, meat, groceries, etc. Their employed delivery drivers will even take away any packaging and recycle it responsibly, for a truly sustainable interaction.
There is also a section for recipes that allows you to see what's in season at the moment and check out lots of recipes to give you inspiration. Sadly, this is only available in and around London, at the moment, but we have high hopes that they will be looking to expand soon.
This offering is more community based and allows neighbours to interact with each other and share items. If you have food that's close to its use by date and you know you're not going to be able to use it, you can take a photo and upload it with a short description of the item. Anyone in your neighbourhood can then decide to come get it from you and use it. This is more of an alternative to throwing out and people have said it's particularly useful for getting rid of food when they are starting a diet.
Some people are taking advantage of this to move on their home grown items. If you thought planting 100 tomato seeds was a good idea but are now struggling to get through them you can offer them up on the app and feed your locale.
Having realised that there are many other things in the house we may end up throwing away, the app also enables you upload random household goods like gadgets and gym equipment so you can get a massive cake and a step master to help work it off.
...Taking it one step further...
We want to cut down on food waste to make sure that we are living as sustainably as possible, but why not take it to the next level and ensure that what we are buying is as sustainable as it can be? There are apps out there that will allow you to investigate the sustainability and ethical principles of the company who produced the food, at the touch of a button.
You can even take this knowledge with you as you eat out by selecting restaurants that use local produce, sourced in the most sustainable ways.
Download this app and you have all the information you will ever need to give you peace of mind that you are buying food from a truly reputable source. Scan the item you want to buy and it will give you information about how it was produced, any additives you might need to know about, how healthy it is, and a bit about the company's reputation. They can also tell you about their animal welfare standards and plastic use. If there are healthier and more ethical alternatives available, it will give you those too, making your decision easier.
This is for the sustainability-minded consumer who not only wants to fill their home with the most ethical goods available, but who wants to only give their business to companies who do the same.
This app will show you restaurants who obtain their goods in the most sustainable way, buying local produce where possible. You can also then browse their menu because, while sustainability is what you are looking for, you also want something tasty.