It's Stop Food Waste Day – 5 tips for reducing what you throw away
We should all be cutting down on the waste we produce – to celebrate Stop Food Waste Day, here are some tips on how to get started
About a month ago, as local authority staff numbers felt the bite of COVID-19, my council stopped collecting food waste. At first, my partner and I took the news as lazy millennials ought to; by shoving everything in the bin, shrugging and mumbling something about it not being our fault.
Before long, however, the act of callously and casually binning everything we’d normally recycle started to feel a bit criminal, so we began trying to cut down on food waste wherever possible.
Even if food waste is still being collected in your area, you might be able to reduce what you throw away in the first place. So, this Stop Food Waste Day, here are a few tips from our experience which might help you cut down on what you chuck.
1. Follow the right people
There’s no need to go it alone, especially if you’re new to waste reducing and still learning. Use food waste related hashtags like #foodwaste, #wastefree and #zerofoodwaste to find people on Instagram or Twitter who are already cutting down and sharing their tips and tricks.
Food sharing app Olio connects people with neighbours to share unwanted food. While a great waste-saving initiative in itself, its app could also be useful in providing assistance to a neighbour in need during lockdown. The Olio website contains advice on how to share safely while maintaining social distancing, and the company regularly posts waste-reducing tips on social media.
2. Plan your meals and only buy what you need
A shopping list really helps to avoid unnecessary items going in the trolley
Buying food just for the day isn’t really possible at the moment thanks to UK lockdown measures. But once lockdown's over, remember that buying food for a different meal each day can lead to leftover ingredients or cooked food going to waste. Batch cooking for a week or more is a more sustainable way to eat.
Plan and write down exactly what you need on a shopping list to avoid buying unnecessary stuff at the supermarket. This can also reduce the plastic packaging you use, and might even save you money. Plus, there's the added benefit of ensuring the shelves remain stocked for those who need supplies the most: our key workers.
Similarly, zero waste shops are a great way to limit shopping, if you’re boujee like that. They’ll give you an exact quantity of what you’re after and, more often than not, will fill your reusable tubs or provide paper bags to cut down on plastic. They're a bit pricey though.
If this all sounds awful because you've been binging the new Ready Steady Cook and want to test your ingenuity with whatever you can find at the petrol station, try limiting your creativity to the weekend while planning and batch cooking in the week.
3. Portioning, freezing and storing
Batch cooked meals like curry, chilli and bolognese freeze brilliantly
It's obviously better to have too much than too little, but it's important to avoid cooking an excessive amount of food at once – especially if storing it afterwards is difficult. Plan to batch cook meals like curry, chilli or bolognese to last three or four days and then weigh out your rice/pasta/bulk each day to ensure you aren't making too much. If you've made a bit too much of anything, remember to crack out the Tupperware and get your leftovers in the freezer.
Most meals, such as those mentioned above, freeze extremely well and can be easily reheated in the microwave or on the hob. Just remember to eat everything you put in the freezer. Pick at your frozen stash when you've had a hard day's working from home or plan in a freezer week once a month to take down all that spag you've accumulated.
Proper storage is also hugely important, as is keeping adequate space in the fridge. If you find your fruit and veg going off easily, check online whether it should be refrigerated or stored in a cupboard. Remember that while eggs last longer in the fridge, they can also be stored at room temperature. If you need a quick bit of fridge space temporarily, bang them in a cupboard for a few days.
If you are storing and reusing cooked rice, make sure that you chill it as soon as possible after cooking (don't leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours). Reheat it thoroughly using a bit of water; the steam will help heat the rice evenly.
4. Use your trimmings
Leftovers = stock
Even if you’ve planned, prepped and cooked as wisely as possible, you’ll still be left with peelings and the odd end of a carrot. Happily, you can use most of these to make your own kitchen and cupboard essentials.
Potato skins can be kept and fried to make crisps. Meat bones, fat and trimmings can be used to make stocks, as can vegetable offcuts like carrot peelings, broccoli stems and herb sprigs. Coffee grounds can be used as fertiliser on certain outdoor plants, and you can even reboil tea bags to make a good plant watering solution that keeps fungus at bay. Before you throw scraps away, check online to find out their uses.
5. Start composting
You don't even need a proper compost bin to get started. (It does help though)
While making stocks and being crafty is great, unfortunately certain things can’t be reused. Onion skins, for example, are pretty much useless – and tea bags, although re-boilable, will eventually need to be disposed of somehow. That’s where good old composting comes in.
Council food waste disposal often results in the waste being burnt to produce electricity or composted at scale, so doing it yourself can be the more eco-friendly option.
If you don’t have a compost bin already, they start from about £15 online. You could also buy yourself any old bin, drill some holes in the bottom and throw in some sticks, whack it on a pallet and get started (although with this method it becomes difficult to reach composted material at the bottom).
Remember to let your compost breathe by turning regularly. You'll also need to neutralise carbon and nitrogen in your compost by adding ‘brown material’ like paper and cardboard every other time you add ‘green material’ like food and kitchen waste. These tips both stop unwanted smells.
Good luck – and happy Stop Food Waste Day.