The average UK household will waste about 10% of their weekly food shop, which adds up to food waste costing £15 billion each year when you factor in waste disposal costs too.
But not only does food waste cost most UK households around £500 a year, it’s also bad for the environment. More food requires more land clearing for farming, while the additional landfill and waste disposal needs can lead to more dangerous emissions.
So here are some ways you can cut down your food-print.
Control your portion size
How often do you get to the end of your meal and there’s still some left on your plate or you feel uncomfortably full? A smaller serving size can help you cut down on food waste – particularly if you don’t like saving plated food for leftovers.
And how on earth do you measure the right amount of spaghetti? Seemingly every time you cook it there’s enough left in the pot to solve world hunger.
Well if you make a circle with your forefinger and the fleshy part at the base of your thumb, that’s enough for one serve. Slide your finger up to your thumb knuckle, and that’s enough for 2 people. And tip of forefinger to tip of thumb is enough for 4 people.
You can also do a loose-ish fistful of smaller shapes per person.
Make the most of your leftovers
If you’re batch cooking, sometimes you can barely face the prospect of eating the same thing yet again. So, why not turn your leftovers into something else?
If you can get through 500 words of backstory for each recipe, there are food blogs filled with great ideas to trick yourself into eating the same thing a different way. Or check out Best Leftovers Ever! on Netflix for inspiration.
Or if you’re feeling community-minded, offer up some of your batch cooking to your neighbours – especially if they are shielding of self-isolating.
Sticking to a shopping list can help you manage your budget, but it can also help you avoid food waste. By planning your meals in advance, you’ll know exactly what and how much you need.
And did you know there’s a difference between “use by” and “best before” dates? Although they might seem similar, food marked “best before” can still be eaten after the date – though it might not be at its peak.
Food marked “use by” should not be consumed after that date unless frozen prior to the date.
You can also save money and reduce food waste by keeping an eye out for yellow sticker markdowns in your local supermarket if you shop towards the end of the day. You can freeze things before their best before date and save them for another day if you find too many bargains to eat at once!
Take it freezey
Buying frozen produce is a good way to not only cut down food waste, but to shop economically too – especially if you don’t need to use the entire item in your dish.
And it’s OK to decide not to cook and order a takeaway one night but check to see what in your fridge is close to expiry and freeze it if you can. That way you don’t have to throw food away unnecessarily.
But be mindful that once you defrost something, you should use it straight away and shouldn’t re-freeze it.
Freezing bread for toast works well, as does freezing fresh herbs, chillies or chopped garlic. Simply pop them in an ice block tray and fill the rest of mould with water for manageable quantities – or substitute water for melted butter if you’re feeling especially decadent!
Join the movement
There are companies like Oddbox who package up surplus or irregular fruit and veg and send it straight to your home. The produce is perfectly good, but blemishes, odd colouring or shapes may lead your local supermarket to turn their nose up at it, and you can get it at a good price.
Plus, there’s the excitement of opening up your box, seeing what’s inside and creating your menu for the week like it’s your own version of Iron Chef.
Too Good To Go is another app trying to cut down food waste. It offers “magic bags” from local cafes, restaurants, shops and food suppliers filled with food that might otherwise go to landfill if not sold that day.
It’s a great way to get a low-cost, low-effort dinner while supporting local business and cutting down on food waste.
Compost with the most
Even if you don’t have space to compost your food waste yourself, many councils now offer a specific food waste collection in a separate bin.
Find out what you can recycle in your area if you live in a London borough (or check your local council website if you live outside London).
Your council may also have community gardens programmes you can donate your food scraps to. And if you’ve got a communal garden where you live, you may be able to compost your food waste there.