There’s been a lot of press grumble recently about the horrors of food waste in the UK, culminating this week in the East Of England Co-Op food stores announcing that they will now continue to sell dried and canned food past it’s best before date. This is a great move by the Co-op, for altruistic and PR reasons alike.
You may have heard the stats- more than 7 million tonnes of food waste is getting chucked in the bin every year in the UK and this has spawned all kinds of celebrity chef books and interweb offal recipes but why do we care? It’s only food, right?
Right. If you don’t despise the idea of paying to put stuff in the bin (weirdo) there is also the consideration to make that we are running out of landfill space. Your lovely government types also seem hellbent on removing every scrap of public service that they can get away with, and this includes your friendly neighbourhood binman. If I lived in a house roughly ten miles to the right of my own, my rubbish collections would be halved for austerity measures written by a bunch of suits who get a fully stocked free canteen every day. Any idea how much gets chucked out from there on a daily basis?
Food waste is also potentially really shit for the environment- especially when you start pouring your out of date pint of semi skimmed down the sink or consider the extra CO2 miles involved in transporting all of your manky carrots and mouldy bacon to the local tip.
I could go on but I won’t, instead I’m going to chuck out a few ideas of how you can easily reduce the amount that you waste in your home without resorting to a biomass burner or bonebroth and gruel heavy diet. Make a change, man in the mirror, all that shiz. Here go.
As a gardening bore, compost availability is a direct indicator of my general quality of life. No, I don’t get out much actually, why do you ask???
On a serious note, if you have a garden then you have some call for compost and kitchen bits can really boost it by varying the nutrients and fibre availability from rotting down your garden waste alone. To be very clear, I am only talking about veg waste and eggs shells you do not want to put any meat, bones, dairy or bready produce into compost because it will go rancid and stink and attract rats and maggots and other such beauties. Any kind of raw or cooked fruit or veg, coffee grinds and some teabags* are fine compost fodder, eggs shells and the odd sheet of newspaper are also winning additions for your home made dirt. I’m not just talking about potato peelings and carrot tops here either. Forgot about that box of mushrooms in the back of the fridge for two weeks and now they look like they’re covered in ectoplasm? Compost. Discarded lime wedges from your G&T? Compost. Peas, swede and cabbage left over from Sunday lunch plates (because there’s always room to finish the yorkshires)? COMPOST.
And don’t tell me compost is a pain. It isn’t. If you have 2 square feet spare in the back of the garden you can compost. Just buy a bin it won’t be more than £15 if you google shop and put it on some bare earth in the back and away you go (get one with a little hatch at the base). Then keep a tasteful, over priced Compost Caddy handy for your trimmings or, if you are a Luddite like me you can just use a bowl and empty it out as you go. If it isn’t enough that you get to give a little bit back to your begonias next spring, you will also support worms and similar buggers in your garden and save yourself money on those horrid food waste bin liners.
Go extra- if you are a gardening fan save your cheese rinds, broken biscuits, cake scraps and apple cores for the bird table.
*check manufacturer info for these as some teabags contain plastics
Shop smart and shop late
I do the famed British ‘Big Shop’ once a week and by Wednesday I’m usually stopping in at our local convenience store of choice for top up items. Over the past six years of coupled bliss I have learned
three many things from the Mr, including the unbridled joy of Vulture’s Corner- that little end section in the fridge aisle of yellow stickered wonders. Thanks to the often non-science used to calculate the BB4 date you will find all sorts of treats here with significant savings due to being within 24 hours of the fictional turn of the clock when all food turns to evil fairy dust. Not sure what to do for dinner? Look here first, and save yourself some money and the rest of us another couple of inches of landfill.
I feel it necessary to add that this tactic does not work if you buy stuff you don’t need or won’t use just becuase it has 80% off. Like 5 pints of milk for 30p when you live alone or three kilos of turkey mince that no one likes. Do however opt for anything that you can freeze but remember to do so as soon as you get home.
Go extra- stop buying stuff you don’t really like. Just stop. Life is too short to waste on quiona salads that never get finished.
I am honestly not one to push that V word on anyone, but there is mounting evidence out there that making a modest reduction in your consumption of animal produce has a significant impact on your own immediate health and that of the planet we all live on. I love meat and you can take my cheese from my cold dead hands but I stopped buying meat for weekday consumption about five months ago and I can’t say that we have suffered for it. In fact our weekly shopping bill has come down by about fifteen quid/ 25% for this and we very rarely find scary furry stuff in the fridge any more. It’s dead easy to let a broccoli rot away in the drawer when you have all that tasty chicken to put in a curry after all. By swapping out meat in most of our dinners we use a lot more long-life items like canned beans and lentils and never, ever miss our five-a-day veggie goal. This does not make us the vegan police, it has made us a bit better off though as most vegetables and pulses are cheaper than meaty options and last a lot longer.
Go extra- make an active choice to cut fresh meat from your Monday-Friday menu unless you have found a yellow sticker deal, then enjoy your Sunday roast all the more for it.
Check Your Storage
It is amazingly easy to decrease the shelf life of your shopping with how you store your grub, and also easy to avoid. Take your veg out of the wee plastic bags before it goes in the fridge to keep air moving and avoid early slime spoilage. If you can’t keep your potatoes in the dark then at the very least avoid any direct sunlight on them and don’t keep bananas alongside your other fruit (unless you are trying to ripen them quickly).
Go extra- always keep strong tasting stuff in good quality sealed tupperware boxes in the fridge to avoid them tainting other foods. The worst offenders are onions, cooked eggs and strong spices. Chocolate is particularly susceptible to taking on bad tastes from the fridge too so make sure you eat it all at once or, if you do store it, keep it well sealed.
Give It Away.
Give it away give it away now.
Remember that multi buy deal cereal thing you fell for only to discover that you actually hate museli? How about your home made hummus phase that died out before your chickpea stockpile was even slightly depleted? Get nine boxes of biscuits for Christmas when you’re starting a strict low carb regime on new years day?
Don’t chuck it. Please. Poverty is a shocking and consistent problem in the UK with a heart breaking number of families reliant on food banks and breakfast clubs to ensure that they hit three meals a day and while you might argue that this isn’t really your problem you can still be part of the solution. If you have in-date and hardy items in your cupboards that you are not going to eat then please, please don’t throw them in the bin. Foodbanks provide essential aid to families who may well not be that far removed from your own and will accept that pack of pasta that you can’t eat on your Atkins plan with open armed glee. Many supermarkets have a foodbank collection point or you can look up your local one here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/
Go extra- some food banks will also accept donations of cleaning items and toiletries if you can bare to part with that 1996 bottle of radox that you keep knocking off the end of the bath.
a couple of additional links for the extra inspired: