“Finish your plate! There are starving children in Africa!” That classic parental guilt trip probably never got any kid motivated to eat their soggy broccoli, much less spark a passion for food waste issues. But now all that has changed.
The world’s top chefs are all about food waste right now - showing us that creative cuisine that lets nothing go to waste is anything but boring. Michelin star New York chef Dan Barber has started wastED popup restaurants, dedicated to the theme of eliminating food waste. Hipster bars like Scout in East London, or Nine Lives Bermondsey are starting a ‘closed loop’ cocktail trend.
Food waste is definitely having a moment. And for good reason, because here's the astounding thing:
If food waste around the world were reduced by just 25%, there would be enough food for every single person on the planet.
What's worse, close to 30% of agricultural land is used to grow or farm food that is subsequently thrown out. That’s right – we are trashing the planet to grow food that no one will eat.
Feeling angry yet? Don’t worry – here are 10 things you can do today to combat food waste.
10 ways to combat food waste
1. Shop smart and realistically. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But with our busy lifestyles, we forget to sit down and plan meals – even though in the end this would save time and money. Buy exactly what you need – purchasing loose fruit & veg and scooping dry goods from bulk bins using produce bags is a great to do this.
2. Buy the funny looking fruit and veg. Up to 40% of vegetables are thrown out because they don’t meet the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets. Looks don’t matter – the ugly ones taste just as good and are often cheaper.
3. Store food properly. This is so simple, but often overlooked. Storing fruit and veg in the right temperature and conditions will go a long way to extending shelf life.
4. Avoid clutter. This shouldn’t just be for your wardrobe. Keeping food in your fridge and pantry neat and visible will prevent the dreaded mouldy vegetables at the back of the fridge. Use glass jars and labels. When buying new groceries, move the older products to the front so you consume them first. Check out Keep It Cool for more tips
5. Use up as much as possible. Keep the skin on fruit and vegetables to pick up extra nutrients. Make soups and juices when they start softening. Pay attention to use-by dates but be wary of sell-by and best-before dates – they’re often arbitrary and not related to food safety. Trust your senses, or look at online references like FoodKeeper. Experiment with new recipes to use up soured milk or stale bread.
6. Freeze! You can freeze almost any kind of food to keep it going off in the fridge – even milk, flour or eggs. Keep food in containers or wrap to avoid drying out. Food can look different once frozen, so it helps to label containers to avoid defrosting a hummus instead of chocolate mousse, or any similar tragedy!
7. Pickle it, just a little bit. Too many end-of season fruit and veggies? Canning, pickling and preserving are a delicious way to extend shelf life for months.
8. The leftovers struggle is real. Save uneaten food when you’ve over-cooked at home or over-ordered at a restaurant (bonus points if you bring your own reusable container!). Label your leftovers with the date, and make them part of your routine.
9. Is there an App for that? Yep! There are new apps constantly being released to help tackle food waste. Too Good To Go or Lunchie allow you to collect cheap restaurant leftovers that would have been thrown out. Olio helps you share food with neighbours. Winnow helps you monitor and cut back your food waste. Handpick suggests recipes from food you have on hand, and there are many other meal planning apps you could download.
10. Compost, but only as your last option. Rather than sending food scraps to landfill, where they will emit methane, they can be turned into nutrient-rich fertiliser either from your food waste collection or in your own backyard. Get you composting tips from our Rot 'n' Roll guide.