Since beginning my journey to reduce my waste, food has always been one of the hardest areas to fix. Whether it’s the pointless packaging or buying more than I need, there always seemed to be something being put in the bin (or compost). This cycle took a while to get out of, and it’s not until recently that with the aid of milk delivery, fruit and veg box, and local refill shops that I’ve been able to feel a bit more accomplished in this region.
Once I started really getting into researching about sustainable diets, it was clear that there are so many aspects to consider when reviewing the environmental element of diet and actually it is a really complex topic. You have to take into account the growing conditions, regions, climate, level of agriculture, degradation from practices, food miles and of course all carbon emission from seed to plate. Some foods have much higher emissions than others, and these were discussed in the last blog. However, what was shocking was to find that actually if you want to cut you plate emissions, you need to combat food waste.
This food waste isn’t just the stuff that might go bad because you’ve forgotten about it. This is the food which is wasted because it doesn’t meet the ridiculous beauty standards from supermarkets, the food which isn’t sold in supermarkets, and then the food which is bought and never used. There are so many steps before purchasing food which create waste and cause large emissions.
Firstly, we need to have a large uprising of people combatting the beauty standards of supermarkets for many fruits and vegetables. This is well illustrated through the Wonky Veg schemes which target fresh produce that might not meet the physical look of what we have been trained to want, even though the taste and nutritional value is the same. This means that we need to be promoting and supporting farms which refuse to waste perfectly good food on the subject of looks! We then need make sure that in the face of a supermarket full of perfectly shaped red peppers, we maybe buy the one that’s a bit odd.
This leads on to what we can do in the shops. The majority of waste from supermarkets, especially in the fruit and veg sections, is the produce which is a bit odd. You know that slightly disfigured broccoli, or bumpy potato that is always left at the end. Yes, that one. We need to pick it up, buy it, and make sure it’s not wasted!
Then we need to think about the food we put in the bin (or compost). Everyone is guilty of forgetting about that spinach in the back of the fridge drawer, or opening that jar of tinned tomatoes and leaving the remnants for far too long. These are the things which can seem unavoidable, and really the only solution with those is food prep.
However, one thing most people can work on is the amount we buy. Getting into the mindset of buying what you need, when you need it. Moving away from the weekly or two weekly shop and trying to incorporate your fresh produce purchases into a pick up when you need sort of schedule.
When you’re going on holiday, make sure you’re eating your way through your fridge, and preparing to freeze anything appropriate which you think might not make it till your back.
I thought I would make the end of this blog all about the most commonly wasted foods, and how we can stop this:
Over 240 million slices of bread are chucked away every year! However, bread is perfect for freezing! If you have a sliced loaf, you can take a frozen slice straight to the toaster, et voila – perfect toast! Second to this, if you’ve left it out and it goes stale you’ve got croutons, breadcrumbs, French toast, or even a bread and butter pudding! If you would like that crisp freshly baked feeling to your bread – Sophie’s tip is (also an old french baker tip) – lightly splash with water or rub a damp cloth over the bread and bake again at a low heat for 5-10 minutes.
Also, side note, don’t keep your bread in the fridge. When bread has been baked it slowly begins a process called retrogradation which is where starch molecules begin to dry out or crystalize (go stale) and does this faster in the fridge. This is because water molecules detach from starch to make this happen, which is sped up when at fridge temperatures!
Milk / Mylk
Around 5.9 million glasses of milk are poured down the drain because it has gone off. Top tip is that if you keep an eye on the date and know it’s going to go off, and you don’t think you can drink it all before then, you can freeze some milks or, make a meal with a milk-based sauce, or smoothies and puddings too! This is the case for both milk and ‘mylk’ because they have such short lives.
We’ve all came to the cupboard and they’ve started sprouting! There are around 5.8 million potatoes discarded each year. To help with this make sure your storing conditions are ideal – they love dark and cold places! You can also cut the sprouting bits off the potato and cook as normal. If you think they’re going to be wasted try bulk making a big meal and freeze, or always a good option…SOUP. Another classic is the bubble and squeak dish, which really is the top dog of the food waste world!
This one really grates on me (we all love puns here). Cheese is something that lasts an extremely long time, and actually when a bit goes hard or mouldy, it is OK to just chop that bit off! The whole block isn’t bad, just that one part. Don’t get put off. Just chop it off and make sure to use the rest!
Around 1.3 million are thrown away annually and this is outrageous because they are delish! To make then last longer is similar to the potatoes – cool, dark and well-ventilated areas and the best. Try and avoid them touching each other (if one apple goes bad and it touches another it will spread) and keep them dry. Any dodgy looking ones can be chopped up into a smoothie, a soup, stewed or baked into a crumble!
SOUP. That is all. Ok, soup, stews, casseroles OR all sorts of pasta and curry sauces!
All in all, food waste will probably continue to be a global problem. Busy lives mixed with food standards and ultimately the concept of too much choice means that our cupboards and fridges are most of the time overflowing with produce.
There are some principle mindsets which need to be changed to combat this, primarily the stockpiling attitude and the pressure we put on our food to look good. Then after that, it’s about being aware and conscious of what food we already have and being able to plan and adapt to using it up.
It’s somewhat infuriating that every day, there are 815 million people globally going to bed without finding a meal, while the rest of ‘us’ forget what we even have lurking in the back of our fridge drawers.
One simple tip I have for you. If you open your fridge and can’t see every single item in there, without having to move things around, you have too much. Being able to see what you have not only allows for subconscious awareness for meals, but avoids ‘forgetting’ about the food you have spent money on, and leaving it to rot in the back.
Next week I will be investigating all of the best secrets for meal prepping, perfect for avoiding your food waste!