In the UK as in other parts of the world, millions of tons of edible food are being wasted. There are schemes in place to reduce wastage, but there is more to be done. Wasted food is wasted money and an additional strain on waste resources. I have a few suggestions for reducing waste food but hope that you will be able to also give your suggestions on how to reduce food waste.
At what stage is food being wasted?
Looking at figures for the UK supplied by the Government in 2016/17 the estimated losses post farmgate were;
- less than 1% or 0.04 million tons
- Food waste in litter
- 1% or 0.1 million tons
- 2% or 0.25 million tons
- Hospitality and food service
- 9% or 0.9 million tons
- 17% or 1.7 million tons
- 71% or 7.3 million tons (36% of which is fresh produce)
As can be clearly seen, household waste is responsible for around 71% of all food wastage (around £20 billion). Why are households wasting such huge amounts of feed, we have access to efficient refrigeration and freezing in most homes, yet 7.3 million tons of food is being wasted each year from UK households.
One of the reasons I believe, must be the reliance on best before and use by dates. People seem to have lost the ability to use their judgement on whether a food is edible or not.
Best before date
The ‘best before date’ is based on the quality of the product not safety. This means the product may lose some of its colour, texture or flavour after the best before date has passed but can still be perfectly safe to consume. If stored correctly and has remained uncontaminated then these products can have a period after the best before date in which they are perfectly safe to consume. In general if the produce looks, feels, smells (and ultimately tastes) ok it will be safe to eat particularly if being cooked thoroughly before consuming.
Use by date
The term ‘use by’ is used to label food that is highly perishable and can, after a short period constitute a danger to health if consumed after the use by date. Correct storage will maintain the product safely to the use by date. There are ways to extend this ‘use by date’ though.
Freezing for example will extend the life of the product. Approximately 800,000 tons of food worth £2bn is disposed of each year which could have been frozen and eaten at a later date.
Cooking products either on their own or as an ingredient and then freezing will also extend the safe shelf life of the product. Remember to clearly label foods with the date of freezing.
Ingredients for Recipes
Another way in which food goes to waste is the buying of ingredients for recipes for which only a small proportion is used for the recipe and the rest ends up in a cupboard and ultimately disposed of or goes straight into the bin. With so many recipes calling for a pinch of this, one of those, the zest of this, a grating of that or half of one of those, so much good edible food is going to waste.
So what can we do?
One way we can reduce the amount of food wastage (and packaging) is to make better use of local farm shops, farmers markets, box schemes and smaller/independent retailers such as greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers who are happy to sell items in the quantity you need. The produce will be fresher, last longer, taste better and be more beneficial to your health and the environment.
One of the reasons people give for buying at a supermarket is the cheaper prices. This is just not the case, we already know that consumers throw away around £20 billion of food each year in the UK. By spending slightly more for a superior local product in the quantity required you will actually be saving money by minimising wastage.
Supermarkets are very good at promotion and advertising, particularly with their multibuys. For example buy three for the price of two, you think you are getting a bargain but end up throwing one away. All of a sudden the price paid per item has gone up and you paid more for the two items than if you just bought the two originally. Some offers are good but don’t forget the only winner is the supermarket they do not do anything unless there is a profit in it for them. They know that you are very unlikely to just buy the one offer, you are most likely going to buy other products whilst you are there and that is how they maximise their profit and turnover.
Store all produce properly
Store all produce as advised and if you feel you have too much of something look at other ways of making use of it. Use in different recipes, freeze or cook and freeze for example.
If you find you have surplus of a product and can’t find another way of keeping it, donate it whilst it is still edible. This could be to neighbours who could make use of it or to one of the many charities around the country providing meals for the homeless etc.
Make better use of Recipes
To those that devise recipes that call for the use of half of this or the zest of that etc. please include additional recipes showing ways that use up the remaining ingredients. Additionally devising recipes that include quantities of ingredients commonly available as a standard pack size would appear to be useful.
Grow your own
Growing as much as is possible is a great way to have the best fresh produce and by conserving/preserving you could be eating your produce all year. Making jams, pickles, wine etc. are all good ways of preserving your produce.
Well what ideas do you have?
I have outlined five ways in which I feel food waste could be reduced, what do you think? Do you have any ideas? I would love to hear your ideas, please use the contact form below to let me know your thoughts and suggestions.
Thanks for reading.
Justin – founder of TWITWAY