By Charlotte Hawkins, Volunteer Contributor
As a society, we waste a lot of food. It is estimated that a shocking one third of food produced never gets eaten – weighing 10 million tonnes, which ends up in landfill, and creating 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
The good news is that, due to changing laws on waste disposal and a greater awareness of the problem highlighted by campaigns such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's War on Waste, this has reduced by 11% in the last ten years. Some supermarkets have started to sell "imperfect" fruit and veg which are not deemed acceptable enough to pass exacting cosmetic standards. Some supermarkets have also ended multi-buy offers on fresh food which encourage shoppers to buy more than they need. A cynic would argue that this has been done for commercial and marketing reasons rather than out of a genuine concern for the environment, but either way, this has made a small dent in the amount of food produced and wasted, so can only be for the good. But there is still a long, long way to go.
A major part of True Food's ethos is to avoid all forms of waste, so True Food takes proactive measures to reduce waste in every area. To minimise the impact of unnecessary packaging, True Food:
- Recycles glass, plastic, paper & card
- Encourages customers to use their own bags, bottles and boxes (including egg boxes)
- Cardboard boxes from deliveries are reused by customers taking their shopping home
- Sells oats, muesli, eggs, cleaning products and oils in bulk-buy containers
But it's not just about the packaging. True Food also strives to reduce food waste as much as possible:
- Past-its-best produce goes into the rootle bin to be sold at a heavy discount rather than be thrown away
- Inedible vegetable waste is composted
- Food can be bought in minimal quantities so customers don't need to buy more than they need. This includes most fruit, veg, eggs and bread as well as 57 bins of loose dried foods, and customers can place special orders of single items rather than buying a whole case
On a domestic level, recent years have seen an increase of paper, plastic and glass recycling, which is a positive step. However, 70% of all food waste still occurs in the home, and much of it is completely unnecessary. Here are some tips to reduce domestic food waste.
To avoid buying more than you need:
- Plan your meals in advance and write a shopping list.
- Keep an inventory of what foods are at the back of your cupboards and in your freezer.
- Only take advantage of supermarket special offers if you were going to buy two anyway.
If properly stored, many fruits and vegetables will keep for longer than you would think:
- If carrots or root veg are still muddy, leave the mud on until you're about to prepare them for use, as it stops them drying out.
- Wrap food in kitchen roll (which can later be used for cleaning!) and store it in sealed plastic bags in the fridge. Fresh herbs, lettuce and soft fruits will still be perfectly edible for days longer than usual, and hard fruits and veg like apples and carrots can keep for weeks. They can be washed first so they're already prepared when you want it.
- Rather than keep all your fruit in a fruit bowl, keep one or two of each type out at room temperature, then when you've eaten it, replace it with one kept in the fridge.
Parts of fruits and vegetables that most people throw out are perfectly edible and can be used. For example:
- Use veg stalks (e.g. spring onion, asparagus, romaine stems) in stock for soup. They can be frozen without blanching until you get enough together!
- Peel off the outer woody part of broccoli stems and chop or grate the inner core into a salad – it tastes like kohlrabi. I think this is the best bit!
- Toast seeds from squashes or pumpkins. The outer layer will peel off if you boil them in water for five minutes.
- Leafy carrot tops can be finely chopped in salads or used as a garnish.
Next time the oven is on for an hour or so, take advantage of the extra space:
- Chop up what's left in your veg drawer. Combine root veg, broccoli & cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, Mediterranean "fruit" vegetables and throw it into a roasting tin with some olive oil. Slow-roast it on the bottom shelf, giving it an occasional stir. It will condense down beautifully and keep in the fridge for a few days for use in frittata or as a side-dish.
- You can also slow roast an Autumnal (or Rootle box!) excess of apples, plums or pears, then puree them. This makes a lovely sweet fruit spread for toast!
Also, many foods that you know you're unlikely to eat soon can easily be frozen:
- Leftover casserole: This can be frozen in pyrex, defrosted and put straight in the oven to reheat
- Most people know that over-ripe bananas can be used in smoothies or banana bread, but if you don't have time to use them now, bananas can be frozen whole in the skin, in chunks, or mashed for later use.
- Even if there is a loss of texture, many foods you would never think to freeze can be used perfectly well for cooking. For example: egg whites & yolk, (remove from the shell first!), pastry dough, and grated cheese.
- If you have jars of food that you have only eaten part of, such as pesto or tomato puree, loosen the lid a little and put the whole jar in the freezer until you next need it.
- Invest in some silicon ice-cube trays. These are a godsend for freezing small portions of foods like lemon juice, wine, fresh herbs, cream. Then you can just pop a cube or two into whatever you're cooking.
- If you rarely get to the end of your loaf before it goes stale, slice and freeze half of it for later as soon as you buy it. If it has gone stale sooner than you thought, blitz it in a food processor and freeze it as breadcrumbs.
These are just a few ideas to reduce waste in the home, and of course, by supporting True Food, you can be confident that there has been minimal waste along the supply chain before your food and household goods reach you.