How to Cook Waste Free: The Ultimate Guide

One of my biggest pet peeves is food wastage. Did you know that in the UK 7 million tonnes of food and drink is thrown away from homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten? It’s costing us billions of pounds and is having a monumental impact on the environment and its resources. The reality is, lacking consideration when it comes to how we discard food that isn’t even past its best and allowing good food to go off is destructive to the environment and to the health of our communities.

Next time you leave food uneaten consider all the resources and energy that went into producing, processing, packaging, and transporting that food so it could get you to be wasted. Huge amounts of land, water, energy, labour, money, and other materials are depleted unnecessarily, and if it is animal products you are throwing away, consider the life that animal gave to essentially be discarded at the end of the chain. Isn’t that a wake up call!

Given the resources demanded for food production, the increasing realities of climate change, and the fact that 1 in 6 Americans is hungry, it is critical that we shift our behaviours towards a more sustainable and efficient use of food and say no to waste. Because the fact is, food isn’t cheap either. Grocery shopping is the highest outgoing cost related to house and family so by throwing it away we are effectively throwing money in the bin! So what can we do about it? Read on to learn how I have learnt to reduce my food waste.

My Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waste Free

Make a Grocery List

How many of us go out shopping intending to buy just a few things and come back home with three times more than we planned and budgeted for, caught off-guard by the enticing 2 for 1, £1 off marketing efforts of supermarkets? We’ve all been there and we’ve all born the consequences of the food that goes to waste as a result. The simple fix – write a list and stick to it!

Use Your Freezer

I tend to use mine when I realise I have bought too much of an item of produce that won’t get eaten fresh. I freeze overripe bananas for smoothies (be sure to peel them first!), berries for jams and chutneys and for topping porridge and granola, and batches of homemade tomato sauce. Pretty much anything I have overbought or cooked too much of goes into the freezer and avoids the bin!

Store Food Properly

Having dry goods visible in jars helps you see what products you have available so you can plan meals ahead and so you don’t buy more when you still have enough in the cupboard. A quick Google search will tell you which vegetables are better stored in the fridge and which are best out of the fridge for longer shelf lives. Keeping your fridge at the correct temperature is important and often overlooked way to keep your food fresh for longer. Your fridge should be below 5 degree celsius, use a fridge thermometer to check. Many of us don’t store our food in the best place to keep it in its optimum condition. Keep bread sealed and in a cupboard or bread bin, keep fruit in the fridge (except your bananas), and always store potatoes in a cool dark place.

Don’t Have Eyes Bigger Than your Belly!

We often cook, prepare, and serve too much food. Start to be more mindful of portion control and cook foods that you know you can repurpose to have for lunch or dinner the day after so that when you do cook too much, you can make more meals from the leftovers. I often cook more of the foods I know travel well and that my family will enjoy in a packed lunch the next day, for example.

Scraping uneaten food off our plates straight into the bin can also be a fairly automatic part of clearing up after dinner. When you do serve more than you can manage, rather than ditching it into the bin see if you can pop it in tupperware to eat as a snack or add to a bigger dinner later in the week.

Stock Up on Dried Goods

I buy dried goods like lentils, beans, oats and chickpeas in bulk to keep prices down and because they keep for so long.

Use such store cupboard staples to make meals out of leftovers and food that’s gone past it’s best. Having beans, pulses, pasta and rice on hand mean you can always rustle up a healthy meal using whatever leftovers you have in the fridge; squidgy tomatoes and wrinkly peppers, for instance, make a beautiful pasta sauce – don’t throw them away!

Grow Your Own!

There are a number of fruits and vegetables that you can replant and grow yourself. Growing your own means you always have these foods fresh and on hand and helps cut down on the money you spend on produce every week. Here are some examples of easy veggies to grow yourself:

  • Lettuce: Lettuce and Bok Choy are super easy to grow from scraps. Instead of throwing out those leftover leaves, simply place them in a bowl with just a little water in the bottom. Keep the bowl in good sunlight and mist the leaves with water a couple of times each week. After 3 or 4 days, you will notice roots beginning to appear along with new leaves. When this happens you can transplant your new lettuce plant to soil.
  • Celery: One of the easiest foods to grow from leftover scraps. Just cut off the bottom or base of your celery stick and lay it in a bowl with a small amount of warm water in the bottom. Keep the bowl in direct sunlight as long as possible each day and after about a week, leaves will begin thickening and growing along the base. When this happens, transfer your celery to soil and wait for it to grow to full length.
  • Carrots: These are very easily to grow – just pop the tops in some water and once green tops are visible and roots start to grow, plant them outside. Any root vegetable can be grown this way, including turnips, beets and parsnips.

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