As you know, food waste is a topic that is so close to my heart. I know it’s not always simple and sometimes it’s just easier to toss that stale loaf of bread or throw away that limp looking carrot that somehow rolled to the back of the fridge away. But the UK (and the World, really) is currently in a state of a major food pandemic and if we don’t try and make changes now the damage is going to be irreversible. I try and adopt simple practices into my every day to help cut down on food waste (and save on money) – I also make sure that all of my recipes, in both of my books – Happy Food and The 7 Day Vegan Challenge and any recipes that I share on Social Media or here on my blog is easily scalable to be suitable and accessible for families of all sizes. I also popped in a little handy reminder on all of my recipes to show you just how long it will last in the fridge and if they are freezer-friendly (note: 99% of them are!) The freezer is one of your best friends when it comes to utilising the food you have and using up every last delicious morsel. So, make sure to dust away those preconception notions that the freezer is just for frozen peas, smiley potato faces and ice-cream – sub-zero has never been cooler – so make sure you befriend it.
Here Are My 10 Top Tips to Help Reduce Your Food Waste
1. Write a List
Make sure you don’t impulse purchase and double-up on ingredients by making (and sticking) to a shopping list. Make sure to do a quick fridge and freezer sweep before you go – or create a list of the contents inside your appliances and stick it on the outside, so you don’t have to keep rummaging inside – to make sure you’re only buying the ingredients you need (and a sneaky extra treat on the side too, of course).
2. Remember FIFO or LILO
Adopt the professional chef’s attitude and remember First In, First Out or Last In, Last Out. Make sure to place all your newly brought items to the back of the fridge or freezer as their dates and quality will be longer than the products you already have. This is a great way to also clean the fridge in-between fills. Once you have shopped – pull everything out – give it a good squeaky clean – and pop your newly brought items to the back and the pulled-out ones in front so they get used first.
3. Buy (Certain) Products in Bulk
Buying in bulk can be great – but be a little picky about it. If you’re shopping for certain ingredients and see that item on a 2-4-1 offer, but know you’re only going to use the amount you went in for – those saved pennies you think you’re saving, will actually be a huge waste in all senses. Save bulk buying for items that won’t go bad quickly, like dried goods and store-cupboard products.
4. Plan Ahead
This is such a handy routine to adopt. Find some time each week to plan the week ahead meals. Have a look at what you have in your household that needs using up, either by having a quick look, or if you have adopted the contents planner from tip #1, have a quick read through and plan your meals around these ingredients without having to add additional ones in. For the days where you have nothing in, or only half a meal – plan it around that. This way you know what you need to pop on your shopping list [No.1] and gives you some delicious meals to look forward too, rather than just winging it. My book, The 7 Day Vegan Challenge has some handy planners for meals in advance so all the hard work is already done!
5. Utilise Yours and The Supermarkets Freezer
Like I said before – your freezer is cool again and you need to be utilising it. The quality of frozen goods has dramatically increased over the last few years, with a lot of products containing the essential nutrients locked in – so, for ingredients you like to use, but don’t use all that often – check the supermarkets freezer aisles. You can get everything from sliced onions, to mango chunks. And when you’re at home and have a glut of ingredients – pop them in the freezer rather than letting them go to waste. You can even buy fresh products and have half now and freeze half for later such as fresh greens: broccoli, peas, beans or spinach – blanch in boiling water till al dente, drain and plunge into ice-water. Wait till cold, drain well and then freeze. Refresh in boiling water or dropping into stews, curries or soups. Another great tip is to slice your bread and freeze – then only remove the slices you need at a time.
6. Use Up Your Leftovers
There are so many different ways you can utilise leftovers. You can re-heat and enjoy as they were, or you can reinvent them and repurpose them into something brand-new. Use leftover tomato based sauces to make pizzas, turn chilli’s or curry based leftovers into taco or burrito fillings, or stuff inside a jacket potato, pasta leftovers can be turned into fritters or pan-fried ‘arancini’ style balls and leftover veg of any kind can be added to a ‘meat’ball or falafel mixture. And don’t forget about produce leftover’s either – make pesto from spinach or carrot tops, whizz up stale bread to make crumbs then sprinkle over soups or casseroles, or make bread and butter puddings or a new take on a tiramisu.
7. Keep Your Stash Fresh
To give your produce the best quality life so you can enjoy the most of their quality make sure to store them correctly. Keep products that have a strong odour in air-tight containers – remove packaging from fruits and vegetables (but don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them, as this dampness can encourage bacteria to grow) and place in the crisper drawer with paper or cloth towels to soak up any moisture. Make sure not to over-pack or over-stock your fridge, it needs adequate air flow in order to keep everything fresh. Don’t put warm foods in the fridge until completely cooled down. When freezing products – don’t freeze whole, slice items such as onions, apples and bananas and lay on a baking tray and freeze. Once frozen transfer into freezer suitable containers. And make sure to label everything that goes in with a date if you are removing its packaging.
8. Invest in an Ice-Cube Tray
Ice-cube trays are a super versatile tool and can be used for a lot more than just freezing water for your favourite tipple on a summer day. Here’s just a few of the things you can do with them; adopt the above method. Once your tray is frozen, pop out the cubes and into a freezer-safe container or bag and label it correctly.
- Excess coffee or wine? Freeze into cubes. Wine cubes can be added to stocks and sauces, and pop frozen coffee cubes into cold milk or tonic water for a refreshing drink.
- Herbs: such as coriander, basil, parsley or mint. Remove the leaves and chop. Pop into the tray and cover with water. These can be popped into any dish to add a flavour bomb and even used to liven up a G+T.
- Marinades and Pastes: made too much? Freeze and then just defrost to marinate your chosen product or melt in the pan before sautéing your veggies.
- Flavoured Butters and Oils: use up leftover herbs and spices by infusing into oil or butter. These can then be added to a wide variety of dishes straight from the freezer.
- Fruit Juice: squeeze any citrus fruits while they’re fresh then pop in the freezer. They defrost almost as good as new and saves a whole bunch of time and effort (and, of course… waste).
9. Learn to Adapt and Make Recipes Your Own
Don’t worry if you don’t have a certain ingredient – purchasing one off products to create one off recipes is a no-no. Chances are that paste or spice will never be used again. Instead look for alternative spices or ingredients that you have at home that could work. Also, feel free to get creative and add in those extra veggies in the fridge to whatever dish you’re creating – you don’t have to follow the recipes exact. Make them your own.
10. Search in Your Cupboard for Hidden Treasures
Chances are we have some hidden gems in the backs of our cupboards from shopping trips long gone. Make sure to utilise these before they go to waste. Use a combination of the tips above and add to different recipes, infuse into another product and freeze, or plan a meal around it. Cooking isn’t all about the fresh produce so don’t neglect your cupboards either. Make sure to be FIFO’ing them too!
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