The amount of food wasted every year in the UK is colossal, and yet it probably comes as no surprise. We’re often given the shocking statistics and scary facts of food waste, and yet believe ourselves to be quite savvy when it comes to our unused or unwanted products. Well at least I can say that’s true for me and my family.
Up until a few days ago, I honestly believed that I was doing enough to limit the amount of food waste that came out of my home. I only ever throw food away when it’s past its best by date, keep my fruit and veg in the fridge and freeze any leftovers to use for future meals.
But is, and this enough? The simple answer, I’m ashamed to say is no. I could be doing so much more to save not only my own money, but also the environment.
AO.com teamed up with the lovely folks at Love Food Hate Waste to help raise awareness of the issue of food waste in the home. Not only that, they offer a number of solutions for how you personally can change your behaviour and waste less food.
I sat down to catch up with Emma Marsh, head of Love Food Hate Waste, on the difference between best before dates, fridge temperatures and the need to be brave with our leftovers. Here’s what she had to say in our exclusive interview and how she’s changed my mind-set, for the better!
How much food, which could be eaten, is thrown away by households in the UK every year?
In the UK we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year and most of that could once have been eaten. Essentially, the UK public spends £12.5bn a year buying and then throwing away food. To put it into context it’s the same as buying 5 bags of shopping and putting 1 straight in the bin. It’s not just a financial issue either; there are social and environmental issues too. If we didn’t throw away this good food and drink it would have the same positive environmental effect as taking 1 in 4 cars off our roads.
In £’s, how much food does the average family waste/throw away each year?
The average family can save up to £700 per year by reducing food waste. It’s a huge amount of money and could go toward lots of lovely days out or holidays. Just a few simple changes can help families to achieve this.
Mixing and matching frozen, tinned and fresh veg is a simple technique (which means we can still eat healthily but don’t have to worry about fresh veg going off before we’ve had time to eat it), bulking out meat with cheap pulses like lentils (which no one ever spots), checking our cupboards daily and making lists so that we only buy what we need all really help, and require minimal effort. Another personal tip of mine would be to be brave, use up ingredients that you already have to make interesting cheap meals. You’ll end up surprising yourself with your creations.
Green Pesto Turkey Salad from Love Food Hate Waste
What food, which could be eaten, is thrown away most often?
There are so many, but the top 2 items are bread, of which 24 million slices a day are thrown away, and fresh potatoes. The UK throws away 5.8 million whole potatoes a day, that’s enough to give the entire population of Scotland a potato!
What are the best ways to store your food to stop it decomposing?
Storing your food in the right way can help it stay fresh for longer. A few of our top tips would be that your freezer can act as a very handy pause button if you think you may not use something in time. Keep your fruit in the fridge in its original packaging or a loosely tied bag to help it to last up to two weeks longer (except pineapples and bananas). Once opened, food like cheese and ham keep better if they’re well wrapped by re-closing the pack, wrapping in cling film or foil, or putting it in an air tight container. Make the most of your food by cooling leftovers as quickly as possible after cooking and storing them in the fridge. You can safely eat these leftovers within two days or freeze them for an even later date.
What common leftovers can I repurpose easily in new recipes/meals?
All leftovers can be used in new meals. Be brave and get creative, you may be surprised by the results. From classics such as bubble and squeak for leftover potatoes and veg, and curry from pretty much anything! Slightly more inspiring ideas include creating a limp lettuce soup to use up the last few bits of lettuce or chocolate yoghurt cake to use up the yoghurt. Both are delicious! Love Food Hate Waste has loads of great ideas.
Limp Lettuce Soup from Love Food Hate Waste
What is the most effective temperature to have my fridge and freezer set to?
This is the one of the easiest ways to help preserve your food, and yet so many people still get it wrong! For fridges the best temperature is below 5c to keep your food at its best. For freezers it’s actually as low as -18 which I know surprises most people!
How can I better understand expiration dates? Is there a difference between best before and use by?
Confusion over date labels is common, only 36% of us correctly understand the term Use By, and by getting dates in a muddle, we easily end up throwing away food that is perfectly edible or on the other hand, eating food that is potentially unsafe.
Just under half of the good food and drink that we end up throwing away (worth £5.6 billion) is because we don’t use it in time: thrown away because it has either gone off or passed the date on the packaging. By getting the dates to work for us, we can eat safely, take control, and also save money.
The most important dates to remember are:
- Use By is there for your safety and is only found on foods where there is a safety risk. Therefore food should not be eaten past this date, but it can be eaten or frozen right up to it
- Best Before date relates to quality. It will be at its peak condition at this time. Food will still be safe to eat after the date, but it may not be at its best
- Sell By and Display Until dates are just for the shops for internal stock control not shoppers so they can be safely ignored. If others in your house always throw food away at its Sell By scribble it out just make sure you leave any Use By clearly displayed. Also try writing an opened on date on your milk or juice so that everyone in your home knows how long they have to use them
So that’s it, these little tips could help me save £700 a year!
I’d like to personally say a huge thanks to Emma for her time and for all her useful advice, which I’ll now be putting into practice at home.
If you’d like to understand more of the work Love Food Hate Waste does, check out their website.
To find out how you can stop food wastage and save money, start your own waste-less journey by clicking right here.