Throwing a few uneaten leftovers or past-its-best salad into the bin may seem like no big deal. But a new report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) reveals that food waste is responsible for a staggering eight per cent of all annual greenhouse gas emissions, and that 25 per cent of all agricultural water use – and a land mass the size of China – go toward producing food that ultimately goes uneaten.
If it were a country, according to WRI, food waste and loss would release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any nation in the world except only the US and China.
In the UK we throw away seven million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year. Not only does it harm the environment, it collectively costs us £12.5 billion a year.
Here, we round up 10 ways to cut your food waste to save the planet and your pocket.
1. Check your fridge temperature and use it wisely
Your fridge should be between 0-5C. Food, especially milk, will go off much quicker if it’s too warm. Some foods keep better outside the fridge. This includes bread (keep it in a cool dark place like a bread bin or cupboard), bananas, pineapples, potatoes and onions.
2. Shop wisely
Make a shopping list (keep it to hand and add to it as you think of things) and stick to it when you go shopping. Plan ahead and shop with specific meals in mind, or shop online to avoid impulse purchases.
3. Keep veg fresh
Keep the stems of vegetables such as broccoli, celery and asparagus in water to help them stay fresh and crisp.
4. Freeze your 5-a-day
If you love fruit and veg but struggle to eat it in time, try freezing them. Berries are especially good for freezing. Some fruit and veg (like tomatoes, strawberries and apples) will lose their texture when frozen, but you can deal with this by pureeing or stewing them first.
5. Use leftovers
Many leftovers and chilled convenience meals freeze well. If you’ve made something like pasta or rice with a sauce, freezing the sauce separately will work better. If you make too much food for dinner, eat the remainder for lunch the next day.
6. Measure your portions
Reduce waste by cooking only the amount you need. Measuring takes away the guesswork and makes it more likely you’ll get the right amount.
7. Sauces and dips
Leftovers can be made into sauces or dips. If you’ve got leftover beans or pulses (either that you’ve cooked yourself or from a tin), mash or blend with some garlic, lemon juice and herbs for a hummus-style dip (don’t try this with baked beans, unless you rinse them thoroughly first). Slightly over-ripe avocados are great for guacamole, and tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers which need using can go into home-made salsa.
8. Freeze dairy products
Semi-skimmed and skimmed milk freeze better than whole. If it separates once defrosted, just give it a good shake. Hard cheese also freezes well – cut it into smaller portions – or grate some ready to use later.
9. Revive stale bread
Put bread rolls that are past their best in the oven for a few minutes to crisp again. You can also make stale bread into breadcrumbs – either mix them with herbs and onions as a stuffing for chicken or to roll fish in, or freeze the breadcrumbs for later use. If you’re freezing a loaf or rolls from an in-store bakery, transfer into a freezer bag for better results rather than just freezing it in the packaging it comes in.
Most importantly, don’t throw food leftovers into your normal bin. Use them for compost, or wrap in newspaper and throw in your garden waste bin.