HOW TO MAKE YOUR FOOD GO FURTHER
Ever wondered how to get more out of your groceries? With small meaningful changes and some sensible planning, you can make your budget go further and help battle the global food waste problem at the same time.
WHY IS REDUCING FOOD WASTE SO IMPORTANT?
The food waste problem exists throughout the entire supply chain including rejected (‘wonky’) crops and unequal global distribution of food. However according to the food sharing app, Olio, it’s estimated that an average UK family will throw away 22% of their weekly grocery shop. This could equate to a wasted £730 per year!
The negative environmental impact comes not only from the wasted resources used to grow the food but crucially the harmful greenhouse gas methane which is produced when food waste decomposes anaerobically in landfill.
Reducing the global food waste problem by 50% by 2030 is part of the UN’s list of sustainable development goals showing it’s a top priority.
We already produce enough food to feed every person across the globe. However due to poor crop management in developing nations and wasteful practices many still go hungry.
According to the FAO, ⅓ of food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted. Or 1.3 billion tonnes per year!
Understanding expiry dates
Before we dive into practical tips to reduce food waste and make your food go further it’s super helpful to understand what expiry dates on our groceries really mean. Best before: the date after which the product will reduce in quality regarding taste or appearance but is unlikely to be unsafe to eat. Use your best judgement to assess the quality of products after this date - if it’s fresh produce, has it changed in appearance, does it smell fresh, is it still firm? Often found on dry goods but the use on fresh fruit and vegetables is becoming less popular. Use by: the date after which you should not consume the product due to food safety risks. Do not cook or freeze food past the use by date even if they appear fine. Often found on dairy products and meats.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
Whilst it seems a problem too huge to tackle there are practical changes we can make much closer to home to make a difference. According to Love Food Hate Waste in most developed countries, over half of all food waste takes place in the home. There are small simple changes we can all make to help the cause. Starting with using up more of the food we do buy!
1. Use more of the plant!
As with many problems, prevention is better than cure. Using more of the plant than you usually would automatically creates less parts to be wasted.
Cauliflower leaves are absolutely edible. Roast with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of seasoning.
Carrot tops can be whizzed into pesto.
Wilt beetroot leaves like chard or spinach
Broccoli stems can be eaten in the same way as the florets. Steam until tender or roast with other root veg.
Add stalks of fresh herbs into pesto, cook into broths for extra flavour or chop finely into pasta sauces.
A well scrubbed potato can be cooked skin on but for those which need peeled first, save the clean peelings and roast as veg crisps with a pinch of paprika or herby seasoning.
The same goes for carrot or parsnip peelings and even apple skins.
Onion skins, tomato leaves and other peeling can be added to stocks to infuse extra flavour.
Alternatively to using the zest of citrus peels, they can be infused into vinegar for a homemade cleaning solution! Freeze them as you go to build up a supply.
2. Plan ahead
Planning is crucial to avoid over-purchasing and being left with excess food. Nothing worse than having perfectly good food expire because you’ve not had time to eat it! Brainstorm meal ideas for the week before you head out to the supermarket. Incorporate meals and snacks as well as any store cupboard essentials which are running low. A full meal plan isn’t always necessary but a rough idea which covers the essentials and is within your budget is a huge help. If you’re not keen on travelling to the supermarket, set aside some time to complete an online food shop instead.
Remember: try to avoid food shopping whilst hungry. Hunger is a powerful driver of human behaviour and may lead to more impulse buys and a fuller shopping basket!
3. Befriend your freezer
Freezing food is a great way to prolong the shelf life and preserve the nutrient quality. Contrary to popular belief, fresh isn’t always best. Whilst fresh fruit and vegetables are a crucial part of our diets, some produce benefits from being frozen quickly after harvesting to lock in the nutrients.
Tip: To reduce nutrient loss during boiling or steaming add frozen veg such as peas or peppers straight into pasta sauces or stir fries on the hob.
Prepared meals in a large batch or individual containers are also a handy item to have in your freezer.
Things you might not know you can freeze:
Peeled, chopped banana
Wilted greens - spinach or kale
Cakes and sponges
Diced raw onion
Cooked rice and pasta
4. Bulk out meals with odds and ends
At breakfast, porridge and cereal toppings can help use up the last few raisins or broken almonds left in the packet. Experiment with different grains in porridges, mix in quinoa or millet for a different texture.
For chunky sauces and mince dishes, add spare green lentils, chopped leftover mushrooms or the pack of pearl barley which has been sitting at the back of the cupboard.
When using tinned tomatoes, fill the empty can half full with water to rinse it out and add this to the pan. The water will help loosen the sauce and allow flavours to infuse while it cooks down. Tinned tomatoes are also a cheap way to bulk out tasty jars of pasta sauce.
Soups and stews are brilliant ways to use up spare ends of vegetables in your fridge, red lentils or the end of a pasta packet which won’t quite fill a portion - anything goes!
Thank you for reading this Nutrition Upon Tyne blog post on minimising food waste to make the most of your groceries
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Our recipe for a Balsamic Tomato Tart may also be of interest to you!