This quarter, Sleeping Giant’s Green Squad have decided to support the charity Fare Share. After doing our research into the food waste problem, we were overcome by just how endemic of an issue the unequal distribution of food is.
So, we thought we’d share our findings with you and do our bit to remedy the problem.
The food waste problem
Right now, 8.4 million people in the UK are struggling to afford to eat.
The equivalent of the entire population of London is currently living in food poverty and yet the UK disposes of around 9.5 million tonnes of food per year.
Read that again.
In this country, we have a serious problem with wasting food. While others go hungry, the majority of us throw away unnecessary amounts of food and the distribution of perishable items is painfully wasteful.
According to recent research by WRAP, of the 9.5 million tonnes of food wasted, over 2 million tonnes of it is still edible, meaning that 1.3 billion meals are binned without reason.
A crisis for people & planet
While the nation’s food wastage is a huge issue for those living beneath the poverty line, it also indirectly affects everyone through its contributions to the climate emergency.
Did you know that the annual amount of food waste in the UK releases the equivalent of 25 million tonnes of CO2e into the atmosphere?
Contributing not only to the crippling economic disparity in the UK but also to its climate emergency, then, it is safe to say that food wastage must be controlled.
How can you reduce your food waste?
Below are five foolproof steps that every household can perform to decrease the levels of food being wasted from month to month. Pick a few that you are able to commit to and do your bit to cut back on food waste.
Plan those meals
If you are able, planning your meal portions and weekly menus is a simple but effective way to manage your food wastage as a household.
By prioritising fresh ingredients and those items which will go out of date first, you’ll be much more likely to use everything up instead of coming to the end of the week with a mouldy vegetable drawer.
Most household food waste is scraped directly from our plates into the bin at the end of every meal, suggesting a lack of awareness surrounding portion sizes. While food is fuel and eating enough is important, if you are consistently throwing away food, you might benefit from using a portion planner.
Ice, ice baby
Did you know that 20 million slices of bread are wasted in UK homes every day?! And without good reason too! Bread is one of the easiest things to freeze and (if you’ve got a decent toaster) it can even be consumed directly from frozen.
You’d be surprised by how many household food items can actually be frozen and safely consumed at a later date. Poultry, for example, is easy to freeze and cook later.
If you’re wondering what amongst the contents of your shopping trolley can be frozen, use this handy A-Z of Food Storage Guide to double-check it’s ok to do so.
When making your meals, think ahead and double the ingredients to make a meal to freeze for your future self to enjoy (you’ll thank yourself later). While you’re at it, invest in some good Tupperware that can withstand freezing, warming, and washing well.
Some surprisingly-freezable foods include:
- Nuts (Yes they can go off!)
- Cooked rice
- Cooked pasta
- Peeled bananas
- Grated cheese
Do your research beforehand, though. Some foods only last a few months in the freezer, while others (like carrots and onions) must be prepped in a certain way before the big chill.
Flex the ‘FIFO’ method
Inefficient storage of perishable items has a huge impact on the amount of food wasted in the UK each year. All of us are guilty of forgetting about products in the bottom of the veg drawer or letting potatoes go to seed in the cupboard. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
With the ‘First In, First Out’ method (or FIFO if you’re hip) you can get a hold on the timely usage of your fresh food, making sure nothing is left to rot in the dark corners of the pantry.
Popular among many restaurants, this method ensures that newly bought food is placed towards the back of the cupboard, while older food is bought forward to use sooner.
Every time you bring home your groceries, check the expiry dates and condition of the food already in the fridge or cupboard and move it forward to make room.
Though it sounds simple, if you get in the habit of FIFO-ing, your food bin will thank you.
(Hint: keep your fridge below 5 degrees celsius to help things last longer!)
Share the love
Whether it’s worms or your housemates, sharing your leftovers with others is a brilliant way to reduce waste.
If you can’t share a portion, invest in a compost bin. Almost all foods are compostable and, if done properly, composting can be an incredibly rewarding experience. If you’re looking to start a compost heap or bin for your food waste scraps, follow this handy guide written by the gardeners at The Eden Project.
What can you not compost?
There are, however, a few foods that you can’t compost, however, including:
- Meat & dairy products as these can attract pests
- Cooking oils
- Fruit with stickers on (remove these beforehand)
- Cooked rice as it attracts harmful bacteria
- Teabags as they contain synthetic fibres that will not decompose
For more advice on what you can and cannot compost, see here.
A third of the food grown on earth is wasted. In the UK, over three million tonnes of fresh fruit and veg are wasted before they even leave farms each year. Why?
Since aesthetic standards were placed on veg in the EU in 2009, The concept of a ‘perfect’ potato or an ‘ideal’ onion has clouded our judgement on fruit and veg. The ever-increasing standards in the food industry are causing us to lose touch with the homeliness and imperfectness of veg. As a result, supermarkets and consumers alike are choosing to turn away from products that aren’t polished and plump.
By supporting companies like Rubies in the Rubble (who exclusively use ingredients that would have been binned), you can help cut back on the amount of food wasted. Or, you can source ‘wonky veg’ directly from subscription boxes like Oddbox or Wonky Veg itself.
If you come across some ‘ugly’ looking fruit or veg in the supermarket, take it home with you and turn it into jam or chutney.
Waste not, want not
We hope these tips have helped you to see just how easy it is to cut back on food waste. For more information, head over to Fare Share, the food distribution charity that we are supporting this quarter.