6 Simple Ways To Reduce Food Waste

Food waste may not be the most glamorous topic, but it’s something that I feel very passionate about.

In the UK we throw away roughly 6.6 million tonnes of household food waste each year. This doesn’t even include the waste that comes from restaurants and food manufacturers, which adds up to another 2.6 million tonnes a year.

These figures are shocking enough, but it’s even more upsetting when you consider that 8.4 million people in the UK are in food poverty. So many adults and children in our country don’t have enough to eat, while we are simultaneously throwing away enough unwanted food to feed them all.

We may not be able to change the habits of an entire population, but we can change what’s going on in our own kitchens.

I’ve developed several habits over the past few years that have saved so much food from going to waste, and today I want to share them with you!

Save vegetable scraps for homemade stock

If you’re guilty of simply tossing carrot tops and mushroom stems into the bin, you’re missing out on a nutritious and vital ingredient that can elevate even the most humble soup or pasta dish.

I’m talking about vegetable stock, which can be made entirely for free out of the discarded bits of produce that you would otherwise throw away.

Forget the store-bought stock cubes or cartons of watery broth – this stuff is flavourful, delicious and packed full of vitamins.

Simply place any peelings and scraps into a large plastic bag and store in the freezer. Once the bag is full, chop the vegetables into small pieces and simmer in 10-12 cups of water for around one hour.

I recommend adding salt, peppercorns and any fresh herbs to further enhance the flavour, but steer clear of broccoli and cauliflower as they can add a bitter taste.

Once your stock is ready, strain it through a mesh strainer and you’re good to go!

You can freeze homemade vegetable stock for a couple of months, or store it in your fridge for up to five days. Once you’ve tasted the fruits (and veggies!) of your labour, you’ll never go back to store-bought.

Freeze wisely

If you aren’t taking advantage of your freezer, you’re missing out on a valuable appliance that can save you a lot of time and wasted food.

I could write a whole blog post about the benefits of freezing wisely (and maybe I will!) but for now, I’ll share a few tips that have literally changed my life when it comes to the kitchen.

A few weeks ago I dedicated an hour or two to mincing a ton of fresh garlic and placing it into rubber ice cube trays as shown above, which I then popped into the freezer. Yes, it was pretty boring, but this one small action has saved me so much time when cooking meals.

Now, instead of chopping up garlic for every meal (or deciding not to bother with it at all!) I can just grab a neat little cube of frozen garlic and add it to a saucepan. It’s a great way to use up extra cloves and adds a boost of nutrition and flavour to every meal.

I also freeze any leftovers or excess meat, which prevents them from going bad and ensures that I have a quick and easy meal on those days that I’m feeling a little lazy. I love to do this with leftover cookie dough, as then I can pull out a batch of freshly-baked cookies with minimum effort!

Last night I made a huge pile of homemade chicken and vegetable dumplings, but of course I can only eat so many. By freezing the leftovers I now have an excess of healthy, additive-free dumplings that I can pop into soups or eat as a side dish.

My biggest freezer-related tip is to be mindful whenever you peek into your fridge – if you see something that’s about to go bad, just throw it into the freezer and buy yourself a few more weeks!

Start batch cooking

While I love cooking, there are some days that I just can’t be bothered.

In the past I would rely on delivery apps such as Just Eat and Deliveroo whenever the laziness bug struck, but I quickly got tired of them due to the lack of healthy options and increasingly high fees.

Eventually, I found a solution – batch cooking!

It sounds simple, but by making a larger amount of your favourite recipes and then freezing them you can enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal even on the days that you don’t feel like cooking.

This works particularly well with soups, stews, lasagna and chilli, as they freeze well and can be safely reheated in the oven with minimum effort. It can feel annoying and fiddly to portion out leftovers at first, but after a while it just becomes second nature.

These days I’ve become so addicted to batch cooking and freezing my meals that I think it’s time to invest in a new, larger freezer!

Use up leftover ingredients

Nothing makes me more frustrated than purchasing a large amount of a certain ingredient for a recipe, only to use a tiny portion and watch the rest go to waste.

This frequently happens when I cook more experimental and exotic meals, such as traditional Japanese and Korean dishes. I mean, who can use up an oversized tub of gochujang or a huge bowl of leftover rice before it goes bad?

At least, that’s how I used to think. These days I look for opportunities to use up any leftover ingredients – did you know that gochujang can be used to make the most addictive glazes and sauces, and rice can be added to soups or fried up with vegetables?

I’ve also become less picky about expiry dates, particularly on vegetables that have been stored correctly. If it looks, smells and feels okay, I’ll eat it!

Research food storage

I used to store absolutely everything in the fridge, from onions to potatoes and everything in between.

The trouble is that our current fridge is tiny, which resulted in a permanently overcrowded fridge and led to near-daily frustration as well as excess food waste.

When my husband bought me a set of the most beautiful vegetable-themed bowls and plates, I knew I had my solution. I began researching the most effective way to store fresh foods, and learned that some actually thrive more when left on the countertop.

Now my kitchen is home to a wonderful display of seasonal produce, which looks better and last longer than my previous storage solution.

I’m still learning new ways to keep food fresh including storing carrot and celery sticks in water-filled jars, storing garlic in a dedicated terracotta pot and refreshing my Tupperware collection.

Once I feel more confident in my techniques, I’ll share my findings in a dedicated blog post!

Get into meal planning

Like most people, I’m far more likely to rely on convenience food when I don’t make a conscious effort to plan out healthy meals. This is bad for both my budget and my food waste goals, as those fresh ingredients that I’d purchased earlier in the week end up relegated to the back of my fridge where they inevitably turn into brown mush.

If you fail to plan out actual meals when doing your weekly grocery shop, you often end up spending twice – once on the grocery bill and then again on the inevitable takeaways.

This results in a ton of wasted food, so it’s a habit that needs to be broken.

Meal planning can be a little time-consuming, but I actually enjoy the process. I find it relaxing and almost theraputic to plan out healthy and delicious meals for my husband and I, ensuring that we eat a nutrient-rich and varied diet.

Simply decide on a handful of meals that you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner this week and write down everything you’ll need to buy in order to make those dishes. It can also be helpful to assign a specific day to each meal, but don’t be too strict with yourself!

It’s important to find a balance between having fun and experimenting in the kitchen while still sticking to a flexible meal plan, and I think I’m getting there.

I’m aware that this post is just scratching the surface of the many ways that we can reduce food waste in our own kitchens, but I wanted to share a few simple tips and tricks that have helped me along the way.

Is there anything you think I’ve missed? I’ve love to hear about your kitchen habits that make a difference!

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