In light of recent shock reports, Jessica Carter considers how much food we squander each year, and encourages us to wage a war on waste…
There’s one scandalous story that has proved a red-hot topic here this week, causing OMGs and did-you-knows to spread throughout the office like Christmas-party gossip. Yes, it’s the news that up to half of the world’s food is being thrown away. To give you an idea, that’s about two billion tonnes’ worth – but that’s not really a comprehensible quantity either, is it? It seems everyone around the country has been similarly affected by the news – the number of comments on the BBC’s online report has gone up by 11 just since I began that last sentence.
According to the report carried out by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, a range of issues such as inadequate agricultural practices, poor distribution methods and insufficient storage are responsible for the level of wastage. On top of that, IMechE suggests that strict sell-by dates and misunderstood best-before labels lead people to discard perfectly edible food, while bulk offers and bargain-induced over-buying means we end up with more goods than we’re ever going get through. Our superficial selection methods also play a part, with aesthetically imperfect produce reportedly never even making it to the shelves. Apparently, not only are 30% of crops never harvested due to their mere appearance, but around 50% of the food that does make it through the checkout goes straight from our trolleys into our bins, after a brief stint in the cupboard or fridge, that is.
In light of this frankly flabbergasting news, I think it’s high time we buck up our ideas and recall that ancient but ever-relevant adage of ‘waste not, want not’. If you’re proudly waste-conscious already, then I salute you. However, if you’re just as guilty as the rest of us, and want to make sure you do all you can in future, here’s how to reduce that refuse.
Get into a pickle
It’s not just onions that can benefit from a bit of pickling – leftover chilli and garlic will gladly receive the same treatment. They’ll keep for much longer and can be used in exactly the same way as when they’re fresh.
Beware the use-by date
Keep an eye on your labels – if D-day is approaching then get freezing, fast. Take your excess products out of the freezer when you’re ready for them, let them thaw thoroughly and eat within a day. Most foods are suitable for home freezing – just check the label. Otherwise, gather up whatever’s on its last legs, and cook it up in a casserole or something. Even if you don’t want to eat it that night, once it’s been cooked you’ve extended its life and can have it over the next day or so.
Keep your cool
Refrigerators should always be kept under 5°C – surprisingly, almost a third in the UK are too warm. If food is not kept cold enough it simply won’t last. On the other hand, if your fridge is too cold, foods with high liquid content are likely to freeze – a frosty cucumber is a sludgy one once thawed. So check that thermostat, stat!
Don’t be duped by best-before
Unlike use-bys, best-before dates don’t mean you dine in danger if the food is a few days out – these labels simply indicate when the food is freshest, and at its most tasty.
Love your leftovers
If you’re anything like me, you often make a bit too much dinner. Whatever your leftovers are, there’s probably a recipe for them out there. Have a look online for inspiration – BBC GoodFood (@bbcgoodfood), 4Food (@C4Scrapbook), and All Recipes UK (@AllRecipesUK) are sure to ignite your imagination.
Speaking of which, we could all do with checking out the Love food, Hate Waste website, to help with the battle against binning (@LFHW_UK). Here you’ll find heaps of handy tips and countless creative leftover recipes, as well as some more gasp-worthy statistics to spur you on.
The war on waste has begun.