7 Easy Hints & Tips to Help You Reduce Food Waste
Each year in the UK, households produce around 7.1 million tonnes of food waste. What might surprise you is that approximately 5 million tonnes of this is still perfectly edible when it’s thrown away. The good news? If you’re looking for easy ways to reduce food waste, you’ve come to the right place.
It’s easier than you might think to do your bit, and a few simple changes can add up to a big difference. Making food last longer and stretch further isn’t just good for the environment – it’s good for your budget too! (You can find more ways to save money in the kitchen in our cookbook Pinch of Nom: Budget).
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Tip 1: Pay attention to the dates on your food
The first thing to note is that there are usually three different dates on the packaging of the food you buy at the supermarket.
The ‘Best by’, ‘Use by’ and ‘Sell by’ dates all mean very different things, and they can often be misinterpreted. The sell by date is a guideline for stores and generally isn’t relevant to a consumer doing their food shop.
Best by and use by dates are usually where the confusion happens. If a product has a best by date, then (unlike use by dates) this can normally be taken with a pinch of salt. In most cases you can still enjoy these items safely after their best by date has passed, but the quality and taste will begin to deteriorate after this point.
A use by date is more rigid and means that you shouldn’t eat the product after this point at all, as it may become harmful and make you ill.
Rather than throwing away food after the best by date has passed, keep an eye on the use by date instead – this should give you a little more time to use up items while it’s still safe to do so.
Tip 2: Plan ahead to reduce food waste
If you hit the supermarket without a list and wing it when it comes to mealtimes, you’re not alone! We’ve all ended up with an assortment of past-their-best fresh foods wasting away in the back of the fridge from time to time.
One of the easiest ways to reduce food waste in your household is to make a meal plan – and stick to it! Have a good look through your cupboards, fridge and freezer, then sit down and prepare a proper meal plan that uses up all of the food that’s coming to the end of its life.
Our Pinch of Nom Family Meal Planner is a great way to plan out your meals and keep track of any ingredients that may be going out of date – perfect if you love food but hate waste!
Tip 3: Order and organise your kitchen
When your fridge and cupboards are organised properly, it’ll be much easier to avoid food going out of date before you can use it.
Ensure that you’re placing new products at the back and older ones that are approaching their use by dates at the front. If you’ve picked up some items with a shorter shelf life, then prioritise these in your weekly meal plan to ensure that they’re not wasted!
There are loads of different products out there that can help you to keep your kitchen organised, including these fridge storage trays that you can pick up from Amazon. They’ll help you separate out any foods that need using up sooner.
This 3 Tier Tin Can Rack is perfect for keeping your cupboards in a neat and tidy order. It allows newer products to roll down and replace the can you’ve just used, so they’ll never get lost at the back of the shelf!
Tip 3: Reduce food waste by saving odds and ends
You might think that vegetable offcuts belong in the bin, but you can use them to make a really tasty stock that’s perfect to keep in the fridge or freezer, for when you need a little flavour boost.
On that note, leftover veg or bits and pieces of ingredients from other dishes are well worth saving too. We’ve got plenty of recipes that are absolutely perfect for using up all of those odds and ends that you might have lying around in your fridge.
Veggie-packed dishes like Campfire Stew and Scotch Broth are fantastic examples of recipes where you can add pretty much any spare vegetables. The more the merrier, so throw in any veg that’s starting to look a little sorry, before it ends up in the food waste pile.
If you’re using an ingredient like pumpkin or butternut squash, then don’t throw away the seeds. By toasting them up in the oven – either plain or with a mixture of your favourite spices – you can create a delicious snack that’s perfect for enjoying in-between meals!
Tip 4: Don’t give up on stale bread
If you’ve got a loaf of bread that’s starting to go stale, you may be tempted to just chuck it in the bin – no one likes tough, slightly hard bread for their sandwiches! Instead of throwing it away, why not try using stale bread to make breadcrumbs?
Stale bread actually works better than fresh bread, so this is a really easy way to reduce your food waste. We love to use breadcrumbs in all kinds of recipes, for binding ingredients together, or creating a crunchy, crispy coating like on these golden Chicken Goujons.
If you have someone in your household who hates bread crusts, bag them up instead of throwing them away! You can save them up and when they start getting stale, simply whizz them into breadcrumbs. What better reason to make this cheesy breadcrumb-topped Chicken Kyiv Pasta Bake?
Tip 5: Save your leftovers
Properly stored, you can reduce your food waste by keeping leftovers in the fridge or freezer to enjoy the next time you don’t really feel like cooking.
If you’ve got lots of fresh ingredients that are quickly approaching their use by dates, plan on a big batch cooking weekend, and stock up the freezer with lots of homemade ready meals.
Recipes like our Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta use up lots and lots of different vegetables. This dish works really well for batch cooking and can be portioned up and frozen to avoid wasting any ingredients that might otherwise go bad.
If you’re planning to freeze your leftovers or batch cooked recipes, then make sure that you use the right containers. These food storage containers with lids are not only freezer safe, but they can also be used in the microwave and the dishwasher.
Tip 6: Bake with overripe bananas
Bananas that are starting to get speckled and brown may not be your first choice when you fancy a snack from the fruit bowl, but they’re great for baking. The extra sweetness they bring often means you can use less sugar – great when you want your treat to be slimming friendly!
Mix overripe bananas into overnight oats or baked oats, or give our Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips recipe a try.
The same rule applies to many different fruits that are starting to become overripe – berries and stone fruits especially can be turned into all sorts of delicious sweet treats.
Pies, crumbles, jams, smoothies, sauces, cakes – the possibilities are endless. There’s never been a tastier way to reduce food waste.
Tip 7: Make compost from food waste
It’s not always possible to use up every single ingredient that’s past its best. When you have odds and ends that can’t be eaten, composting is great for getting rid of waste in an environmentally friendly way.
Many councils around the UK have already introduced a household food waste collection alongside general refuse and recycling bins. If you’re a keen gardener, then you may want to set up your own bin in the garden instead and use the compost to add extra nutrients into your soil and flowerbeds.
What are your top tips for easy ways to reduce food waste?
If you’re struggling to come up with inspiration to use up ingredients in your kitchen, then why not check out our Facebook group? Our group members are super supportive and full of fantastic ideas to help you create really tasty, slimming-friendly meals from whatever you have lying around in the cupboards!