It’s clear that food waste is becoming a serious problem for our planet—and now more than ever, Covid-19 is causing people to buy more food than usual. This month we celebrate ‘Stop Food Waste Day’ on the 29th April, where people across the globe take action to fight against wasting food.
It's important to look at how much food we are wasting, "around 1.3 billion tonnes of food gets wasted each year with much of it ending up in landfill and contributing to climate change" (La Manna, M). We probably don’t realise how much food goes in the bin. Nobody wants to eat spoiled or old food, so surely the obvious answer is to throw it away? Unfortunately, it all adds up and this becomes a serious problem, "UK households binned £13.5 billion worth of edible food in 2015. That’s on average £540 per household." (Biffa).
Unfortunately due to Covid-19 causing more people to lose their jobs and having to rely on the government for money, people are suffering financially and so it makes sense to try and use our money wisely when we shop. People cannot afford to be buying food for it only to go to the bin. It’s not good for the environment, nor our wallets. Luckily, there are ways to reduce our food-wasting habits, here we share some tips on how you can cut down your food waste.
Planning our food shops and making a list will not only speed up our time in the supermarket, but it will keep us more focused and stop those impulse buys. As we have limited time outside and it’s deemed unsafe to shop daily, we must buy in the right amount of food and use it all.
Plan your meals
Meal planning is another good way for you to know exactly what ingredients you need for the week. It’s important that whatever we buy, we use it up. Ideally this would be done before doing another food shop, otherwise you might end up forgetting what items you already have, or spoiling food that is yet to be eaten.
If you find it impossible to meal plan, maybe it’s time to get creative and experiment with the random items of food you already have in. You’ll be surprised what foods taste well together and make a great recipe. There are plenty of vegan recipes out there that are short, easy, and require minimal ingredients. We have plenty on our website.
Batch cooking might be ideal for smaller families who may only use part of the ingredients in each meal. Those jars that say ‘once opened consume within three days’ are usually forgotten about and left to go mouldy, but batch cooking will allow you to use the whole jar without having to consume it within three days. Having meals in the freezer is also ideal for those days where you don’t feel like cooking a big meal from scratch or simply don’t have the time.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, stockpiling food isn’t necessary and when we buy more food than we need, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, this guarantees food wastage as we simply can’t eat it all before it goes out of date.
Bulk buying certan types of food may be cheaper or convenient, but hoarding large amounts of perishable food will only add to food waste in the long run. "According to the Natural Resource Defence Council, about two-thirds of household waste in the United Kingdom is due to food spoilage" (Healthline). If you find you do have extra fruit and veg, why not try freezing them to go into soups or smoothies?
Consider food banks
It’s not just people at home that are struggling during this time, organisations such as Vegan Foodbank North East are asking for donations, no matter how small. So, if you see something that you know you won’t eat or no longer need then donating it to a food bank would be a big help.
Have a spring clean in your kitchen and dig out the old tins at the back of the cupboard, check the dates and consider cooking with it or giving it away to someone who would. A good way to stock your cupboards and fridge is by using the FIFO method, which stands for “first in, first out.”. Taking a picture of what’s in your fridge could also help remind you of what’s in there.
How we store our food can also have an impact on how much food we waste. Many people are unsure how to store fruits and vegetables, which can lead to premature ripening and, eventually, rotten produce. For example, "potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, and onions should never be refrigerated. These items should be kept at room temperature." (La Manna, M).
It might make life easier especially for bigger households if you start to date food items once they have been opened and cooked. It’s easy to forget when something was first opened and something perfectly good can be thrown away because of this. If more food is being opened it’s good to keep on track by labelling them with a date.
Try wonky food
We are probably all guilty about doing this at some point in our lives but trying to be a perfectionist will result in lots of food waste. Choosing to buy the most perfect looking items that are pleasing to the eye leaves the ‘ugly’ and ‘wonky’ food to waste. They all have the same taste and nutritional value, yet we still choose flawless fruit and vegetables. Picking up some imperfect wonky fruit and veg is a very easy step to take if you’re serious about reducing your food waste.
You can easily create a positive change for our environment by being aware of the food you waste. Even small changes to the way you shop, cook and consume food will help reduce your impact on the world. Our campaign, Plate Up for the Planet, lets you go that little bit further, where you can use the Carbon Food Calculator to measure your foods greenhouse gas carbon footprint.
By Chloe Bowen
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.