It is estimated that UK households waste 4.5 million tonnes of food each year. While many people in impoverished countries around the world go to bed hungry, food waste in developed countries remains a problem that has yet to be solved.
Food waste ends up in landfills, where it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, heating up the planet and worsening global warming. The onus to reduce food waste is on all of us. By adopting more mindful eating and buying practices, you can reduce your household’s weekly, monthly, and annual food waste by a lot.
In addition to reducing food wastage, you can also cut down on your household’s plastic waste by choosing eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic products, such as products made out of organic bamboo straw.
Here’s the ultimate guide to reducing food waste at home, school, and in the office.
What causes food waste?
It’s not just households that are to blame for food waste in the UK. A lot of food is wasted before it even arrives in grocery stores.
Fruits and produce from the harvest have to meet a certain cosmetic quality standard in order to qualify for being sold in UK supermarkets. As a result, fruit and fresh produce that doesn’t meet those standards is never even shipped to supermarkets, and is discarded after the harvest.
Restaurant food waste also makes up a large chunk of the UK’s annual food waste. Restaurants often buy more food than they end up using. If meat, fish, and produce aren’t used up by their use-by date, it has to be discarded.
While you can’t single-handedly put an end to all forms of food waste in the UK, you do have the power to make better decisions that will result in your household’s food waste being greatly reduced.
How can I reduce food waste at home?
Organizing your pantry and kitchen is the first step to cutting back on food waste in the home. Look through all your cabinets, drawers, and shelves and see which items are already past their expiration date. Throw those out and organize the rest of the food in your kitchen and pantry.
Put the cereals in one cabinet or make a separate corner for breakfast cereals and put them in glass jars. Don’t buy more of an item when you already have it at home; for example, don’t stock up on jars of Ovaltine or boxes of cereal when there are already plenty of them at home. Always finish food supplies at home before buying more at the grocery store.
You can also encourage children and other family members to cut down on other forms of waste, such as plastic waste, by choosing eco-friendly alternatives to plastic products. For example, instead of disposable plastic cutlery, you can give your children their school lunches with their own bamboo cutlery set. Instead of single-use plastic straws, which end up in our oceans and hurt marine life, you can use reusable bamboo straws at home. These are also portable and can be taken to school, to work, and on outdoor picnics.
A lack of food organisation at home can result in food being wasted. It is often the case in many homes that food supplies are left to rot away at the back of a cabinet or stowed away in the refrigerator and then forgotten. In this way, a lot of food becomes expired without anyone ever remembering to consume it before it goes bad. Getting organised can help you drastically reduce your home’s food wastage.
Organise your fridge
You should also organise your refrigerator. Some foods, like bread, garlic, pineapples, bananas, potatoes, and onions, last longer outside the fridge. Keep them in a cold and dark place in the pantry while freeing up more space in your fridge for perishable foods like milk and meat that need to be refrigerated.
Store foods in the fridge by grouping them by category. Have a separate corner for meat, dairy, poultry, fish, fruit, and fresh produce. This way, you’ll know exactly how much of each food group is left, and you won’t buy more at the store until you finish what you already have at home.
If there are leftovers from lunch or dinner, store them in the fridge instead of throwing them away. You can have them the next day or use them to make another meal.
Store vegetables in the crisper drawers of the fridge to keep them fresh for longer. Leafy greens should be refrigerated unwashed and stored in Ziploc bags which will seal in the freshness and prevent them from wilting.
Practice portion control
Practicing portion control is another effective way of reducing food waste. Even if you’re very hungry, help yourself to a smaller serving of food to avoid being stuck with leftovers on your plate that you won’t finish.
If you’ve polished off your first serving of food and are still hungry for more, you can always have a second or even a third helping, but you should always avoid piling large amounts of food onto your plate.
If you eat out at restaurants as a family, encourage your children to order only an amount of food that they can reasonably expect to finish. You can also educate your children about food poverty in different parts of the world and teach them that food is a blessing that should never be wasted. With so many people going hungry in so many places around the world, the least we can do to pay respect to the food we eat is to finish it instead of discarding large amounts of food every day.
How to reduce food waste at work
Many employees eat lunch in the cafeteria or at their desks while at work. Where there is food, there is bound to be food waste, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that UK workplaces are also responsible for generating part of the country’s annual food waste.
Providing a communal fridge in the cafeteria will allow workers to store their meals and smoothies so they don’ go bad. However, many people put their food in the communal fridge and then forget all about it. It’s not an uncommon sight to see mouldy food in the fridge at work.
To encourage everyone at work to finish their leftovers instead of leaving them to rot in the fridge, introduce a fridge rota at work. Every Friday before the weekend, have one person from your team clear out the fridge and hand back leftovers and meals approaching their use-by date to their owners. This will encourage people to take responsibility for their food and avoid food wastage at work.
At work, you can also take your own reusable cutlery instead of using disposable plastic cutlery. You can buy a reusable bamboo cutlery set that you can take with you wherever you go.
Avoiding food waste at school
If you give your children a packed lunch for school, make sure they actually like and eat what they are given. Check if they are bringing any leftovers home. Bringing back leftovers once in a while is fine, but if your child is refusing to eat their lunch on a regular basis, try talking to them to see if there’s something else that they would like to eat or if there’s a problem with their appetite.
If your children get school lunches at the school cafeteria, make sure you talk to them about the importance of finishing their food. You can also get together with the teachers at school to talk about incorporating lessons and activities into the children’s classes that teach them about the importance of conserving food and cutting down on food wastage.
Buy reusable bamboo cutlery online
Every year, the United Kingdom generates more than 2 million tonnes of waste from plastic packaging. You can cut down on your household’s plastic waste by choosing eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic, such as reusable bamboo cutlery sets instead of plastic cutlery.
My Little Panda is a company offering UK customers alternatives to single-use plastic products with their innovative range of products made from organic bamboo straw. The company’s products currently include their reusable bamboo cutlery sets, bamboo straws, bamboo cooking utensils, reusable makeup remover pads, reusable bamboo chopsticks, bamboo toothbrush holder, and more. Their products make for great gifts to give to eco-conscious friends and loved ones on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.