Blog by Jenna
Sustainable Merton Community Champion & Waste Team Leader
UK households are wasting 4.5m tonnes of food a year, worth £14bn - or £700 a year for an average family with children*. Not only that, if food waste were a country it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases**! Here are our top tips for reducing food waste, eating healthier, and saving money in the process...
Create a meal plan for the week and prioritise items in your kitchen that are close to expiring. Where possible, cook bulk meals to 1) save time later in the week, 2) avoid expensive impulse purchases and convenience food, and 3) make it easier to make healthy choices.
Take a ‘shelfie’
Snap a photo of your fridge and cupboards to keep track of what you already have before you go shopping. Alternatively, free apps such as Whisk, OurGroceries, and Food Checklist allow you to keep track of what you have, while sharing meal plans and shopping lists with your household on-the-go.
Think outside the box:
Consider buying a veg box that gives a home to ‘ugly’ fruit and veg rejected by supermarkets. Oddbox is a South East based scheme that delivers perfectly good but not perfect looking fruit and veg to Merton.
Know your labels:
All packaged food comes dated, but not all dates are created equal. Best Before indicates when the quality of your food will be at its highest, but this food may be fine to eat for days after. On the other hand, foods that have a Use By date may not be safe to consume after that time.
Seal and store:
Once opened, keep food fresher for longer by following best practice and labels; this could be storing it in an airtight container or popping it in the fridge. You don’t need to splash out on expensive tupperware; tubs and jars can be cleaned and repurposed for the job! You can write the date right on the container so you remember when you stored it.
When unloading your groceries, place items with the furthest expiry date toward the back of the shelf or drawer and place food that needs to be eaten soon at eye-level. Creating an ‘eat now’ shelf or placing a fruit bowl in plain sight can encourage good snack habits and reduce waste.
If you won’t use up fresh produce within a few days of purchase, freezing it can be the
answer with frozen meat lasting between 3-6 months, and many vegetables lasting up to a year! Chopping and portioning raw ingredients can save time later, but don’t forget to label and date produce before freezing it.
Bulk up last night’s leftovers with fresh ingredients or use them to create an entirely new
creative work for you by suggesting recipes based on what you already have at home.
Want not, waste not:
If you have surplus, unopened and in-date food, why not donate fresh food to your local Community Fridge in Merton’s Community Fridge Network or food with a longer shelf life to Wimbledon Foodbank; join us in tackling food poverty and waste in the borough.
Did you know that there are also free-to-use mobile apps for sourcing and sharing food? Olio offers a virtual marketplace for households and businesses to offload and collect food that is unwanted or nearing its sell by date, whereas Too Good to Go helps you to save unsold food from restaurants and cafes at a hefty discount; you won’t know exactly what’s in your ‘magic bag’ until you pick it up, but it’s all part of the surprise!
Why not volunteer as a Fridge Friend at your local Community Fridge. You’ll be helping to fight food poverty and waste, meeting some great people, and giving back to your community.