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How can we all help reduce food waste

Most of us do not realise how much food waste we produce. The most common food wasted is bread, salad, fresh fruit /vegetables and drinks.

Here are some simple ways that we can all reduce food waste our shopping bills and improve our diet.

The UK grocery sector has agreed to reduce waste produced in line with Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). Manufacturers and brand owners have also signed up to the targets set by WRAP. Consumers are the last link in the chain. If we are to achieve the ‘zero waste economy’ agreed by the UK government a bigger commitment needs to be undertaken with daily waste at home.

So how much waste is there?

On average families waste £60 per month by throwing away unwanted food items.  For example 24 million whole slices of bread are thrown away every day. The WRAP campaign helped to reduce food waste by 21% between 2007 and 2012, slightly short of its target.

Things that we can do

By planning the weeks’ meals we can decide what to buy and how much. We can also check what we already have and plan our meals accordingly; such as using left over tomatoes in a chilli. Making a shopping list before shopping can prevent impulse buying.

Don't be "picky"

Tonnes of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables are discarded every day because they are the “wrong” shape, have some superficial blemishes or have reached the “best before date” on the pack. If we learn to love bent bananas; spotty apples and cracked carrots retailers will buy them and producers might not have to dump so many.

Food preparation and storage

Preparing our fruit and vegetables as soon after shopping as we can will save time when cooking and reduce space taken up in the fridge. Storage can have significant impact on the lifespan of fruit and vegetables. Some fruit has an impact on other fruit. By following simple storage rules we can conserve produce for a lot longer (NHS choices, How to store food safely).

Freezing, defrosting and re-freezing

Freezing is a good way to prolong the life of our food. It is safe to freeze items right up to the use-by date. Ensure items are well wrapped and defrosted thoroughly before use and never re-freeze raw meat/poultry/fish that has been defrosted. We can re-freeze cooked meat once. To reduce waste freeze food in portion sizes so you can just defrost what you will need (NHS choices, How to store food safely).

Good economy

Making a list before you shop and after we have eaten can stop over buying.  Plan meals with the use-by dates of perishable goods in mind. Use any left over’s in casseroles and curries or freeze them for another day.  Preserving foods by making jams, chutneys or pickling is another good option (View BBC good food website - Good Food, Pickle Jam and Chutney Recipes). Lastly, composting remains of fruits and vegetables you cannot use, such as peel or husks, makes great food for the garden.


‘Use-by’ dates are there to warn that a food maybe unsafe to eat after that date, whereas ‘Best-before’ dates indicate that the food item is past its optimum condition but still safe to eat. The sell by date is purely there for the retailers to monitor food turn over on the shelves. If the sell-by date has passed it does not necessarily mean that the food is now unsafe to eat. Consumers only need to adhere to the use-by date for safety (The Guardian, Government bins ‘sell-by’ dates to reduce food waste).

Consumer attitudes

Developed countries, such as the UK, enjoy plentiful supplies of food and we have high expectations in terms of quality and choice. This puts a lot of pressure on global resources which, in turn, has an impact on global infrastructure and climate change. Simple changes such as choosing less than perfect fruit and vegetables and introducing meat free days (Love Food Hate Waste) can make a difference.

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