As of 2024, the UK produces the highest amount of food waste in Europe. In a year, we throw away an average of 9.5 million tonnes of food. That’s a lot of food waste! Although a portion of this number comes from supermarkets, restaurants, and other businesses, they’re not the only culprits. In fact, 70% of the UK’s food waste is produced by households. On average, that’s about 70 kg per household, per year! That’s the equivalent of 140 meals, or the weight of a washing machine. In this blog we’ll discuss how we’re wasting food, why it’s such a big problem, and how we can reduce food waste in our own homes.
How Are We Wasting Food?
There are a few different ways in which we waste food at home. This includes:
Throwing Away Offcuts
We waste food when we don’t use our offcuts. This includes things like potato peels, celery heads or onion roots.
Throwing Away Spoiled Produce
Once produce goes past its use-by date, you shouldn’t eat it. That’s why you should check the date before you buy, to avoid having to throw it away.
Throwing Away Uneaten Foods
Food goes to waste when it’s not eaten. The next time you find yourself unable to finish a meal, have a think about how you could use the leftovers.
Why is Food Waste An Issue?
The most important issue that food waste presents is the impact it has on our environment. Most food waste ends up in a landfill site. These landfills are already extremely overcrowded, and so anything we can do to send less stuff there the better!
But why is sending food waste to a landfill a problem? Food will naturally decompose over time anyway, right? Although this is true, food waste in a landfill becomes trapped and decompressed by everything else that gets thrown in there. This means it will decompose very slowly, without oxygen. The big issue with this is that it creates the release of methane. Methane is 25 times more harmful than CO2, contributing largely to global warming and the erosion of the ozone layer.
On the other hand, if you instead decide to compost your food waste, you can avoid the production of methane altogether. This can be done by ensuring that you keep your compost aerated (exposed to oxygen). This will allow for aerobic bacteria to break down the organic matter, producing carbon dioxide, which is much less harmful than methane.
Food waste is also an issue morally. Millions of pounds worth of food is thrown away every year, whilst many people go hungry. If you do find that you have leftover food that is still in date, that you know you won’t eat, consider giving it away. There are many apps now that allow you to list your food item/s for others to come collect.
Finally, wasting food at home is simply a waste of your own money. Food shopping is, unfortunately, currently quite expensive. So why waste the food you buy? With such a large percentage of food waste being produced by households, it’s fair to say that many are struggling with their own food waste. You’re certainly not alone in this!
Read on to learn more about how you can reduce food waste at home.
What Are the Most Commonly Wasted Food Items?
The 5 most commonly wasted food items include:
Ensure you are storing these correctly, and not buying more than you can consume in a week.
How To Cut Down On Food Waste
Store Your Food Efficiently
One of the biggest reasons for food waste at home is not storing your food efficiently. By storing food in its ideal conditions they will last longer. This gives you a bigger window of time to consume them. Here are some tips on how to store your food to last longer:
1. Set Your Fridge to The Correct Temperature
There is an ideal temperature range that your fridge should remain in to keep your food fresher for longer. The average fridge in the UK is running at 7°C, which is higher than recommended. Your fridge should actually be set between 0°C – 5°C.
2. Keep Your Fresh Produce Hydrated
Fruits and vegetables should be kept in ideal humidity conditions if you want them to last longer. How much humidity is needed will depend on your produce.
Many fridges now come with humidity controlled drawers. To use these to their fullest potential, it is recommended to use a low-humidity setting for food that rots, and a high-humidity setting for food that wilts. This is because the low-humidity settings opens a little window for ethylene gas to escape, which is released by some fruits and veggies causing them to rot. This includes fruit such as apples and pears. The high-humidity setting keeps moisture in, keeping vegetables such as cucumbers and leafy greens crisp and fresh.
3. Smart Fridge Features
There are many smart fridge features available today to keep an eye on when on the lookout for a new fridge. Many of these features are designed to help your food stay fresher for longer.
Examples of these include features that will stop you from opening the fridge door as often. Each time you open the fridge door, you are allowing cool air to escape, and warm air to enter your fridge. These temperature fluctuations, although mostly oftentimes minimal, will affect the integrity of your fridge’s contents. Features that help you avoid opening your fridge door include:
Windows to view the inside of your fridge.
This allows you to check contents without needing to open the door at all.
Easy access doors, a smaller door to grab a quick item.
Opening a smaller door is less impactful than opening the main door.
Internal cameras that show you the inside of your fridge.
Samsung internal cameras can also be used to help track inventory and expiration dates.
4. Store Your Food in the Right Place
Not everything lasts longer in the fridge. In fact, the fridge can actually cause some food items to perish quicker. Here are some examples of food items that are often stored in the wrong place, and where they should actually be stored:
Store in a cool, dry place until the outside feels tender. Then transfer to fridge, consuming ASAP.
Store in a cool, dry place whilst covered. A bread bin is considered the ideal location.
Store away from other produce, ideally hanging on a banana hook. Keep them in a cool and dry place.
Store in a cool, dark place. Place your coffee beans in an opaque, airtight container.
Eggs are best stored in the fridge. Do not store them in the door of the fridge to avoid fluctuating temperatures.
Store in the fridge, but not in the fridge door. This is to avoid fluctuating temperatures.
Store your nuts in the fridge. Store in the freezer if you don’t plan on eating them all within 1 month.
Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Keep inside a mesh bag for ventilation.
Store at room temperature when whole and unripe. Otherwise store in the fridge in an airtight container.
Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Keep inside a mesh bag for ventilation.
Store in the fridge, covered and on top of a plate. Place on the bottom shelf.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for longevity.
Store in a wine cooler at optimal temperature and humidity levels.
Yes, it is safe to leave butter on the counter, as long as you store it correctly. Unsalted butter should only be kept out of the fridge for a day or two. Salted butter can last a little longer. If you do leave butter on the counter, be sure that it’s left in a cool environment. It will also need to be safely covered. A butter dish or a butter bell is best. Do be mindful that butter left out too long will begin to taste rancid, and can absorb unpleasant odours.
Regularly Organise Your Fridge
Organising your fridge will not only help to keep it looking tidy, but it will also reduce food waste. It does this in 3 different ways:
1. Reminds you to eat food before expiration dates
When organising your fridge, check the expiration dates. By doing this, you can create a meal plan to ensure you consume everything before they expire. If you know you won’t be able to eat it before the expiry date, try giving it away before throwing it away. Ask family or friends if they need it, or list it on a food donation app for collection.
Some refrigeration appliances have smart features that can help you keep track of expiration dates, and even give you recipe ideas using the contents of your fridge!
2. Allows you to remove expired produce
By organising your fridge, you create an opportunity to check your produce. If you notice signs of rotting or extreme wilting, remove the produce from your fridge. This will protect the rest of your produce, thus allowing it to stay fresher for a longer period.
Instead of throwing away any bad produce, consider composting it. This is better for the environment than simply throwing it away.
3. Reminds you of food items you may have forgotten about
How many times have you had to throw something away, just because you forgot you even had it, and now it’s gone bad? It’s happened to us all. By organising your fridge, you’ll have a better idea of what’s actually inside.
You could even try creating a rotating system, so items that are going to expire quicker are nearer to the front. You’re more likely to use these as you can see them more clearly.
Freeze Your Food
Freezing your food will allow you to keep them for much longer. So, instead of letting them go bad, pop your food items safely in the freezer. You can then defrost them before consuming, as and when you need to. Some examples of foods you can freeze include:
Tips For Safe Freezing:
- Always freeze foods in suitable containers.
- Write the date on your frozen foods, and how long it will last.
- Only refreeze defrosted food if it was defrosted safely in the fridge, hasn’t been left out at room temperature, doesn’t have an off smell or colour, and it has been less than 3 days since defrosting. Otherwise, you should never refreeze it. We wouldn’t recommend refreezing anyway, as food that has been frozen multiple times will lose a lot of its original taste and texture.
- Always research first before freezing a food item you’ve never frozen before.
You can safely freeze wine. However it will negatively impact the flavour and aroma. We would therefore not recommend doing so.
Overbuying is probably one of the biggest causes of wasted food. This happens when we buy more than what we can consume. There are two things we recommend to help you stop overbuying: don’t food shop when you’re hungry, and always meal plan.
When you food shop hungry, you’re more likely to pick up food items that you don’t actually need. And, more often than not, it’ll be high-fat foods you haven’t planned for. Do yourself, and your wallet, a favour and eat before you shop!
A smart fridge feature to look out for includes the ability to tell you what’s in your fridge whilst you’re shopping. This will help you to stop buying food items that you already have at home.
Planning your meals for the week before food shopping is beneficial in so many ways. First of all, it means you can go into the shop knowing exactly what you need. This will mean shopping should hopefully take you a lot less time.
Meal planning will also help you figure out what use-by dates to look for, and how to use any leftover food items you have. You can even consider batch cooking if you’re unable to purchase smaller portions of a food item. This means making more portions of food so that you can freeze some to eat at a later date.
Some smart fridges have features that can help you to meal plan. For example, features that give you food recipe ideas based on foods you buy, or features that allow you to create a shopping list on the go.
Check Use-By Dates
Remember to always check the use-by date before buying! Forgetting may result in the food going to waste, as you thought you had longer to use it. If you’re not sure when you’re going to eat a food item, consider meal planning. Or put it in the freezer when you get home so that it lasts longer, as long as it’s safe to do so.
As mentioned above, composting is less harmful to the environment than throwing food away. That’s because food that is left to decompose in a landfill becomes trapped and starved of oxygen. It is then forced to decay in a way that produces methane. Composting, on the other hand, can be done in a way that produces carbon dioxide instead of methane, which is much less harmful. This is done by ensuring that your compost remains aerated.
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