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How to reduce food waste: organise, categorise and love your leftovers

Every year consumers, retailers, wholesalers and caterers in the UK waste approximately 8 million tonnes of manufactured food. According to the Government more than half of this is wasted at home. With a total value of £16bn, this is the equivalent of £700 per household each year.

To help Britons avoid wasting food, the Sainsbury’s Waste less, Save more campaign has invested £1m to turn market town Swadlincote into an official test-bed of ideas and innovation. Here are some tips based on lessons learned in the year-long trial.

Get organised

Sainsbury’s research revealed that a quarter of people throw away food because they buy products they’ve already got in the fridge. Overbuying alone results in £1.5bn being wasted by UK households annually. Getting organised could change all that.

  1. Take a shelfie: Simply photographing the contents of your fridge before you leave the house could save the average UK household £235 a year – the average being wasted on over-buying!

  2. List it: One third of people don’t write shopping lists, according to WRAP. To form good food habits, keep a note pad and pen on the fridge and note down items as they run out.

  3. Seeing is believing: For two weeks write down everything you throw out. You may discover you’re repeatedly binning the same items, in which case you can adjust your shopping habits accordingly.

Label lovers

Understanding the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates of food is key to cutting waste. The ‘use by’ date is about safety and the most important date to remember. Foods can be eaten (and most can be frozen) up until the ‘use by’ date, but not after.

The ‘best before’ date refers to the quality and taste. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best in terms of flavour and texture. You can't beat looking, smelling, and tasting for a reliable indicator of freshness.

Your fridge is your temple

  • First In, First Out: Follow FIFO when unpacking shopping; orgnanise items by the use-by date, moving new products to the back. This way, you’re more likely to use up the older stuff before it expires.

  • Be consistent: Create regular spots for essential items such as milk so it’s easy to recognise when they’re finished.

  • Pack it right: Store food in the correct place in the fridge; it’s colder near the bottom so that’s where you should keep perishables like meat and dairy. Likewise, some food benefits from being kept at room temperature.

  • Check the temperature: Keeping your fridge between 1-5°C helps you get the best from your food. If your fridge doesn’t indicate temperature, try a fridge thermometer.

Become a matchmaker

Fresh fruit and vegetables contribute a significant amount to what Britons are wasting with 20% of all bought produce being thrown away. Storage is key to longer shelf life as certain fruit and veg produce gases during ripening that can quicken the ripening process of neighbours in the fruit bowl or veggie drawer.

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Helen Tse
Helen Tse
Apr 02, 2021

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