Have you ever been unable to finish your meal, over-estimated the number of groceries you need, or found out-of-date food hiding at the back of your kitchen cupboards? I find food waste upsetting because it has become normal and derives from carelessness. A problem with a multitude of layers, uneaten food not only wastes the money of the consumer but also wastes agricultural resources such as land, water and labour, and where animal products are involved, there is also a huge ethical issue, because millions of livestock have been slaughtered without a substantial reason. It is also disturbing that while so many of us have excessive amounts of food, there are still millions of people starving.
Personally, a problem that really pushes my buttons is food waste, not simply because it’s more waste, but because there’s a needless overproduction and wastage that is, in my opinion, inexcusable. It’s not only the food being wasted but all the energy put into growing it, transporting it and selling it. Considering the unsustainable rate at which we produce food, it baffles me how we are so okay with wasting it, knowing that we might not have that luxury in the future. Apps like Too Good To Go and Olio are but a band-aid in the solution of this problem, and though well-intentioned, it only places the burden of reducing waste on the individual rather than the supermarkets, restaurants, and food industry, that accounts for the majority of the food waste.
What are you doing to tackle this problem, and what can people do to tackle some of the problems within the food industry?
I reduce my personal food waste by meal planning and being mindful while grocery shopping, and I encourage others to also take responsibility and help tackle this issue.
In order to reduce personal food waste, it is crucial for everyone as individuals to be mindful of the food products that they are buying. A simple way to begin implementing mindfulness is to write shopping lists whilst browsing your kitchen – this enables you to avoid buying products that you already have/ products that you are leaving uneaten.
Meal planning is an effective way of reducing personal food waste as it encourages you to consider the exact types and amounts of food you will need, and for people who may prefer a little guidance there are a number of companies that let you order weekly “meal kits” to your house, a popular example being HelloFresh.
Another element of waste in the food industry revolves around packaging. A way in which we can reduce this is by reusing sustainable bags as opposed to plastic bags (save yourself the 5p!).
Supporting your local grocery shops, butchers and bakeries reduces the amount of waste in terms of transportation and therefore is a more ethical alternative to shopping at supermarkets. However, if a supermarket is the only option available to you, aim to buy produce that is sourced locally and is in season.
I was taught as a kid to never leave food on a plate, and essentially all I do is apply that to the entire food-journey.
Over 40% of all food waste is residential. If for an entire month you were to count how many items in your fridge you toss away because they’ve gone bad, you’d see that they start to add up.
When buying food, I always try to look at apps like ‘Too Good to Go’ and ‘Olio’ for my groceries. If there isn’t anything on the apps, I buy food at a supermarket and always go with a shopping list so that I don’t over-buy. I tend to go straight to the ‘reduced’ section which is full of items about to go off (which will be tossed away and are budget friendly too!) and I will treat myself to things that aren’t necessarily on my list from time to time, but I’ll make sure that it’s something that I plan on eating soon. When you’re shopping, perhaps go for the uglier looking fruit or pick up that bag of ‘wonky’ potatoes, I assure you they’ll taste just the same.
When cooking, I always try to use up my fresh groceries first (vegetables, dairies etc). If I feel I’m not going to be able to use them before they go bad then I’ll freeze them. When cooking, I save the stems and leaves that I would chuck away and blend them into smoothies, or I’ll place leftover fruit peels in the oven to make chips.
It’s important to keep these things in mind when restaurants and pubs re-open. Over-ordering is as bad as over-buying. There’s still a great deal of food waste coming from the hospitality industry and supermarkets, who end up tossing away enormous amounts of perfectly edible food, and it can often feel frustrating and overwhelming as we can’t directly change them.
As consumers, we should only order what we plan on eating. I’m aware that many things will eventually end up in the bin, it’s not a perfect system, but I think making sure we’re not contributing to the current ‘buy and toss’ eating culture is a good place to start.
How can we learn more about this problem?
- There are websites such as WWF and Friends Of The Earth where people can discover the environmental impact of the food industry.
- Blogs such as Too Good To Go which can help you to navigate your personal journey towards reducing food waste.
- TV programs such as Eat, Shop, Save which provide insight into the many benefits of being thoughtful while grocery shopping.