In the UK we throw away about 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year - Include the food industry and it's more like 20 million tonnes. More than half of that is food that could have been eaten. The cost of throwing out food, to the average household with children, is around £700 per year. If everyone stops wasting food, the benefit to the planet would be like taking 1 in 4 cars off the road. Every tonne thrown away is responsible for 4.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
So what are the reasons that food gets wasted? The main reason is likely to be that we tend to prepare more food than is needed. After all, isn't it better to have more food to serve, rather than not enough? And of course if there are leftovers, it'll be saved for a later snack right? However, if it isn't eaten at a later date, it gets thrown in the bin.
Another reason is a lack of planning for meal times - So we go to the supermarket without a specific idea in mind of what we'll be preparing for the week. What happens then is that we often buy more than is needed or we forget what was bought, leading to more waste.
Often, food that is thrown away could still be eaten (unless of course it's grown a pair of moldy legs and walked away), and I think there is some confusion about sell-by dates.
Best before - These dates appear on a wide range of dried, tinned, and frozen foods. It's about quality, rather than safety. It is quite literally 'best before' the date shown. If something on your shelf is a little past the date, it's not going to harm you, but it may start to lose flavour/texture.
Sell by - This is a term used mainly for stock control purposes, and are instructions for shop staff, not consumers.
Use by - 'Use by' is found on food that does go off quickly (fish, meat, etc). It's recommended not to use food or drink after the end of the 'use by', but some suggest that if stored properly, most foods stay fresh a few days past the 'use by' date. Just try to be mindful of getting it used (even chuck it in the freezer), to reduce waste and also to save your money.
How can we reduce food waste, help the planet, and save ourselves money? Below are some practical tips:
Don't over-serve, and save any leftovers. You can freeze the leftovers for a later date.
Be realistic - Plan meals, write shopping lists, and avoid impulse buys
Be creative with the leftover ingredients in your fridge! Make a smoothie with soft fruit, or a soup/stock with wilting vegggies. Over on BBC Food, type in what ingredients you have and it'll give you recipe ideas: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/
Be smart - Store food in the correct place in the fridge - Food republic has a fantastic infographic that can help - http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/07/26/where-food-goes-in-the-fridge/
Raise awareness! - Help us in the fight to create a more sustainable society by talking with your friends or family, and sharing this blog.