We’re all familiar with the cycle of food waste at home, feeling like the trip from kitchen waste to outdoor bins happens all too often. For many of us who are eco-conscious, recycling plastics, glass and metal has become second nature in our homes. But what about the rest of the rubbish that ends up in our waste bins? We’ve put together some of our best tips to teach you how to reduce food waste in your home, ensuring that you’re cutting down to the bare minimum and making your food go further.
What happens to food waste?
For plenty of us, our food waste is out of sight, out of mind. While we make efforts to ensure we’re doing our part to reduce the impact on the environment, the way our household waste is disposed of can be quite shocking.
The disposal of food waste can vary by country to country, and even by city or town. But for most of us, a huge amount of our daily food waste that isn’t carefully separated from our ordinary rubbish simply ends up in landfills or incinerated, contributing to slow biodegradation and dangerous greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. Landfills can also cause the destruction of natural wildlife habitats and dangerous effects in groundwater runoffs. The effects are proven to be harmful for many generations to follow, and unfortunately landfills are only getting fuller and fuller.
The first step we can take to do our personal part is to check if it’s possible in your area to dispose of food waste separately. In many areas food waste can be collected and recycled into biogas or compost, ensuring that you’re contributing to more planet-friendly and sustainable methods of disposal.
What can I put in my food waste bin?
You should always make sure to check your area’s local council website for the most thorough detail, but food waste bins are the place to dispose of a surprisingly large amount of our daily waste.
Meat, fish and dairy are accepted in most food waste disposals, cooked or uncooked and including bones. You can also add any plant-based waste, from vegetables and fruit through to tea and coffee.
We know that food waste can be an inevitable part of our routines and lives, and living sustainably is a project we’re all journeying through as best we can. But there might just be better uses for some of those food items we mentioned, so keep on reading to find out how you can cut your food waste down to size and maybe even stretch that shopping budget too.
Get started with composting
If you’re on a mission to reduce food waste, composting is a great place to start. Many areas offer compost bins for free, making it totally simple to contribute to sustainable disposal of your food and garden waste. But what if that’s not available to you? It could be easier than you think to create your own compost system at home, independently.
The quickest way to compost is in a pile started on the ground and exposed to the elements, however that’s not often practical or attractive for many of us. If you’re using that route, make sure you read up on your local regulations on composting first, including any homeowner’s association rules.
For the rest of us, a large composting bin is the place to begin. Place it in a dry, shady area and start with brown gardening materials like twigs and dead leaves. Then add greener materials like grass cuttings and veg scraps. You should mix it all up and moisten the pile, then cover and leave it to do its thing. Come back and keep the pile moist every few days at first.
Once you’ve gotten started, you can add your compost materials as often as you need to. You should check on the compost at least every couple of weeks, ensuring you turn it over on itself to aerate it. This is especially useful for keeping things fresh, if it’s beginning to smell a little ripe.
Keep reading for tips on how you can easily keep on track with a compost-ready pile of waste in your kitchen, making those walks to the compost bin less frequent and burdensome.
How to reduce, reuse and recycle food waste
Our tips for reducing food waste start from the moment you bring the food into your home, right through the cooking process, and disposal. At every step, we’ve got tips to help you do your part to reduce the output in your home.
- Plan your meals
Ensuring your shopping list is built around the meals you’re going to eat means less waste from the very start. Much of our household food waste is caused by ingredients that spoil when not used in time.
- Make a chart
Use a chalkboard to create your meal list for the week, ensuring you’re cooking in the right order to ensure that leftover ingredients are used in the coming days effectively. Chart expiry dates when you shop to make the list.
- Shop around and measure up
If the portions sold at supermarkets are causing issues, shop around for loose products you can tailor to your needs. Greengrocers and butchers let you buy just as much as each recipe requires, leaving no extras to go out of date. Whole foods and green independent stores often let you shop by the kilo for dry goods too, letting you skip the packaging and weigh out what you need.
- Freeze the right portions
When you shop, don’t forget to split things up and extend their life. Freeze in portions, ensuring you’re only defrosting the right amount for that day’s cooking. And don’t forget to choose reusable freezer bags and boxes to reduce waste.
- Freeze more foods
You might be surprised just how many ingredients you can safely freeze, from fresh. Your freezer doesn’t have to be ice cream and leftovers! Pre-cut fruit and vegetables, and even bread and wraps can freeze well.
- Understand expirations
It’s important when planning meals that you understand the dates on your food. Remember that “Use By” is the hard and fast date given on many items that can be more harmful when spoiled. “Best Before” allows you to use your judgement, so weigh up those items for freshness. Keep reading for a few ideas on how you can use food that’s past its best for longer.
- Store food properly
A simple thing we can all overlook is how storage can extend the life of food in your kitchen. For example, potatoes should be stored away from onions as the gases onions release can speed up sprouting in spuds.
- Check your temperatures
Don’t forget to check that your fridge is at the proper temperature of between 1-5 degrees Celsius. You can make sure by popping a cooking thermometer inside for a few minutes and ensuring the real temperature inside matches what the dial says.
Use your scraps
Those forgotten ends of food needn’t end up in the waste bin, especially if there’s deliciousness left to give. Veg scraps make for a great stock, while the cut-offs of fruits can often be combined for smoothies packed with flavour.
Find your refrigerated leftovers are going to waste? It’s often down to eating the same thing twice in a row. Freeze dinner leftovers to have another day and your interest will be renewed. You can even switch up the sides to reinvent the meal.
Make use of stale bread
Stale doesn’t mean spoiled, and there could still be life left in that loaf if you plan ahead. Stale bread makes better croutons for salads and soups, or can be transformed into breadcrumbs for baking toppings.
Preserve and pickle
Pickling is growing in popularity for a reason - the results are delicious. But those old-fashioned natural methods of preservation can make food go further for longer. Just don’t forget to label correctly so there’s no future waste.
Compost on the counter
Ensure you’re sticking to your composting goals with a small, countertop box that’s easy to access and always fresh-smelling. This means you’re always sticking to your goals, making it easier not to cut corners. Add this box to an outdoor compost bin regularly.
Reuse in the garden
Think before you bin it. Did you know that many food waste items are incredibly versatile? Coffee grounds can be used as a quick fertilizer in your garden or pot plants, and even have a natural insect repellent quality.
Replant your veg
While you’re in your garden, replant the hearts of your lettuce and the chopped off bases of spring onions to grow your own. Simply place in shallow beds of soil with water and a little sunlight to germinate.
A natural cleaning product
Get clever with those versatile scraps at home. Add pre-squeezed lemon rinds to a vinegar and baking soda solution to infuse the homemade surface cleanser with a fresh and zingy smell.
Freshen the disposal
If your home has a built-in disposal unit in the sink, don’t go at it with harmful chemicals. Simply place citrus rinds through to freshen up the unit. But be careful to ensure food waste isn’t regularly being scraped down there too.
- A family affair
Making waste management a family ethos makes it all the easier to stick with it. Set goals for your whole family to reduce, reuse, recycle together and make them visible within the food prep spaces as a reminder.