In recent years, the need to reduce food waste has become even more apparent as we face pressing global challenges related to environmental sustainability and food security. To underscore the significance of this issue, here are some eye-opening statistics from reputable sources:
- Food Waste in the United States:
- The United States wastes about 30-40% of its food supply, amounting to approximately 133 billion pounds of food annually. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills, making up around 22% of discarded municipal solid waste. (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
- Wasted food in the U.S. represents a financial loss of around $161 billion each year. (Source: ReFED)
- Food Waste in the United Kingdom:
- The United Kingdom wastes an estimated 9.5 million tons of food each year. (Source: WRAP)
- Households in the UK contribute to 70% of all post-farm-gate food waste, totaling around £14 billion annually. (Source: Waste and Resources Action Programme – WRAP)
Individuals and communities are increasingly recognizing the importance of minimizing food waste. Not only does food waste contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and strain natural resources, but it also represents a missed opportunity to alleviate hunger and nourish those in need.
We can all play our part in trying reduce food waste when cooking for our families. Here, Charlotte Stirling-Reed, baby and child nutritionist and author of the new book How to Feed Your Family shares 10 of her top tips for reducing food waste in your home:
1. Get organised with your fridge and freezer
In order to get yourself into the mindset of reducing waste, the first thing you need to do is make space and get the equipment you might need to make this easier. One of the main things that can help is having a bit of a clear out in the first place so you have plenty of room to start from scratch in your fridge and freezer. Give them a clean, get some useful freezer bags/storage materials and use up or throw away anything that isn’t edible anymore to help get you started.
2. Have a weekly meal plan (of sorts)
I know many people don’t like the idea of meal plans and menu planning, but I’ve been doing it so much more and, honestly, it does make a huge difference. Knowing what you’re eating each day helps you to use up foods you have in the fridge, shop more efficiently, avoid overbuying what you don’t need, save money, reduce waste and frees up headspace when you get to the end of the day and realise that you don’t know what you’re going to make for dinner!
3. Plan for “fridge raid” meals at least once a week
…where you get out all of the bits of food that need using up and have a buffet meal for the whole family. It works a treat in our house and is often far more balanced than you might think.
4. Try out a shopping list that has lists for “What I have at home” and “What I need to buy”
This isso that you don’t buy things you simply don’t need. I have lots of new resources on my website for you to download to help with meal planning and also reducing food waste. Check them out here: SR Nutrition Factsheets.
5. Have a shelf in your fridge for foods that simply need using up asap
Have this shelf at eye level so you can see this food instantly. In How to Feed Your Family I also have a “Food to Use Chart” which you can keep on your fridge (or freezer) to help you plan foods into meals when they need using up.
6. Don’t be afraid to freeze things
One of the things I’ve found recently is that none of us make the best use of our freezers. SO many foods can be frozen really easily and will still keep their physical and nutritional qualities. You can also easily prep foods e.g. chopped onion, carrots or chicken and freeze it for quick additions to meals later on. I recommend when you get home from the supermarket, to try and prep/chop and freeze anything that is past its best so you can use it another day. Get experimental with your freezer and you won’t regret it.
7. Avoid making separate meals for everyone
Instead offer sides (based on what needs using up) that are more readily accepted, but stick to cooking ONE meal for the family in the evening, rather than multiple. This helps save you time and is likely to (in the long run) reduce picky eating, meaning that more food gets eaten (eventually). Eating together and eating similar foods regularly, has so many benefits to families too, not just reducing food waste. I love the Tripp Trapp chair from Stokke for bringing even the youngest members of the family up to the table to eat together.
8. Serve smaller portions and allow for seconds
this means that you can easily freeze any leftovers that weren’t touched, instead of scraping plated leftovers straight into the bin.
9. Make “leftover” meals more regularly
This is something I’ve been doing so much more lately. Leftover veg soup and leftover veg traybake are some of the recipes in my book and they’ve become staples in our family. Soups, stews, pasta sauces and even salads are fab ways to bung lots of ingredients together that need using up, add some flavours and some proteins and voila, you have a meal!
10. Be aware of what foods you often let go to waste in your household
It might be bread, potatoes, tomatoes, chicken or milk (these are some of the most commonly wasted foods in UK households) and find some recipes that include those foods and aim to make them more often – again this helps if you have a meal plan for the week.
The issue of reducing food waste has emerged as a critical and urgent concern with significant implications for our environment, economy, and global well-being. As we confront the staggering statistics on wasted food and its devastating impact, it becomes evident that we all have a part to play in effecting positive change.
Together, we have the power to make a positive impact. By embracing weekly meal planning, making the most of our fridge and freezer space, and creatively utilizing leftovers, we can effectively reduce food waste in our households. Moreover, smarter shopping habits, mindful portion control, and the incorporation of “leftover” meals can further contribute to a more sustainable food consumption pattern.