Food Glorious Food
There are some things in life that will always cause uncertainty. What on earth is going on in British politics at the moment? Do we need an umbrella today? What are the proper regulations regarding frozen food?
Ask a pregnant woman and she’ll probably give you a wholly different answer to that of a care-free teenager – after all, the risks are that much greater. Yet misconceptions about how to approach the storage and preparation of frozen food is contributing to the UK’s high levels of food waste – seven million tonnes each year - according to a recent study.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found that 43% of people believe food can only be frozen on the day of purchase, 38% think it is dangerous to refreeze meat after it has been cooked and 36% maintain that food can become unsafe while in the freezer, yet these are nothing more than – for want of a better phrase - foodie fallacies.
According to the FSA:
- Foods can be frozen right up until the ‘use-by’ date.
- Food can, in theory, be frozen indefinitely, but the quality will decline so it’s best to consume it within 3-6 months.
- Once defrosted, food should be consumed within 24 hours.
- Food should be defrosted slowly – preferably overnight in the refrigerator.
- Once defrosted, food should not be refrozen.
Of course, getting to grips with these recommendations should drastically help reduce food waste – said to be enough to feed the nearly one billion starving people of the world whilst creating billions of tons of greenhouse gases and needlessly consuming land and water resources. But with the average family throwing away £700 worth of food and drink each year, it is clear that this is not the whole story.
Author, activist and creator of Wasted Food, Jonathan Bloom, has said that the overall food supply – at about twice the necessary amount per person – is far too abundant. Coupled with the desire for our food to look perfect and the fact that “we simply don’t value things we don’t spend much on” – cue big-box deal magnet, Costco – wasting food has simply become the norm.
So what can we do?
- Make a list with weekly meals in mind and never go shopping without it!
- Include quantities on your shopping list
- Make sure you check your stock at home before going shopping so as to avoid doubling up
- Be realistic and only buy things you know you need.
- Buy in bulk only if you know you’ll be able to use it all before it spoils.
- Don’t judge a fruit by its cover: Lots of produce is unnecessarily thrown away because it doesn’t look appealing, but for the most part there is actually nothing wrong with it.
- One we’re all probably guilty of – don’t go shopping while you’re hungry!
- Make sure your fridge is on the right setting – between 1-5°C is the optimum temperature. A reported 70% of us set it too high! Additionally, check your fridge frequently to make sure it’s working properly.
- Store fruits and vegetables properly – those bottom drawers in your fridge are not there for nothing!
- Some fruits, such as bananas, apples and tomatoes, give off natural gases as they ripen, which can spoil other produce, so make sure these are stored alone.
- Store food according to the instructions on the packet.
- Don’t wash berries until you’re ready to eat them so as to prevent mould.
- Freeze food that you know you won’t be able to eat all of, such as bread and meat.
- Get to grips with FIFO – First In, First Out. Move older products to the front and put new products at the back, ensuring you use the older stuff first. According to Jonathan, ‘out of sight out of mind’ is just as applicable to food as it is to anything else!
- Monitor what you throw away so you can adjust your habits accordingly.
- Take stock of what you’ve got and plan meals around that which is nearing its expiration date. A list stuck to your fridge or freezer of what you’ve got and how long it’s been there should help, too!
- Improve your storage habits. If you find that you regularly throw things away, invest in some airtight containers.
- Prepare, cook and freeze perishable items to both save time in the kitchen and reduce the amount you throw away!
- Try to use every part of the food while cooking, for example, vegetable skins and broccoli stems. Not only is this beneficial for the food waste effort, it’s also got additional nutrients for the body, too!
- Designate one dinner each week as a ‘use-it-up’ meal in which leftovers and close-to-expiry products get priority.
- Don’t encourage your eyes to be bigger than your belly. Eat only what you need – not what you think you’re going to want. Starting with less food on your plate means you can always go back for more without the risk of wasting food.
- Out for dinner? You could share a dish – especially if the restaurant is known for its huge portions!
- Love your leftovers! They make the perfect packed lunch or no-hassle dinner, so think twice before you bin them.
- Re-use leftovers. Vegetable and meat scraps are perfect for homemade stocks while old fruit and vegetables are great for smoothies and soups.
- Preserve your food, whether by canning, pickling, drying, sugaring, salting or vacuum packing as this will increase the life span of your products while offering a totally different taste!
- Don’t fancy your leftovers? Offer it to your garden, instead! Composting reduces the amount of food waste while creating a free fertiliser that your garden will thank you for!
- Donate your unwanted food - there will always be someone who will happily take it.
Between grocers, supermarkets and restaurants, the potential for food waste is staggering. That’s why there are constantly new initiatives being launched to help address this.
- The Met Office, through consultations with leading retailers, has launched a tool called DemandMet which puts weather into the context of the industry to help manage its impact on their supply chain and reduce the waste of perishable goods. Research conducted by them has shown that 60% of retailers have said that using it has helped them to reduce waste.
- Sustainable packaging company, TIPA, does what it says on the tin, with its flexible plastic packaging decomposing exactly like an orange peel – all whilst providing the same durability and shelf life of the standard we’ve come to expect. “Traditional plastic packaging can take up to 500 years to decompose”, Daphna Nissenbaum, CEO of TIPA, tells us. “However, compostable flexible food packaging solutions now allow for a new era in food packaging where for the first time there are viable end-of life solutions. A major shift by brands to use compostable flexible packaging could cut this down to 180 days, not only resulting in the diversion of waste from landfill, but creating a new fertiliser that may be used to further cultivate our land and enhance the production of more food for the planet. “Let’s hope that all businesses can work together to make the food industry as sustainable as it is possible to be.”
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