Today’s headlines make for shocking reading. According to a new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers between 30 and 50% of food produced in the world never reaches a human stomach. This makes for difficult reading at a time when thousands of people in the UK are turning to food banks and where millions of people in developing countries are struggling to survive and feed their families.
About 4 billion metric tonnes of food is produced per year and 1.2 – 2 billion tonnes is going to waste due to poor harvesting, storage and transportation at source as well as market and consumer waste. Add to this the wasted water, fertiliser and time spent growing food, the wasted resources transporting and storing it and you end up with a pretty disgusting picture of greed in the face of others poverty.
Supermarkets push for perfect produce to supply increasingly fussy consumers and make impossible demands on producers with the result that a huge amount of produce is left to rot because it is the wrong shape, size or colour. Buy one get one free offers mean many customers buy produce they will never use and ridiculously conservative sell by dates encourage consumers to throw away perfectly edible produce.
The greed of supermarkets and many consumers in the developed world inflates food prices on a global scale driving up prices for staples in the developing world as well as pushing prices beyond the purses of many in our own countries.The fact that much of that perfect food we demand is simply being thrown away is, frankly, criminal.
So, What Can We Do As Consumers To Reduce Food Waste?
- We can buy our food direct from the farm at farm shops and farmers’ markets and accept that vegetables are wibbly and wonky.
- We can plan ahead and buy only what we need
- We can shop with a friend so we don’t miss out on bargains (buy one get one free offers work well if you share them not so much if you just chuck away that extra bag of oranges)
- We can look at how we store food (fruit may look pretty in the fruit bowl but it lasts longer in the fridge – not bananas though), the freezer is our friend
- We can measure out ingredients so that we don’t overcook (use this portion planner from Love Food Hate Waste to help)
- We can keep the tins, packets and bottles which need using first at the front of our cupboards where they can be seen and used rather than at the back where they are forgotten
- We can pickle and preserve in times of harvest, eat seasonally and prepare food from scratch using up all those bits and bobs.
There needs to be sea change in the way the world’s food is produced. The UN predicts that there could be an extra 3 billion mouths to feed by the end of this century and one of the key issues facing human kind is how to feed everyone in a world of finite resources. Obviously, looking at today’s figures, one of the things we need to do is stop wasting food and start producing it sustainably.
As usual in the face of such enormous figures and a problem on such a global scale it is much easier to sit back and wash your hands of it or stick your head in the sand BUT we are the problem and change has to begin with us.
A few basic changes in the way we shop and cook are easy to implement and have the added advantage of saving us money.
Top Ten Tips to Reduce Food Waste
- Meal plan for the week, make a shopping list and stick to it.
- Freeze leftovers for use on another day. Stale bread makes excellent breadcrumbs to use as crispy coatings, to pad out a lentil loaf or as a crumble topping on a savoury dish. Grate left over cheese and freeze it ready for instant use in sauces and toppings. Make stock with leftover limp vegetables and freeze.
- Measure portions to avoid over cooking, don’t over face children with too much food and then be surprised when they don’t eat it.
- Buy locally, direct from producers where possible
- Go shopping with a friend if you do go to the supermarket and share BOGOF offers
- Encourage supermarkets to keep selling proper veg by buying the bags of ‘All shapes, all sizes’ fruits and vegetables which are gradually appearing
- Ignore sell by dates and use use by dates, your eyes and your nose to tell you whether something can be eaten
- Grow some of your own, fresh herbs snipped from a windowbox, lettuces and salad leaves straight from the ground last longer than well travelled greenery in plastic bags (and they taste better too!)
- Cook from scratch where possible, a good homemade vegetable soup using up leftovers or my ‘Bottom of the Fridge’ baked bean curry is hard to beat and so easy to make!
- Teach your children how to cook, how to meal plan and how to budget so that the next generation is not as wasteful as the last.