I set myself a goal two years ago to reduce the food I waste. Since then, I’ve reduced my own food bill by £600 a year.
This is Week 3 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps. We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.
This week, Caroline Wilson reveals how she has both saved money and reduced her carbon footprint by reducing her food waste. Caroline is a self-confessed foodie and food waste hero. She runs the Living Off the Cupboard Facebook Group, inspired by her Mum’s ability to feed the family with what was already in the cupboard. Join her group here.
Food production accounts for 30% of greenhouse gases but as much as a third of food is wasted in the supply chain or by households. In the UK, 70% of this waste is down to us, the consumer (Wrap, 2020) with the average household wasting £700 of food each year.
Reducing your food waste is such a great first step to pledge to do when trying to cut your carbon footprint. Food is something we prepare every day so if we think a bit more about the food we buy and use up each day, we can watch the money we save mount up as we help the planet. Here’s how:
1. Watch what you waste
Figure out what you are wasting and why. Too tired to cook? Serving too much? Bought something you already have? Since the introduction of kerbside collections, consumers have become more aware of their waste (Wrap, 2020). Make a note of what you put in your caddy and why. I realized that I served up more food than my daughter could eat. Solution, just serve smaller portions.
2. Take Some Shelfies
Do you buy things you already have? Take a written audit, or some pictures on your mobile, particularly of the perishables. Did you know that the most wasted foods are bread, potatoes and salad? – have a particular look out for those. Refer to the photos on your phone when you shop.
3. Run it Down
Jot down ideas for meals you could make with what you already have in the house and only buy essentials until you have run your supplies down. The first month I did this, I spent just £20 on groceries, followed by £90 the next month (it was £185 a month before).
4. Cobble It Together
Now for the fun! Start to cobble all those ingredients together. Google new recipes or follow Danielle from the Cobbled Kitchen who teaches the lost art of cooking from scratch without a recipe. Or join a group, where you can swap ideas. You’ll be amazed at what you can conjure up.
5. Soup it Up
Are you turning your veggie box into expensive compost? Then make soup. Even old veggies can be very forgiving in soup. It’ll keep for days in the fridge or freeze it for when you need a quick lunch option. For inspiration visit the BBC Good Food website.
6. Who Doesn’t Like Tupperware?
An excusable use of plastic, a good range of plastic storage containers helps save all those scraps – that quarter of a tin of tomatoes, half an onion, opened cheese, and leftovers. Great for storing in fridge or freezer and reusable for years.
7. Your Freezer is Your Best Friend
Keep as little in your fridge as possible. Freeze what you can and defrost at the point you need it. Bread is the number one wasted food (240 million slices a year) followed by milk, and yet both freeze really well. You can freeze pretty much anything. Check out the Good Housekeeping Guide.
8. Get Appy
Rescue food from the supply chain using the Too Good To Go App. Buy a Magic Bag of surprise food close to its sell-by-date from grocery stores, restaurants and cafes, at about a quarter to a third of its original cost, or sometimes even better.
Also, check out the Olio app where you can both share with, and rescue food from, your neighbours.
9. Get Social
Find local social enterprises joining the movement to reduce food waste including Community Fridges, Food Schemes, and Community Cafes. For example, you can become Bread Buddy for the Sopwell Community Trust, redistributing bread in the community (I seriously don’t think I’ll ever have to buy bread again).
The Sparks Community Café in Hatfield often rescues food close to its sell-by-date from supermarkets such as Waitrose, which can then be bought on a “pay what you can” basis, and sometimes is free.
10. Bin It (in the right bin!)
If you really have to bin it, follow your council’s advice for disposing of food waste: use your kerbside food waste caddy if you get one or your council compost bin if instructed to by your council. Don’t put the food into landfill. (When food rots in landfill, it releases harmful greenhouse gasses). Even better, start your own compost heap. There’s nothing quite like homemade compost 😊. And if you can keep that kerbside caddy spotlessly clean – you know you are a real food waste hero!
Join in with #CountdownToCOP today
It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.
Join in today and use Caroline’s inspiring advice to choose the “Cut Food Waste” Step as your pledge.
You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages.
We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog on walking and cycling more by Susheel Rao.