Since I was a child, food waste prevention has been an important part of my life. I grew up listening to my grandparents telling me stories about World War II and how food was so rationed that people could not even think of wasting that little they had. My mum was (and still is) the Tupperware Queen and every little bit of food that we didn’t eat found its home inside our well-organised and Tetris-looking fridge. In school, I was taught how to plant and look after different vegetables. My schoolmates and I were encouraged to bring our food scraps from home to compost them and use the final product to fertilise our vegetable garden.
Thanks to this inspirational and educative childhood, I thought that my behaviour in relation to food waste as an adult was pretty much impeccable. Everything I bought was getting eaten, and the scraps were appropriately composted. Nonetheless, as I moved out and started university, I also noticed that food represented a rather significant percentage of the waste produced in my shared accommodation. Around the same time, food waste started to become a hot topic on social media. I realised that my approach was far from perfect and that there was still plenty of room for improvement. Over the years, by reading innovative ideas about food waste, I have developed these easy, and often fun habits. These help me stop wasting food even before it reaches my kitchen.
1. Download food sharing apps
These days there’s an app for everything, isn’t there? Food sharing apps have become increasingly popular in the last few years, making it easier for us to reduce food waste and save money. OLIO connects you with your neighbours and local businesses, so that surplus food can be shared, instead of being thrown away – all for free! My favourite app is Too Good To Go through which grocery stores, restaurants, and bakeries sell discounted bags of goods that are about to expire or that, according to regulations, have to be thrown away. For only £3, I get a large bag of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables, most of which are organic and, at the same time, I prevent them from going to landfill. Since I started using this app, I have also become more creative with my cooking. As you don’t know what you are going to get in your bag, you often have to think out of the box and make new recipes that you won’t have tried before.
2. Join a food sharing organisation
Food waste is a social and environmental issue. There are many volunteering projects that recognise this and wish to contribute to its prevention. In the UK, FareShare is the biggest organisation which redistributes surplus food to charities, so that they can turn it into meals for people in need. However, more local organisations also exist. While living in Copenhagen, I joined Foodsharing Copenhagen. This voluntary group collects fruit, vegetables, and baked goods from grocery stores and bakeries in the Danish capital before redistributing it for free to whoever registers online. As a volunteer, not only do you get to meet many likeminded people from all over the world and do your best to make the planet a little better, but you also make your own bag of produce to take home, which is a terrific win-win-win situation if you ask me.
3. Use social media to educate yourself
Whether we like it or not, social media platforms play a massive role in our daily life; and they become a great instrument if used correctly. Many zero waste advocates have decided to use platforms like Instagram to connect with millions of people and share their knowledge through engaging and easy-to-access content. Chefs like Max La Manna and Anne-Marie Bonneau post simple and delicious recipes that you can make at home using most (if not all) parts of the suggested ingredients. They share tips on how to use leftovers and scraps. Other activists, like Lauren Synger, provide interesting and practical advice on how to compost and properly dispose of your food waste. Especially helpful, if you live in an area where the council does not collect organic waste.
4. Befriend your freezer
Storing already-made meals and leftovers in the freezer have long been known as effective ways to avoid throwing away food. Nevertheless, your freezer can become an even more important ally in your fight against food waste. Most foods are freezer friendly, and freezing them will massively reduce your organic waste. Bread, for instance, is one of the most wasted foods in the UK, with 900,000 tonnes thrown away every year. Yet, it is the most simple food to freeze: you can put your entire loaf in the freezer, take the slices you want out when needed, put them in the toaster, and, voilà, your toast is ready! If you have a bunch of vegetables that you won’t eat before they go off, wash them, chop them up, and put them in freezer bags so that they’ll be ready for your next soup. You can do the same with cheese. We often buy large blocks of cheese because they are more convenient, but we then forget them at the back of the fridge. By cutting the cheese into smaller portion-sizes, you will use your cheese more sustainably and save money. Just make sure you eat the defrosted cheese within 24 hours!
Whether you have been fighting food waste for quite some time or you are new to the challenge, there are plenty of ways in which you can contribute; you just need to pick your weapon. Most importantly, remember that nobody is perfect. It will happen that that thyme plant you bought in Tesco a couple of weeks ago will end up in the bin – just make sure it’s the right one!
Words by Beatrice Massa
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