Don’t Bin It! 8 Simple Rules for Cutting Food Waste

6 min read

It’s Food Waste Awareness Week and we’ve been doing a bit of digging…

Did you know… here in the UK we throw away 9.5 MILLION tonnes of food every single year?  That’s the same as 15 million elephants, 38 million bunny rabbits or 9.5 million million (9.5e+12) krill…

Thing is, experts reckon at least 4.5 million tonnes of this waste could have been eaten, and worst of all, it’s costing us £12.5 billion a year.

Not ideal when we’re amid a cost-of-living crisis with hard up families trying to make cash and the weekly food shop stretch further…

Of course, it doesn’t just impact us socially and financially, it’s bad for the environment too.  So, it makes sense for us to try and get a little smarter about how we use the food we buy and reduce food waste.  That’s where these 8 simple rules come in!

Follow them and you’ll save yourself and the environment a bundle, but first, let’s dive into the nitty gritty about food waste…

What is food waste?

According to the UK Government, food waste is defined as:

“Food waste, or food loss, is “food that is wasted, lost or uneaten”, which occurs at all stages of the food supply chain, including production, processing, transport, retailing, storage and consumption.
In fact, looking at the journey of 100 potatoes from the field to the plate, only 25 of which are actually eaten by consumers. The remainder are damaged or wasted on the field, in storage, during packaging and transportation, in the kitchen and on consumer plates.
According to the United Nations, food waste can also be defined as “any removal of food from the food supply chain which is or was at some point fit for human consumption.” The UN says that this is “mainly caused by economic behaviour, poor stock management or neglect.”
In the UK, food waste will then be thrown away as general waste, flushed into the sewer system via sink macerators or collected separately and turned into compost, farm fertiliser and biogas.
Raising awareness about food waste and the pressure it puts on resources such as water usage and livestock farming, is crucial if we are to decrease the carbon impact.”

Source: Clean Streets Westminster

Why is food waste a problem?

We’ve already mentioned that food waste costs us mega bucks each year and can have a major negative socio-economic impact, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

When we come down to brass tax – it’s the impact on the environment that is truly alarming.

“The vast majority of food waste ends up in a landfill site – which are already overcrowded. While many people do not view this as an issue as food items degrade naturally over time, it contributes heavily to global warming and the erosion of the ozone layer.
This is because food waste releases a great deal of methane gas as it breaks down. According to a report by the EPA, methane is 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide because it can trap heat within the atmosphere.”

Source: Business Waste

Food waste facts

At the end of the day, there are many, many different causes of food waste – businesses, homes, farming, supermarkets, restaurants – and it will take the nation as a collective to fully rectify the issue, however small changes can make a big impact.

Here are a few of the leading causes of food waste you can help rectify in your own home:

·        Over purchasing food and not using it up.

·        Prepping more than you need and binning leftover food.

·        Lack of awareness around food labelling including expiration dates, use by dates and best before dates.

How do you reduce food waste?

Small changes at home will have a huge impact on the amount of food waste you produce, which will then have a lovely cascading domino effect – fantastic.  Think of it as pond ripples after a pebble is thrown in, but with food waste instead…

OK, that doesn’t sound as relaxing or scenic as we’d hope, but you get what we’re trying to say – right?!

Anyway, here are our 8 simple rules for cutting your food waste and save yourself a pretty penny to boot (and the environment, we like the environment too…)

1.      Make a list

Before you hit the shops have a think about what grub you’d like to eat throughout the week.  Take a quick inventory of your cupboards, fridge and freezer then make a list of what you need to make your meals.

And ONLY what you absolutely need.

That way you’ll be more likely to use up that tin of tomatoes that’s been sitting at the back of your cupboard for the past 3 months and that pack of mince in the freezer saving you a pretty penny at the shop AND using up produce before it turns bad.

2.      Freeze your 5-a-day

One of the biggest contributors to food waste here in the UK is the sheer volume of fresh fruit and veg we chuck out.  So, if you find your frequently binning the fresh stuff, try freezing it instead.

Things like apples can be stewed and frozen to be used as a fruity kick to your porridge in the morning.  Frozen strawberries and raspberries can be used in an antioxidant rich smoothie.  Even pureed tomatoes can be frozen then used as part of a tasty pasta sauce.

3.      Store leftover food – properly

Meal prep is so hot right now(thanks Mugatu), but how many times have you spent all day Sunday prepping like a boss, only to leave it in the fridge and 5 days later must toss it because it’s *probably not safe to eat?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

Knowing exactly how long your food keeps in the fridge or freezer is crucial to making sure you don’t fall ill when reusing food., and making the most of your leftovers can help cut down on your food waste, and save cash.

4.      Make soup

Made too many steamed sides for your dinner?  Step away from the bin, and get a lil creative instead with your blender, some chicken or veg stock and season well to create a hearty, tasty, nutrient packed soup of wonder.

You could even top it with some pesto, mascarpone or a swizzle of olive oil for added decadence.

5.      Grab the watering can

Did you know, lots of veggies like broccoli, asparagus and celery can retain their freshness when stored stem down in some water?  Yes, really – they can!

Simply keep the stems in some H20 and these beauts will stay fresh and crisp for you to use as and when you need.

6.      Grate and freeze

Love cheese?  We do too, but it can be pricey!  So, make it last even longer by grating it up and freezing it.  That way you’ll reduce the chance of opening a packet of blue mouldy cheese, cut your food bill and slash your food waste.

7.      Save stale bread

Stale bread makes for the most perfect breadcrumbs to use as part of a stuffing, breading fish or chicken fillets AND it can be frozen too.  

Plus, if you’re not big on sandwiches but enjoy some toast, why not grab a freezer bag and pop the loaf in the freezer?  That way you can toast how many slices you need and stop mould in its tracks!

8.      Keep track

This is arguably the most important thing when it comes to reducing food waste.  Regularly clearing out your fridge and cupboards and moving the older (but still in date) produce to the front will mean you’re less likely to purchase things you already have.

It’ll also mean you use up what’s in your cupboards before it goes off.

Final thoughts

If you’re really keen on reducing food waste, whether to save cash, eat healthier, help the environment or just because you fancy the challenge, you can check out places like Too Good To Go.

Here you’ll find loads of resources to help you fight food waste by allowing you to “rescue unsold food from an untimely fate at your favourite spots.”


Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh is a Copywriter and content creator with over 10 years experience writing for the health & fitness industry. She's currently training for her first powerlifting comp at the end of 2023!