Easy ways to to reduce food waste at home

Save some money on your food shop and reduce your impact on the planet too.

how to reduce food waste at home

by Louella Berryman |

Food waste is one of the most slept-on environmental issues of today, and it's one of the easiest to tackle at home.

4.5 million tonnes of food is wasted by individual households in the UK each year, according to a report published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Surprisingly, the percentage of food wasted by households stands at just under half of food waste produced by the retail supply chain, hospitality sector and homes altogether.

So it's more important than ever that households learn to shop and cook with sustainability in mind.

Wasting food doesn't just have an impact on the environment, but on your bank balance too. The report showed that the amount of food wasted by families in the UK amounted to around £700 a year.

It might seem like you already take steps to tackle your food wastage, like meal planning or making a compost heap, but there are lots of inventive ways to help you reduce your food waste at home even further.

reducing food waste at home
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Why is it important to reduce food waste at home?

It might seem like food waste isn't a big concern and that other carbon-emitting things are more important to tackle, but there are lots of reasons why food waste should be at the top of your environmental agenda.

Jamie Crummie, co-founder of food waste app Too Good To Go, says food waste is responsible for more carbon emissions than we might assume.

"Worldwide, a third of food produced gets wasted. When food goes to landfill, it creates methane - a greenhouse gas 27 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And food waste is responsible for a staggering 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions," he says.

It's also important to consider the energy that goes into creating your food as well as cooking and consuming it at home.

Create new meals from leftovers

One of the easiest ways to reduce your food waste at home is to use leftovers in other dishes. Instead of throwing away that odd bit of pasta at the bottom of the packet, or discarding those veg peelings, you could try using them in other meals instead.

Too Good To Go's Jamie says being inventive in the kitchen is a key way households can tackle their food waste output.

"Creating new meals out of leftovers is always the best thing to do to reduce food waste at home. There are so many ways to get creative in the kitchen to make delicious meals from what you have to hand," he says.

"The best cuisines have always been born from cooking with what is available. Embrace the chance to ask that question and explore new ways to work with ingredients."

reducing food waste cooking
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Here are some ideas for common leftover foods

Egg whites: if you've made a carbonara or custard using just egg yolks, don't throw the whites away. Instead, you could use the whites to make a meringue or mousse. You could even make a pore-tightening egg white face mask if you're in the mood for a pamper.

Salad leaves: spinach and salad often go unused and soggy in the fridge, but there's no need to waste these nutritious leaves. Place in a blender with nuts, garlic, lemon and olive oil to create a nutrient-dense pesto that'll keep in the fridge or freezer.

Soft veg: when veg loses its crunch it doesn't mean it's no good. Instead of using it raw in salads or fried for pasta sauces, try roasting it before blending into a soup with stock for extra flavour.

Squashy fruit: you might not want to eat your fruit raw anymore when it's bruised and overripe, but you can make some delicious fruit puree by simmering in a pan with a little water and sugar to spoon over porridge or even ice cream. You could also chop slightly soft fruit and add it to banana bread for an extra fruity twist, like this recipe for pear banana bread.

Broken pasta: you're often left with broken pasta at the bottom of the bag, but instead of throwing it away, keep it back and put it into soups at the end of cooking for a rustic minestrone style touch.

Stale bread: it might seem obvious, but making breadcrumbs is a great way to use up stale bread. You can even store them in boxes in the freezer.

Understand expiration dates

One third of brits are guided solely by the label as to when to throw food away, according to research by Too Good To Go.

Co-founder Jamie says: "This date label confusion accounts for 10% of food waste. It’s important to remember that Use-By labels are an indication of safety so must be adhered to, however Best Before labels are simply an indication of quality, so food with Best Before labels can be eaten after the date shown - just use your senses to check it’s still good to eat."

The app has recently launched brand new scratch-and-sniff "smell by" labels to help re-train our noses to know when foods aren't good to eat anymore by smell.

The labels will contain the smell the scents that four very-popular but hugely-wasted foods give off when they are no longer edible: eggs, juice, beer and oats.

Keep an eye on the brand's Instagram page for information about how to get hold of the smelly labels.

Make a compost heap

If you've got the room, it's a great idea to make a compost heap for those odds and ends you can't quite stretch to a meal, or food that's unsafe to eat.

Even if you don't have outdoor space, you can create a countertop compost heap like this one from Amazon for under £20.

Keep your fridge organised

We've all heard the phrase "out of sight, out of mind", so next time you do your weekly shop make sure to make note of everything in your fridge so nothing gets forgotten about and wasted at the back.

Investing in a good set of tupperware containers like these glass ones is a great way to see instantly what you've got.

Keeping a list pinned to the fridge of long-life condiments as well as leftovers and crossing something off when it runs out is also a great way to keep tabs on what you've already got.

Shop smart

Lots of supermarkets and producers have jumped on the food-waste bandwagon and have started offering 'wonky' fruit and veg boxes that you can take advantage of.

ODDBOX produce wonky fruit and veg boxes that are delivered to your doorstep every week. Using a box like this is a great way to use veg that would have otherwise been thrown away, as well as get creative in the kitchen with veg you might not have used before.

Asda, Tesco and Morrisons all sell 'wonky' veg boxes in branch, and Lidl has recently started selling 'wonky' flowers too.

The bottom line

If you want to reduce your food waste at home, it might take some time to get used to a new way of shopping, cooking and eating, but your wallet and the planet will thank you.

One of the best things you can do is try new foods and abandon any perfectionism you have around food standards, as you might find that that slightly-too-ripe banana is, in fact, delicious just as it is.

By trying new foods, expanding your kitchen confidence and adopting some new organisational habits, you could save yourself that £700 a year and even treat yourself to a family staycation instead.

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