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Waste not, want not

I am on a mission to reduce waste. It's not easy, let me tell you! I have always been quite good with trying to use up food as much as possible and buying what I know we will actually eat. Although sometimes things don't work out as planned, and that avocado got left in the bowl for too long, or someone didn't end up eating dinner (and the leftovers got moved to the back of the fridge where they developed into their own little microcosm..) Sometimes we eat yoghurts that are a few days out of date because I refuse to throw them away and they still taste absolutely fine, sometimes cheddar turns into blue cheese, and that's not a pretty smell and won't hit our plates.. But I try.


I read an article by Tom Gore, food director at The Brewery restaurant, where, in terms of food waste, he distinguished between 'surplus' foods and foods being thrown away. Rotten and inedible food is no longer fit for consumption and needs to be thrown away. Surplus food, however, can be saved from becoming rotten or wasted by more carful planning and creative solutions. There are around 8.4m people in the UK (that's the same as all of London!) who struggle to afford to eat, yet tons and tons of surplus food goes in the bin because no one thought about how to redistribute it. Food banks are becoming more necessary every year, yet the industry throws away perfectly fine food because it may not look quite right, or it may not be needed after all. Restaurants, in my view, have a responsibility to use ingredients creatively (by being flexible with their menus when they over-ordered on something that didn't sell as well as hoped and using the ingredients for another dish) and to re-distribute surplus food to charities, of which there are many. 'The Real Junk Food Project', 'Fareshare' and 'Wrap' are all amazing organisations that do just that: re-distribute. In addition to food waste, I am also trying to reduce the amount of rubbish we as a household produce. I take containers to shops and ask for food to be placed directly into the. I go to the farmers' market or farm shop and buy unwrapped food there. If I buy fresh fruit and vegetables in the supermarket, I have them lose in my trolley and weighed at the till without a bag; all these little plastic bags that are totally unnecessary go straight into the bin, don't they? I take my own bags when I go shopping. Recycling is also a good way of reducing rubbish that would otherwise go on landfill sites. But thinking about whether the packaging is necessary at all is a good first step, before deciding whether, if it is, it is recyclable or re-usable.

Some other little things you can do:

* Say no to straws in bars and restaurants

* Don't let people give you things you don't really need

* Take a re-usable cup with you so you don't need a take away cup with a plastic lid to get a coffee when you are out (some coffee shops even reduce the price if you bring your own cup!)

* Buy big bags of foods rather than individually wrapped ones (this is particularly pertinent when you provide snack foods for children - why not stick crackers or biscuits into a food container, rather than buy individually wrapped packets?)

* Get yourself some re-usable bottles rather than buying water in plastic bottles

* Re-use envelopes and boxes from deliveries

* Don't print out anything that you can have scanned or read on your smartphone

* Don't get plastic nonsense for party bags, it breaks and is not necessary to make children happy... (controversial, I know)

I'm sure you have many other ideas, and so many ways of making a difference. Please share your thoughts and tips!! I will leave you with my top 10 tips, and hope you found this blog thought-provoking and motivating to make some changes yourselves!

TOP TEN TIPS for reducing FOOD waste:

Freeze food! So many items can be frozen, so when you see an offer for something, check if you can freeze it in case you can't eat it within it's use-by period.

Make a soup or a stew out of some unused veg - anything goes, be creative. And, guess what, if you don't have time to eat it, you can freeze it!

Avoid shopping when you are hungry, you will most likely buy more and then not use it all.

Don't throw away items that are over their 'best before' date - this is NOT a food safety label, it merely states that after that date the manufacturer can't guarantee the taste and texture will be maintained.

Always ask yourself: Will I use it? Do I need it? If in doubt, don't buy it!

Fruits that are getting a bit over-ripe are fantastic ingredients for smoothies, as well as purees that you can mix in your yoghurt or porridge.

Store foods properly to make them last longer (e.g. potatoes in a large paper or jute bag stored in a cool dark place will last longer, apples on a tray in a cool place rather than stacked on top of each other in a fruit bowl will stay fresh for longer, don't put citrus fruits with other fruits because they accelerate the ripening process).

If you have a pet, see if they can eat the tops and bottoms of your veg (our dog loves a carrot top, some broccoli stems or spinach stalks)

Have 'leftover meals' - We often have a small amount of this and that left, not enough for everyone to have the same. So we do something akin to a tapas plate, where everyone gets a spoonful of every leftover.

I know it means you have to be organised, but try and make a rough plan for the meals you will cook over the week. If you know you will be eating out 5 out of 7 nights, or you won't need to make lunch, then buying your ordinary amount of food will likely be too much!

Ela Law Nutrition, Sevenoaks, Kent, UK

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