As a new campaign reveals the UK throws out seven million tonnes of food each year, Kate Whiting explores how we can all do more to reduce that figure. 

If you’re guilty of binning leftovers or mouldy old veg from the bottom of the fridge you never got around to cooking, you’re not alone.

According to research by Sainsbury’s for its Waste Less, Save More campaign, an incredible seven million tonnes of food is wasted by UK households each year, of which 4.2 million tonnes is completely avoidable.

The good news is, by following some simple steps, we can all save money and help save the environment.

The research by the supermarket discovered the main reasons for shoppers wasting food and they have suggested the following top tips to avoid falling into these traps…

DON’T COOK TOO MUCH

41 per cent of people waste because they cook too much. Here’s what to do…

• Portion control: Stick to the recommended serving sizes listed on packaging. If you do over-cook, freeze the leftovers for another day.

• Give away, don’t throw away: If there is perfectly good food at risk of going in the bin, why not ask your neighbour if they’d like it, or donate it to a food bank?

OLIO is a free app that connects neighbours to their local shops so that surplus food can be shared.

• Get creative: Make delicious snacks and even full meals with leftovers you would ordinarily have thrown away. Creating everything from soups to tacos, burritos to biryanis, there are great ways to love your leftovers.

REMEMBER WHAT’S IN YOUR FRIDGE

A quarter of people throw away food because they forget they have it, so…

• Juice it: Fruit and veg don’t have to be thrown away just because they’ve gone a little soft.

Turn fruit into a smoothie, and wilting veg into soups. Or combine both in tasty juices that are super healthy.

• Take a shelfie: Simply photographing the contents of your fridge before you leave the house could stop you overbuying in-store.

BE BEST-BEFORE SAVVY

19 per cent of us are confused by best-before and use-by dates. Here’s a reminder…

• Use-by: This date is about safety and the most important date to remember. Foods can be eaten (and most can be frozen) up until the ‘use by’ date, but not after.

• Best-before: This refers to the quality and taste.

The food is most likely safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best for flavour and texture.

You can’t beat looking, smelling and tasting for a reliable indicator of freshness.

START PLANNING MEALS

Only 29 per cent of people prepare a meal plan. Here’s how to make one…

• Dedicate 20 minutes of your week to checking what’s in the fridge and cupboards, and creating a meal plan for the week ahead. Choose meals that use similar ingredients to avoid waste. For example, make a chicken and vegetable soup on Monday and use the leftover veg in your shepherd’s pie on Thursday.

MANAGE YOUR WASTE

According to Sainsbury’s, 28 per cent of people wish they knew more about managing and cooking food.

• Use it all: Often by-products of cooking can be turned into something delicious.

For example, use bones from meat for stocks, and cheese rinds to flavour sauces.

• Bin responsibly: If you have a garden, why not get a compost bag for any leftovers and peels, or check with your council if they offer food-waste disposal.

Everything from egg shells to scraps left on your plate will then be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly fashion.

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