Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cutting Food Waste

Ignore best-before dates, they indicate when the manufacturer thinks the product is best, not safe. Use-by dates are important particularly with meat.

I’ve no problem with this advice. It’s entirely sound.

Shop in small amounts and more frequently

That’s all very well if you have an unlimited amount of time, but I find doing a ‘weekly shop’ is by far the best use of time. Also, if I shop on a day-by-day basis, I somehow end up spending more. The issue is partly one of self-control, of course. Shopping with a weekly menu plan and accompanying list can save a great deal of potential wastage. It does make sense, particularly with regard to certain vegetables (e.g. mushrooms), fruit and bread, to buy these around the time you need them and to check use-by dates on meat, eggs etc (see above) to make sure they will last until you intend to use them.

Avoid ‘Buy One Get One Free’ products or only buy them if you can freeze the extra product

Well yes, I agree. However, the supermarkets rip off everyone who tries to beat the system. To give an example: a three-pack of peppers (usually one green, one red and one yellow, like traffic lights) costs around £1.20. Inevitably, you go into the supermarket one day and find the price has increased to £1.95. However, if you buy one, you’ll get one free. Alternatively, you might find that buying two will cost you £2.50. Either way it’s hard to resist taking the extra packet because you know you are paying well over the odds if you buy only one. It’s enraging, and the supermarkets are entirely to blame for the waste that results. People could say no, but I think it’s unfair to expect them always to do so, given the pricing policies.

Plan meals

This always feels like an effort. But, when I do it, I definitely waste very little food. It also takes a certain commitment to stick to the plan, especially if it involves more than sticking something in a microwave. Fresh ingredients always tastes better and costs less in the long run. Last week, I tried making chicken soup from scratch by boiling the remains of a roast chicken (which had covered two family meals in itself) for four hours along with a few garlic cloves, carrots and four celery sticks. I then strained it into an airtight container, chilled it in the fridge and boiled it up again the next day with vegetables and a little remaining chicken. The best soup I’ve ever tasted.

Use your freezer more

Again, this needs organisation. I often forget to take things out the freezer to defrost in time, which messes up the menu plan, but it should be possible to get this right with a little more commitment on my part.

Never buy salad in bags, it isn't good value and once opened it goes off quickly

I agree on principle. But if you buy all the ingredients separately, you will have a lot of stuff and it will cost quite a bit. You’ll do well actually to use it all unless you’re eating salad with every meal for days. The reason people buy bagged ready-made salads is because they come in manageable quantities. Buying separate ingredients to make salads could result in more, not less, waste. Perhaps supermarkets could sell individual salad ingredients for a good price in smaller quantities?

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