10 ways to reduce your food foodprint - Jake Stones shares the best ways to cut back on waste
Behind every item of food that ends up on your plate, there’s a story which involves energy resource and a carbon footprint. Naturally, if such food becomes waste, then there’s an unnecessary energy expense – it’s the planetary equivalent of burning money. Simply put, food waste is caused by excess leftovers or uneaten food. It can decompose, however, the overall issue doesn’t break down quite so easily. Fortunately, there are choices you can make to help reduce your food footprint, which are kinder to the planet and your pocket.
Planning out what you are going to eat in a week in advance is a sure-fire way to cut back on food waste. By shopping for only what you need, what you throw away will inevitably become less. You can also get a better handle on portion size, too.
Mindfully looking after your leftovers and using them for meals later in the week is a great little trick for saving time cooking, and getting a second go at that super-wholesome vegan casserole you’ve been nailing lately. There’s no set method, but you could freeze your leftovers night after night, and really work on something creative with leftover scraps – or, you could use them as a top-up for another meal entirely.
If you don’t have time to eat something before it goes off, get mobile and put it on ice. A freezer can be a great ally when managing your food, giving you the option to stop those tasty vegetables from spoiling or going off. However, do some research before you pack everything into the cold because, although most foods freeze well, this is not a universal law. Foodsafety.org has a great list of timeframes for your foods in the freezer.
Okay, I’ll admit a lot of food can and should go in the refrigerator. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule for food. For instance, tomatoes should be at room temperature, out of the sun and away from heat; or bananas, the favourite food of Minions, should be kept out of the fridge to ripen correctly. The British Heart Foundation (bhf.org.uk) has a nifty page listing each of the different methods.
Always remember, use-by and sell-by dates are mainly representative of when the aesthetic qualities of foods will start to diminish, rather than when the food is actually inedible. If you really want to make the most of your foodstuffs, let your senses decide instead of the date on the wrapper.
As food waste is such an underappreciated issue, chucking it in the bin can become second nature. This means, week after week, you’re failing to notice what you don’t use, and the consequence is perpetual waste and harm to your bank balance. However, if you record your waste by writing down what you don’t use, you can easily spot trends and rectify them.
I think it’s a personal aspiration of most to have their life so together that they make healthy, wholesome smoothies every morning – at least, that’s my measure of success. If you’re slightly less self-critical, you may calmly see the benefits of being able to make good use of your blender, whilst also getting creative and healthy. Again, this will be a handy cost-saver and you can fill the gap between meals with a quick, thrifty alternative to snacking.
This is my favourite solution of all – it’s a direct redistribution of resources to those who will need what you’ve got spare. Of course, ideally, the other tips in this article will reduce your excess, meaning a trip to the food bank is less likely. However, at the start of your food revolution, you’re likely to have some food that gets evicted, and there’ll always be the odd item spare, too. All it’ll take is a quick search for donation centres and then you’re good to go.
Composting is using waste food products for their nutrient value to help your plants grow. This means everything from garden flowers to allotment vegetables could get a boost from your unused food. If you don’t grow your own veg, then this is the time to consider doing so. It would mean even more control over your food, a huge reduction in your vegetable’s carbon footprint, and even more cost-saving. Needless to say, but getting some time outside will also pay dividends for the mind.
It’s said that for every one piece of wasted food you see in your fridge, there’s another ten which you don’t see. Okay, that’s not been said by anyone, ever, but I do recommend clearing out your fridge and cupboards. It’s more hygienic and it’s out and out easier to see what you’re dealing with, meaning you’re less likely to let something go out of date.
For more from Jake, check out @stonesjake
This article first appeared in Issue 2 of Be Kind magazine, published March 2019