Every year Irish households throw away one-third of the food they purchase, costing them a whopping €700 of their hard earned cash. This unnecessary wastage could be avoided with just a few simple changes to ingrained habits and in addition, could save precious time and money too.
Smart Store Cooking’s 5 simple steps to reducing food waste focus on better planning, smarter shopping, clever storage and ultimately, eating well. As necessity often prevails over intention, all of our recommendations won’t suit every household. However, we suggest starting small, choosing goals that are achievable, effecting change in your home and the easiest, most achievable ways for you and your needs. Remember, every little change will make a big difference in preventing food waste and the combined effort will hugely affect our planet in a positive way.
STEP 1 - Meal Planning…. When planning meals, always check what you already have and include these items in your meal plan. Make life easier and cook a number of your family favourites every week. Meal planning is kept simple if you can stock up with regular store cupboard essentials. Frequent small shops, rather than bulk buying, save waste as plans often change as the week goes on.
STEP 2 - Shopping Lists…. Always have a grocery list handy, not just when you plan to go shopping and add to it as you think of ingredients you will need or run out of. Remember, always take that list with you when going shopping, and make sure to stick to it. One of the golden rules of a good shop and stocking experience is ... never shop hungry! Special offers can still be availed of ‘if’ they are items included on ‘the list’. Before you even get to the till you are saving money, not only on your grocery bill but also on the cost of disposal of wasted food.
STEP 3 - Cooking…. While time and effort are required to produce interesting, healthy meals, being smart in your approach to cooking will save time in preparation, giving you more of that precious commodity to relax and enjoy the food. Having a few family favourites on the menu each week and cooking on the double and freezing half for another day, will take the stress out of mealtimes. Stocking up with regular store cupboard ingredients will ensure more efficient preparation and cooking. Our recipe and meal planner, available to buy from www.smartstorecooking.com, offers lots of healthy recipes to inspire you.
STEP 4 – Food Storage...The key to getting the best from the food you purchase is to ensure to store everything in the appropriate place. Check storage instructions on sauces and marinades to see what should be refrigerated once opened and for how long. Ensure your fridge temperature is set correctly, the FSAI recommends the temperature of all fridges and chill storage cabinets to be between 0°C and 5°C degrees (ideally 4°C). Learning what items should be kept in the fridge, what produce lasts longer if stored in a cool, dark place or even which fruits and vegetables should be kept separate from others, so as to stop them spoiling quickly, is a huge advantage. The ‘A-Z of Foods’ at www.stopfoodwaste.ie offers lots of invaluable information about these facts and about managing food at home in order to prevent food waste in general.
STEP 5 – Using Leftovers …. Serving smaller portions at dinner time, with the option of second helpings, of course, will ensure less waste. Any leftovers can be portioned out and put in the freezer, to be used on another occasion, or alternatively stored in the fridge for lunch the next day. Surplus uncooked fruit and vegetables could be made into smoothies and soups, and these too could be frozen for another time. Almost everything (even eggs) can be frozen and still taste great. The freezer acts as a “pause” button. Remember to label and date food and use the ‘First in - First out’ rule. A freezer clear out every 3 months will ensure you use the food you already have and not waste it.
Now you have the 5 tips you can start, at your own pace, choosing whichever feels manageable. It’s worth noting however that even with our best efforts, approximately 20% of food waste is considered unavoidable (such as banana skins, chicken bones, egg shells, etc). It’s important to be mindful of handling this food waste. General domestic bins go to landfill and if food is thrown into these bins and not disposed of separately, it is harmful to the environment. This practice is also likely to incur higher bin charges. Recycling food waste in your brown bin or composting it at home will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will in turn help tackle climate change.
Being mindful of food waste and considering ways you could adapt to new habits would be of significant benefit to us all and to the generations that follow.