Last week My Breakfast Box invited me to talk about sustainable nutrition over on their Instagram page. When asked for easy way to make food choices more sustainable my top tip was to reduce your food waste. The less food that is wasted, the less we have to produce. This reduces the land and energy required to feed us as a population, both nationally and globally. Did you know that potatoes are the most thrown-away food in the UK? And that we throw away approximately 1 million loaves of bread away every day? Not all waste is due to consumers, as many vegetables might not even reach the supermarket shelves. However, we can still make a difference at home.
Another issue is how we dispose of foods. When composted, vegetables take a few weeks and can then be used to fertilise the next year’s crops. If, however a head of lettuce is sent to landfill, it can take 25 years to break down instead. Living in the countryside with a home composting system, and then a university town with kerbside collection, I never really gave it a second thought. Composting was easy. Now, with no garden or brown bin collection, I’ve realised just how hard it can be. If you’re in a similar situation, you can write to your council to request a brown bin. If kerbside collection or home compositing aren’t an option, look to see if a local allotment, workplace or even a neighbour is accepting compost “donations” from you.
Ideally, we would have much more efficient council composting systems in place. Removing the burden on individuals means more of us can compost. Unfortunately, for many of us this isn’t the case. But I live in hope.
How many times have you discovered a wilted or mouldy bit of veg at the bottom of your fridge, simply because you forgot it was there? Try to organise your fridge to have as many items visible as possible. Bagged salads, loose broccoli and other veg that go past their best quickly benefit most from this. If you have room, use clear organisers to separate produce and products across shelves to help with this. Or, if your fridge is crammed after a shop, consider jotting down what you have in there, or just doing a midweek rummage to remind yourself of what you bought.
If you often find yourself with a surplus of sad produce or deli items at the end of the week, perhaps see if you can buy slightly less fresh food during your shop, but aim to use more of it. It will force you to be a bit creative, but you might be surprised at what you come up with. Soups, stews, roasted veg, stir frys and frittatas are all great ways to use up left over food. Leftover cheese and cooked meats can work well in these meals too if they are part of your diet. Less food waste, more flavour. Win win.
Frozen fruit and vegetables are a real winner. They last months rather than days, can retain more nutrients than fresh veg and are often cheaper. They’re great for convenience, and for pepping up an end of the week meal when there’s less fresh food to be had (especially if you’ve been buying less!). If you have sufficient space, freezing leftovers and double portions of meals are a convenient way to save food for a later date. Just make sure you label it so six months down the line you know what you have!
How a food is stored in the supermarket isn’t always the way you should store at home. Mushrooms stay fresh better in the fridge in a paper or cloth bag. The further down your fridge, the cooler it is. Pop more stable foods like condiments at the top. Celery, asparagus and many herbs stay fresh longer in a jar of water. Meanwhile, spinach lasts longer in a sealed box with some paper towels to absorb moisture. Foods sealed in plastic will usually last longer. Storing your food at the correct temperature and moisture levels will make a big difference to how long it lasts.
Learn more about sustainable nutrition, by finding out what makes a diet sustainable here.