The great food throwaway

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Last week Tesco revealed that, in the first six months of this year, they’d thrown away up to thirty-thousand tonnes of food. In my mind this is a huge and extravagant waste; it’s not just the food from the shelves that gets binned, but think about all the resources that went into getting the food that far, that have also gone to waste. An interesting thing to remember as well is that by the time fresh produce has reached the supermarket shelves, up to a quarter of it has already been discarded because it didn’t “look right”; yes apparently there is now a beauty standard for potatoes.

So what can be done to cut down on such waste? Clearly we can’t tackle the big supermarkets and their issues, but we can do little things once we’ve purchased our food to ensure that the minimum goes in the bin. Supposedly one third of everything we put in our fridge ends up in the rubbish; here are some tips to help you cut down on that waste of food, and, of course, money.

First off – and this is a very obvious one – use your senses. Smell it, touch it and even taste a tiny bit of whatever you think might be passed its sell by date. If it doesn’t smell mouldy, look mouldy or taste bad then it’s probably okay. If it’s fresh produce and it’s started to look a bit bad you can probably cut the bad bits off and still get away with it. A tip for getting fresh fruit and veg to last a bit longer is to take it out of the plastic packaging it inevitably comes swathed in when you buy it. This allows for moisture to escape from the produce, which means it’s likely to stay fresh for longer. If, however, your fresh things have been rolling around in your fridge for a bit too long and you have no idea what to do with them, a good idea is to make home-made vegetable soup! It’s getting colder in Lancaster now, so if you throw your veg in a pot with some stock and make soup, you can freeze it in zip lock bags for when winter really sets in.

Another tip to bear in mind is to test your eggs if they have gone past their use-by date. Get a glass and fill it with water, and gently place the egg into it; if the egg sinks it’s fine, if it floats then it’s gone off and you’ll need to chuck it. It is worth testing all the eggs in the box and not just assuming that because one is bad then they all will be. One more good trick to remember is that you can make bread that might be slightly on the stale side more edible by putting a little bit of water over the top of the bread – so it soaks past the crust – and then baking it at a high temperature for about ten minutes; it should then be okay to eat. Just remember if you do utilise the bread trick then it must be eaten there and then; you can’t really store it anymore otherwise it really will go off.

It’s also worth remembering that most dates on packaging, especially ‘display-until’ dates are there to cover the supermarkets to the nth degree. Most of them are totally irrelevant to whether the food is actually bad or not, so it’s important that you don’t just chuck stuff the second the date has gone past. Remember to check it and you’ll ultimately save yourself a lot of time schlepping around the shops and probably quite a bit of money additionally.

 

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