I guess the first thing about reducing food waste is not to buy so much – plan ahead, see what you already have and don’t shop when hungry. Using a list can help, and on-line shopping can be a godsend for many reasons, but one is that you can check your cupboards as you shop. However, with all the will in the world, you may be faced with a load of food in the fridge that is making you feel guilty! Here are some simple tips to save waste.
Get prepared – what you need:
A permanent marker pen e.g. a Sharpie, labels, containers with lids (can be recycled take away or even large yoghurt pots if they have lids), or Ikea do really good tubs with lids and their resealable bags in various sizes are brilliant.
There are plenty of myths about left overs and what you can and can’t do with them. I use left overs all the time, and usually pack them, label and freeze so I can have a home-cooked lunch or dinner to order when I want it.
Take care to handle foods with clean hands, and cool quickly by:
- Portioning food into small trays (clean old take-away containers are great)
- Rinsing rice under the cold tap
- Slicing meats and chicken
- I put rice and curry in the same container to make a home made ready meal.
Cooked Rice is fine to keep – there is a myth that it isn’t but so long as you cool it quickly and get it in the fridge or freezer, it is fine. I make too much brown rice deliberately and freeze it in bags. To defrost, I put it in a seive and tip boiling water on top, or put it in a saucepan of boiling water for a minute or so. defrost other foods by putting in the fridge for a day, or use the microwave. You can do a defrost for 10 minutes followed by a cook on high – experiment to see what works best. Sometimes I am so hungry I just put it on high from frozen and it seems ok – give it a stir half way through.
- Sliced bread is great in the freezer – just toast what you need – no waste!
- Bagels – the same – slice them first if not pre-sliced.
- Wraps keep in the freezer as do pitta breads, naan etc.
- Make breadcrumbs and freeze (especially around Christmas if making bread sauce and stuffings)
Too much milk?
- Skimmed milk will freeze in the plastic container. Defrost by putting in the fridge.
- Make sauces – béchamel or white sauce and freeze in handy sizes so you can rustle up a macaroni cheese or lasagne with less hassle.
Grate it and freeze – saves getting the grater out each time you want a bit of cheese for a topping
Wash and pat dry, then bagged freeze – the herbs break when frozen if you rustle the bag a bit – no need to chop!
Cook them up puree with a stick blender and make a sauce – or roast and puree then freeze in portions
My tomato sauce recipe: fry a chopped onion, chopped celery stick and grated carrot in olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic. When golden, add a tin of tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, a squeeze of tomato puree, some thyme and pepper and a pinch of salt. Simmer for 10 mins, blend with a stick blender, portion and cool for about 30 mins, lid, label and freeze.
In our house only my daughter likes meat balls, so we divide up a pack into portion sizes and have the tomato sauce portions handy as well.
Meat and poultry, sausages etc.
Freeze in the pack, defrost in a dish in the fridge. If the pack is open, then double wrap to prevent freezer burn.
Washed lettuce and leaves out of date?
Don’t eat them raw, but cook up to make a stock.
Fruit going a bit soft?
Wash it or in the case of bananas, peel, mix it up and put in bags in the freezer ready for a smoothie – saves loads of time in the morning.
Q and A
How long does stuff last in the freezer?
As far as safety is concerned, forever if kept frozen. The quality may deteriorate, but defrost and taste before throwing away!
What is freezer burn?
This is when the air gets to frozen foods and dehydrates it – it is then inedible as it goes rock hard. To avoid this, remove as much air as possible from any pack and seal. The re-sealable bags are great, but push the air out first.
What is “Best Before?”
This only means it tastes best before the date – it doesn’t mean you have to chuck it out then!
What is “Use by?”
- This is for your safety, so pay attention, particularly if it is a ready-to-eat food such as pate, soft cheese or ham.
- Check dates every day so you don’t end up throwing food away because it is out of “use by” date.
- Freeze foods if you think you will not be able to eat them in time.
How to defrost?
- If it is bread or cake then you can defrost at room temperature.
- If it is a food that would normally be in the fridge, then defrost in the fridge, to stop bacteria growing on the surface (which defrosts first).
- Protect other foods from raw foods defrosting in the fridge by using a deep dish to prevent spillage of the drip.