This episode of Everyday Ethical is kindly sponsored by Atlas and Ortus.
In this episode, I dive into just how wasteful the food industry is and how we can make simple switches in our everyday lives to combat it!
Hello and welcome Two everyday ethical a podcast about all of the ways that we can be more sustainable without the pressure to be perfect. I’m your host Bethenny Austin and I’m an ethical lifestyle blogger who talks about everything from Slow styling to cruelty-free cleaning today I’m going to be covering a topic that really grinds my gears. Food waste. I’m going to cover why food waste is something that you really need to be keeping an eye on and how you can cut down your food waste to make your everyday life more sustainable
So, let’s dive in
Did you know that the third of all of the food produced globally goes to waste? Did you know that all the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe? Did you know that 25% of the world’s freshwater supply is used to grow food that is never eaten? (Olio)
Yes, food waste is a huge problem. And, actually, it’s one of those environmental issues that really gets me worked up. Little makes me angrier than throwing away food. Not only is it wasteful in terms of resources but it’s also a big waste of money! So I really do try to avoid it wherever possible.
Although, if there’s one thing that does make me angrier than when I have to throw away food because I’ve let it go bad, it’s the idea of supermarkets and restaurants for example throwing away perfectly good food that could go to use. It is a total bugbear of mine. Has someone that used to work in a restaurant, I’ve seen first-hand the waste that these sorts of places create and it gets my blood boiling.
Unfortunately though there’s not much I can do about restaurants and what they decide to do with their food. There is something that I can do about my own food waste and what I end up throwing away in my household, though. I really do work hard to try to be as low-waste as possible when it comes to food, both in terms of packaging and trying to get as many things plastic free as possible, as well as in terms of just getting the most out of what I buy so that I’m not wasting resources unnecessarily. It hasn’t been something that has been easy for me though.
Planning meals, knowing how to store food effectively to make it last, and just genuinely caring about using everything in my fridge has been a real a journey. There was definitely a time, especially during uni, when I would buy a tonne of fresh produce all with good intentions, and then just end up, you know, having oven chips or Super Noodles because they were easier to make and throwing away a load of stuff because I’d let it go bad.
The idea makes me feel a little bit sick now – what a waste of money. But as with everything on this eco-living journey, it’s all a process. And this process has most certainly equipped me to create this episode with the tips and tricks that I’ve learnt over the years to try and seriously cut down my food waste. From organisation, to storage and knowing how to actually do your food shop, these are going to change the game and not only help you be more sustainable, but also probably save you a little bit of cash in the process as well.
My first tip for you is to actually learn how to store food properly. Now, I know this sounds ridiculous. If it’s fresh put it in the fridge. if it’s not fresh, put it in the cupboard. However, what I actually mean is that you can maximize the longevity of many pieces of produce simply by learning to store them more effectively. And they’re really are some easy tips and tricks that can make a huge difference.
For example, let’s start with fruits and veggies. When I learnt this next tip it absolutely blew my mind. For the longest time, I was watching all of my produce the day that I got it. that way I didn’t have to worry about it when I wanted to eat it, I could just grab it out the fridge and snack away. However, did you know that washing your fruit before you put it in the fridge and can actually really reduce its lifespan. This is because you’re introducing moisture to the fresh produce which can therefore mean that it decays more quickly. so, as one simple way to make sure that your produce lasts as long as it can, simply don’t wash it when you get it. wash and chop it when it comes to eating to make sure that it lasts as long as possible.
Another important thing to know in terms of fruits and veggies, is that some of these have more gases inside them than others. And I know this is all getting a bit sciencey and probably not something that you feel you want to listen to, but I promise this is going to save you so much food waste. Fresh produce that contains a lot of gas including things like avocados, bananas and apples, just as three examples. If you store these gaseous fruits with other non gaseous fruit, they will make your other fruit go bad more quickly. So as an example, say you stored a few carrots in a similar place to an avocado. The fact that the avocado contains more gas, means that it will make the carrot go off more quickly. You should always therefore store more gaseous fruits separate from the fresh produce that doesn’t have as much gas. If you’re keeping everything in one fruit bowl you could be wasting more food than you need to.
Now, in this next trip, I’m going to slightly contradict what I said in my first recommendation which was not to wash your fresh produce before you put it in the fridge. But this is an exception. Leafy greens are really susceptible to wilting and just generally getting quite nasty in the fridge, if you’ve ever left spinach in the bag for too long and it’s gone or rank and watery you know exactly what I’m talking about. Now apparently the best way to store leafy greens like kale, for example, is to thoroughly wash it first and then to wrap it in a slightly damp towel. This will help to just inject a new lease of life into your produce whilst it’s in the fridge, and will prevent it from going off too quickly.
Another storage tip that I’m sure you’ve probably heard of but is well worth mentioning, is to put lemon juice on your avocado if you’ve already cut it open. As I’m sure you know, avocados go brown really easily, but putting the acidic lemon on the avocado helps to keep it more fresh. Now unfortunately there is no way to make sure that your avocado it stays exactly the same as when you first cut it open, that just ain’t gonna happen, however, this does mean that you can use it in a day or two without it being absolutely rank.
I could really go on forever about food storage but I’ll just give you one more piece of advice in terms of making your produce last as long as possible and that is when it comes to fresh herbs. If you’ve ever bought a fresh herb plant or just bought some fresh herbs from the supermarket in their own individual plastic bag, then you know those bastards go off quickly. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever got through a whole bag of herbs in one go, but I know for sure I’ve chucked away loads of herbs and they’ve gone to waste. That was until I learnt this hack which I’m pretty sure I saw on Pinterest. Essentially when your herbs are nearing the end of their life, chop them up finally and pop them in an ice tray with some olive oil. Then, freeze them and when you next need that herb you can just check the oily ice cube into whatever dish you need it for. How clever is that? I’ve been doing that for a few months now and it really has made buying herbs far less wasteful for me.
In a similar sort of vein, my next overarching tip is that your freezer is your best friend if you want to make your food last longer. don’t be afraid of freezing things. Whether it’s milk bread or even just leftovers, If food is nearing the end of its life, freezing it means it can live another day.
My biggest recommendation if you’re going to start freezing more food is to invest in Stasher bags. They are these silicone bags which seal up at the top and they are completely washable and reusable. They can go in the oven, the microwave, and of course the freezer. I think they’re particularly brilliant because they’re flexible which means you can really fit more into your freezer space and I have quite a small freezer so they are total blessing. Plus, they are clear so you can very easily see what’s inside of each back. Now obviously things like sandwich bags could be used for this, however those are disposable and that plastic is going to sit in landfill for years to come, where is the reusable option of Stasher banks or even stuff like tupperware pots far more sustainable.
One big part of getting into freezing your food more is making sure that you’re constantly aware of what is going out of date. This is why I’d massively recommend just keeping a better eye on your fridge and your cupboard. For me, I go through my cupboards once a week to see if anything is on its last legs. and I go through my fridge every kind of two to three days. That way I can keep an eye on use-by date and if anything is on the way out and I know I’m not going to use it I can just chuck it into the freezer.
It may be worth adding a little reminder to your phone or to your calendar so that you don’t forget to do this, because in my experience one of the reasons that food most often gets wasted is simply because we forget it exists. So doing this kind of kitchen inventory can really help you in terms of making sure you get the most out of everything that you buy.
Whilst we’re on the topic of doing a cupboard and fridge inventory, I feel like it’s also worth mentioning that simply planning your meals can be a huge step in the direction of saving on food waste. If you’re regularly checking in on your cupboards and your fridge to know what soon to go out of date then I would you recommend using this as the way that you can plan your meals for the next couple of weeks. This is usually the case especially with things in the cupboard because if it’s in the fridge it’s probably going to go off in the next day or two and you’ll need to use it immediately or put it in the freezer. However, with cupboard produce these things are probably more likely to go off within a week or even a month. But the still need to be used!
So, even if you don’t regularly check in with what you’ve got in your kitchen, do always do a little glance over what’s in your cupboards before you go shopping. Let’s say you have some dried fruit that’s due to go off within the next month. You can use this as the inspiration for what you eat in the next week so that it doesn’t go off. Maybe it’s putting it in your breakfast cereal or your porridge, or doing some baking with it. whatever it is is you’re going to plan your shopping around it to make sure that none of that stuff goes off without you noticing. I’d recommend just going through your cupboard making a list of everything you want to use up and then planning your meals around those things. You’ll probably find that your shop is also cheaper to because you’re not buying all of the ingredients for the meals you want to make, but are instead buying the remaining ingredients when you already have some of them.
Planning your meals effectively is also just going to save you food waste in general because you’re only buying what you’re actually going to eat. If you don’t already, try this for a week: Literally plan out every meal and snack you’re going to have. That means planning out 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners, as well as all of the snacks you may need. Use this to then create your shopping list. I know that a lot of you probably already do this, but I know that I also totally didn’t do this until relatively recently and ended up just a bit bewildered whilst in the supermarket and buying whatever I laid my eyes on. That’s a recipe for waste because you end up with a fridge full of stuff that doesn’t really go together, and that you can’t actually make that many meals out of.
So, yes, simply planning your meals properly and carefully and where possible basing it on things that you already have in your cupboard and fridge will save you on so much food waste.
My final tip is to buy the food rejects. This isn’t so much a recommendation for stopping food waste in your own home, but it is a way that you can help to reduce food waste in supermarkets in your own way. You probably know that a lot of the food that supermarkets put on the shelves are the most pretty versions of that piece of produce. So even things like apples will be kind of picked and chosen based on how aesthetically pleasing they are, because we’re fickle creatures and we like food that looks pretty.
However, a lot of supermarkets have recently been jumping on the trend of selling less pretty fresh produce. It’s sometimes called wonky veg or imperfect fruit, but it’s basically fruit that doesn’t look perfectly symmetrical and shiny. If you can buy this then do. it means that you are helping to promote selling food based on natural taste, as opposed to the sheer luck of whether it looks good. As it stands, up to two-fifths of fruit and veg gets discarded because it doesn’t look good enough to reach the shelves (Guardian). So show that you’re happy to buy these rejects with your coin! Your money is your vote.
As well as this, I learnt a few years ago that people are much more likely to buy a bunch of bananas, than the single bananas that sometimes get left on the shelf. It’s just human nature, right? You’d rather pick up a bunch of 5 bananas than 5 individual ones. It’s more time-efficient! But these individual bananas that get left on the shelf for too long usually end up getting sent to landfill by the supermarket, because they’re not selling. So as another tip to encourage less waste in your local supermarket, do a good deed and pick up all of the individual bananas that add up to the total amount that you want. They all taste the same anyway.
And, on that kind of odd note, those are all of my tips for cutting down on your food waste. If everyone did these, we could have a huge impact and seriously reduce energy, waste and transport for food that doesn’t even end up getting consumed.
I know that I threw a lot of information at you – I kind of feel like this was a bit of a mish mash of lots of tips that I’ve learned over the years so I hope it was coherent and that you learnt something. But let’s recap my main pieces of advice…
- Learn how to store your food properly: Don’t wash your fresh produce, unless it’s leafy greens which you can wrap in a damp towel, don’t store gaseous produce with non-gaseous produce, and always lemon juice up your avocados
- Your freezer is your best friend and you should really make the most of it by keeping an eye on things that are on the way out
- Check use by dates before buying and plan your meals properly around them
- Buy the food rejects. Think of all those poor lonely bananas and ugly strawberries!
I’m obviously not saying that you need to start doing all of these immediately. However, I would encourage you to take just one of these four things and start incorporating them into your shopping or cooking routines, to begin your journey to having a more low waist kitchen. So, if you do decide to do one of these and kind of set yourself a bit of an Eco resolution, I would love to hear about it. Slide into my DMS on Instagram, I’m @Bethanypaigeaustin, which will also be linked in the show notes.
And if you are deciding to do one of these, I’m assuming you enjoyed this episode, so it would mean the absolute world to me if you would leave me a glowing review on iTunes. It helps to get the word out there about Everyday Ethical, and is a great way to show a little bit of extra love for all of the free resources that I create for you lovely lot.
I’ll be back next week with another episode where I hopefully get less irate about the statistics on food waste, so I’ll see you then.