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Research by the Love Food Hate Waste Campaign suggests that a third of the food we buy in the UK is simply thrown away. Reducing food waste is a major issue. Its not just about good food going to waste; wasting food costs the average family £420 a year and has serious environmental implications too. If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 5 cars off the road.

Here’s a few tips to help you make more sustainable food choices, minimise the food you waste, and maybe save some money along the way!

Portion control!

The main reasons for throwing away food can be summarised as "cooking or preparing too much" or "not using food in time" - for example having to throw out fruit and vegetables because they’ve gone off and not eating food before it goes past its use-by date.

Remember to only cook the quantity of food that will be eaten, for example a large mug of rice will be enough to feed four adults.

(Source: Love Food Hate Waste.com)

Understand food labels

'Best before': These dates refer to quality rather than food safety. Foods with a best before date should be safe to eat after the 'best before' date, but they may no longer be at their best. Best before labels are usually found on dry good or tinned products. Its usually ok to eat food after the best before date, but you will need to be careful and use your judgement. One exception is eggs - never eat eggs after the 'best before' date

'Use by': Never eat products after this date, and follow the storage instructions. However, check to see if the food can be frozen if you need to eat it at a later date. They are normally found on chilled products such as cooked meat and diary based products.

Display Until \ Sell by:Date marks such as 'display until' or 'sell by' often appear near or next to the 'best before' or 'use by' date. They are used by some shops to help with stock control and are instructions for shop staff, not shoppers.

(Source: Love Food Hate Waste.com)

Support your local farmers and buy local food.

Research by the New Economics Foundation found that for every £1 spent at a farmers’ market or farm shop, 80 pence is re-spent in the local economy. Compare this to supermarkets, where for every £1 spent only 20 pence is re-spent locally.

Farmers’ markets are springing up all over the country and give consumers the opportunity to buy a range of products including seasonal fruit and vegetables, meats, cheeses, jams, cakes and much more. Buying local food supports the local economy and helps to reduce food miles – the distance food has travelled from the land to your plate.

Farmers’ markets are held every 2nd and 4th Saturday in Halesowen Town Centre, and the 1st and 3rd Saturday in Stourbridge Town Centre.

Go to Big Barn to find details of local food producers in your area.

(Source: New Economics Foundation)

Storage

Current research suggests that about 40% (by weight) of the food thrown away that could have been eaten is fresh fruit & vegetables. Read on for a few tips to prolong the life fresh food.

Fruit

  • Store bananas separately from the rest of your fruit as they emit a gas that quickens the ripening process.
  • Lemon juice helps to stop fruits from going brown after they've been chopped.
  • Tomatoes can be frozen whole in polythene bags. They can then be used in place of canned tomatoes in sauces: just add whole frozen tomatoes to the pan when you would normally add the canned tomatoes.
  • Once ripe, put fruit in the fridge to make it last longer.

Vegetables

  • Most vegetables should be stored in the fridge or a dark cold place like a larder.
  • Cucumbers, carrots and root vegetables need to be kept hydrated. If yours are looking a bit shrivelled stick them in a bowl of water in the fridge. Carrot sticks can last for up to a week like this.
  • Store potatoes in a dark cool place.
  • Mouldy vegetables can quicken the pace at which foods around them go off. Make sure you remove mouldy food from fresh food and clean out your refrigerator drawers regularly.
  • Unused vegetables can be steamed, blended and then frozen in an ice cube tray to use in sauces and soups at a later date.

(Source: Love Food Hate Waste.com)

Make meals from leftovers

With a little creative thought, you can get many tasty meals from one chicken. If you enjoy a roast Chicken, the rest of the meat will be great in the curry, risotto or sandwich filling. If you have time the carcass can be boiled up to make a stock for soups or gravy.

If you have some dinner left in the pan, bag it and pop it in the freezer as a ‘ready meal’ for one. This method is very well suited to some pasta recipes. Even the smallest amount could be pureed up for the baby or served as a children’s portion.

Crusts and stale bread can be blitzed in the food processor to make breadcrumbs which can be stored in the freezer. The same can be done with cake or biscuits and used as a topping for crumbles and puddings.

(Source: Love Food Hate Waste.com)

Go Organic

Organic farming systems recognise our health is directly connected to the food we eat and, ultimately, the health of the soil.

Organic farmers produce food in such as way which places an emphasis on protecting and enhancing our environment. Some of the main features of organic farming include restrictions on the use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Instead organic farmers develop a healthy fertile soil by growing a mixture of crops. Animals are reared without the use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive livestock farming

In 2006, organic food and drink sales nudged the £2 billion mark for the first time, and showed a 22% growth overall. Many people prefer to buy organic food because it tastes better, and believe it is healthier for them.

Many consumers favour organic products because organic farming is friendlier to the environment so there is a much greater diversity of birds, butterflies and plants on organic farms. Organic standards ban the use of GM technology.

The Soil Association organic symbol is the UK's largest and most recognisable trademark for organic produce. Wherever you see it you can be sure that the food you have purchased has been produced and processed to strict animal welfare and environmental standards. The Soil Association has probably the highest and most comprehensive standards for organic production and processing in the world.

(Source: Soil Association)

Buy from sustainable sources

During the 1990’s the percentage of fish stocks considered to be harvested sustainable, and at full reproductive capacity was no more than 10%, but had increased to 30% by 2006. (Source: DEFRA’s Sustainable Development Indicators in your pocket, 2008)

To help maintain fish stocks at a sustainable level, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fishery certification program and seafood eco-label recognise and reward sustainable fishing. The MSC seeks to harness consumer preference for products from sustainable fisheries by use of its ecolabel. When fish is bought that has the blue MSC ecolabel, it should indicate that this fishery operates in an environmentally responsible way. There are over 1,700 seafood products available with the MSC ecolabel, sold in 38 countries.

(Source: Marine Stewardship Council)

Switch to Fairtrade

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.

Fairtrade standards comprise both minimum social, economic and environmental requirements, which producers must meet to be certified. The scheme also encourage continuous improvement to develop farmers’ organisations or the situation of estate workers.

The FAIRTRADE Mark is an independent consumer label which appears on UK products as a guarantee that they have been certified against internationally agreed Fairtrade standards.

There are currently over 300 licensed fair-trade products in the UK including:

  • Cotton including products from high street names such as Debenhams and Marks and Spencer.
  • Teas including black tea, leaf tea and herbal teas.
  • Coffee including roast, ground, expressos and instant.
  • Flowers such as roses, carnations and sunflowers.
  • Dried fruits including apricots, raisins, sultanas, apples, mangos,
  • Fresh fruit including bananas, pineapple, mango, limes, orange, coconut, grapefruit.

In 2007 the market for Fairtrade products was worth £493 million. A survey by TNS ONIMUS in 2007 found that 3 out of 5 adults recognise the Fairtrade mark and that 53% of adults associate fair-trade with a “better deal for third world producers.”

(Source: Fairtrade Foundation)