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How to reduce household food waste

When it comes to food and climate change, our first thoughts often go to the agriculture industry. But according to the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP), food waste contributes 8-10% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s why it is launching the very first Food Waste Action Week (1-7 March) with the central theme being ‘wasting food feeds climate change’. The aim is to bring together retailers, local authorities, restaurants, manufactures and individuals to take action and reduce the 9.5 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK every year.

On a household level, there are lots of steps we can take to reduce our food waste that will not only help to protect the planet, but that could save us a few pennies too.

Use-by dates are about safety

On its website, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) states: “[A] use by date is about safety… Foods can be eaten (and most can be frozen) up until the use by date, not after. You will see use by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or ready-prepared salads. For the use by to be a valid guide, you must carefully follow storage instructions.”

Best before dates are about quality

Best before dates, on the other hand, are about quality, not safety. Food is still considered edible after this date, but may have lost some of its charm. However, the FSA does state that: “The best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the label.”

Supermarkets have to operate within the law when it comes to sell by dates, so we can help by working with them. This includes being willing to buy reduced items and just-in-date food. After all, if it’s something like bread or veggies, you can pop them into the freezer right away.

Freeze it

If in doubt, freeze it! Contrary to popular belief, you can freeze a lot of different foods; it just requires the right preparation prior to freezing.

Fruit: According to Love Food Hate Waste, 81.25% of the fruit we throw away is wasted because we haven’t used it in time. Got a whole mango or pineapple waiting for you? Chop it all up at once and freeze what you don’t eat. You can then grab handfuls to use in smoothies or to eat with yoghurt.

Vegetables: Dice up whole onions and peppers for freezing. Chop up broccoli and cauliflower florets if you don’t think you’re going to use the whole head in time. For potatoes, you can always par boil or roast them prior to freezing.

Milk: Got too much milk in the fridge? Freeze it into ice cube trays. This is particularly useful for when you get back from holiday and find yourself faced with an empty fridge, but craving a cup of tea.

Cheese: Hard cheeses tend to freeze better than soft cheeses. Grate cheese before freezing it; you can then use it for sprinkling on pastas, gratins and pizzas.

Bread: 20 million slices of bread go to waste every day in UK homes. Freeze your bread as soon as you buy it or, if you prefer, put half in the freezer and keep half aside as fresh.

Batch cook

Batch cooking has many benefits that outweigh the initial outlay of time that it takes. The more you prepare, the more time you get back through the absence of daily cooking. If you batch cook curries, stews or soups, divide these up into individual portions and freeze them for later.

Tip: If you don’t like playing lucky dip, make a note of the contents on the lid before you freeze it, so that you can identify what’s what!


Home-composting is the most environmentally friendly way of dealing with kitchen waste such as scraps and vegetable peelings.

If you have a garden, position your compost bin in light shade or shade; the microorganisms that convert the waste to compost work best in constant conditions. Your compost bin should be between 25-50% soft green materials (e.g. grass clippings, weeds, kitchen waste or manure) to feed the microorganisms. The remainder should be woody brown material (e.g. wood chippings, cardboard, dead leaves).

If you don’t have access to a garden, you can still collect your kitchen waste in a small bin caddy. Check your local council’s website, as it may supply one for free.

Meal plan

Before you even go to the supermarket, make a note of what you’re going to eat over the following week. This will help you to reduce what you buy in the first place, as you’ll know exactly what and how much food you need.

It will also help you to avoid tempting ‘buy one get one free’ offers at the supermarket. Remember: if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t get to go in the trolley. It’s also advised not to go food shopping hungry!


Often food goes off because it is stored incorrectly in the first place. Specialist food storage bags and clips can be purchased online to stop fruits and veggies from going off so quickly. Items such as cheese and meats can also be put into containers (freezer safe glass is best).

Crucially, make sure your fridge is set to the correct temperature. It should be between 0-5C. Dairy products in particular tend to go off when it is too warm.


Organise your fridge so that the longer dates are at the back and the shorter days are at the front. If you need to, you can stick reminders inside your fridge to indicate what needs using up first.

Don’t worry, be appy

There are lots of free food waste apps available to download. You can use these to search for people, cafes and shops in your area that have food going spare, as well as to post up anything you may have leftover that will otherwise go to waste. Examples? Not sure this works during a lockdown situation.