6th – 10th September
Sustainability is a hot topic these days, and with good reason. It encourages us to think about how products are made and the waste they generate, which is pretty sensible. However, there is a point when buzz words become so widespread that people reach overload and lose interest, which defeats the object of bringing it up in the first place.
Zero Waste Week is a good moment to re-examine our stance on sustainability. This is a nationwide campaign with a global reach, since it mostly takes place online and is open to anyone. The official Facebook group has useful daily challenges that may well give you some fresh perspective on sustainability issues and how you can engage with them. It’s also realistic – no one is expected to reduce their waste to ZERO overnight, but it’s an opportunity to get started. No matter how small the changes are, you are doing something for your immediate environment and community, and in the very long run, the health of our planet. Buying from environmentally responsible producers and retailers is definitely a good idea, but this can get complicated very quickly, and it’s worth thinking about what else you can do once the food is in your shopping cart. Here are some tips from us at
The Devilled Egg: TOP 5 TIPS on reducing food waste:
1. Plan ahead
Not an easy habit to get into, but try. It is a game changer. With at least some of your meals and ingredients planned out you are much less likely to buy things you don’t need, especially the stuff retailers tempt you with on your way to the checkout (they do this online as well, and are very good at it). The more you can put into planning ahead, the less stress you will have later. It makes your produce less likely to run out or expire, because you’ll have a clearer idea of when you need to use it all, and may even make it easier to store everything properly, since you’re stocked primarily for your next few days of planned meals, rather than a hazy gastronomic near-future where anything could happen!
2. Shop small
This goes hand-in-hand with the first tip, and it too isn’t always easy. But if you can, buy fresh produce every few days rather than an epic haul every week or two. This immediately cuts down on waste by motivating you to finish off what’s left before restocking. Perhaps counter-intuitively, it reduces the risk of running out of something, since your kitchen inventory is more manageable and more regularly replenished. And since you’re not expecting everything to last as long, you can save a bit of money by picking up reduced items which are about to expire or misshapen in some way (not every meals needs to be camera ready). Obviously be sensible when it comes to spoiled food – store everything properly and use perishables early where possible, but also remember that ‘best before’ dates do not cause food to instantly go bad.
3. Make the most of your freezer
OK, using energy to keep food indefinitely viable may not seem like a good fit with sustainability goals, and there is certainly something to be said for downsizing your freezer or buying a more energy-efficient unit, but we also have to live in the real world. Freezers are a fantastic resource and can help us to stretch our produce (and our wallets) much, much further when it comes to meals. Don’t use your freezer as a dumping ground for random bits and bobs you don’t know what to do with – label whatever goes in there and find a way to use it as soon as possible. Making big batches of sauce, soups, dough, pasta, portion them up and keep them in the freezer for a quick and easy meal later. If you’re anything like me, this will make you feel absurdly proud of yourself!
Hopefully your cooking will be so sublime that leftovers are rare. But try to think in advance about what you can do with them, should you need to. Again, it’s a little extra up-front effort to avoid stress and/or waste later on. Get creative: a few spoonfuls of hummus stirred though pasta is super easy, delicious and totally legit. Wilting salad leaves can be transformed into a scrumptious pesto by adding fresh herbs, oil, parmesan and whizzing it up in a blender. Soups and smoothies are a great way to use up scraps of fruit and veg, while stale bread can be processed into breadcrumbs, fried and turned into a fantastic paneer or crunchy topping for a variety of dishes.
Finally, when you don’t have the option or the energy to repurpose your kitchen waste, don’t just throw it in the bin, but recycle or compost whatever you can. And if you have surplus food, consider donating it. There are countless apps and websites dedicated to sharing food, and there may be options nearby that you were unaware of.
I try to keep my food waste to a minimum, even if I don’t always succeed. Another thing that helps me keep sustainability in mind is to cook from home. Of course we all have things that we love to buy or get delivered ready-made, but the more we prepare our meals at home, the less likely we are to discard food without trying to reuse it first. And if you were bitten by the gardening bug during lockdown, you can use that to further deepen your relationship with the food in your home. I do not have particularly green fingers, but I have been trying to grow more at home and am enjoying it immensely so far.
Start small, have fun and bon appetit!
For more info, check out the ZERO WASTE WEEK website.