With so many of us living busier, hectic lifestyles, planning meals, and thinking beyond the end of the current day can be challenging. With innovations in technology and a focus on climate change and reducing our carbon footprint, it can be easier than you think to make a difference.
According to Zero Waste Scotland, in 2013, an estimated 987,890 tonnes of food and drink in Scotland was wasted. Almost a decade on from their report, what things can we do to reduce the amount of food waste we go through, and reduce our CO2 emissions?
Plan for Success
Planning is key to reducing food waste. Making a list before going to the supermarket is a top tip to save on unnecessary purchases, reducing the chances of buying unnecessary goods.
Shopping after you have had a meal also works. Heading to the shops on an empty stomach may increase the chances of buying produce that we don’t particularly need, just because it looks appealing at that time.
In the modern world, neither option is always possible. Sometimes we end up in the supermarket by accident and ultimately over-purchasing items, taking the buy-one-get-one-free offers, or picking up an item on special offer that we don’t particularly need.
In circumstances where there is food leftover after cooking, think of alternative recipes that could put an interesting spin on your traditional dishes. Think of it as an opportunity to be creative and do something different with leftovers, or if safe to do so, portion it up and freeze / store it for later.
Freeze it, cook it, eat it
When shopping for groceries, it is always a good idea to consider whether we will use items by their expiry date, and if we can freeze them.
By reading instructions carefully and following safety guidelines on freezing, defrosting, and reheating food, we can help to save ourselves money and reduce waste. By thinking beyond our next meal, we can plan more effectively for the week ahead.
With apps such as Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats allowing us to purchase dinner for delivery in a few clicks when we want to treat ourselves, or when we just can’t be bothered cooking, it’s no wonder that so much food is wasted. Factoring in these ‘wee treats’ and taking our own eating / ordering habits into consideration before hitting the supermarket can also be helpful.
As well as the takeaway apps, technology is also allowing us to consider food waste differently, with several apps offering food for reduced prices, or in some instances free-of-charge, which can make a nice, eco-friendly alternative.
Too Good To Go
The Too Good To Go app allows consumers to buy food that many cafes, restaurants, hotels, shops and manufacturers throw away when the items haven’t sold in time. The app offers the product(s) at discounted rates to customers, allowing both consumers and businesses to save money and help the environment.
Too Good To Go highlight that more than one-third of food is wasted, and that their app helps consumers to source and save food (7 million of them to be exact).
They also highlight that 16,050 businesses have reduced their food waste by being on the app, with 7.7 million ‘Magic Bags’ being rescued so far.
The company indicate that with every meal saved through the app, it prevents 2.5KG of CO2 emissions from being produced (or the equivalent to the same amount that would be emitted if a lightbulb was left on for 6 days).
Easy from beginning to end
I tried out the Too Good To Go app for myself at a local BP Garage / Marks and Spencer’s concession to see how it worked.
The entire process was easy from beginning to end. I entered my postcode into the app and searched locally to see what was available. I stay in a small town, so it was mainly grocery outlets that appeared, but I saw that there were products available from Greggs the Bakers, and Starbucks if I wanted to go further afield.
The ‘Magic Bag’ purchased cost £4 in total, with an invoice being provided via email once the purchase was made, and directions on when to collect it.
There were a few people locally making use of the offers on the app. Arriving at the store at the allotted time, I met another customer who had the same idea as me – she had purchased two of the ‘Magic Bags’ and commented on the value for money and that she used the app regularly for her family. She highlighted that she would be able to make two or three family meals for her household of four people from the contents of the two bags.
The app outlines that they cannot guarantee the contents of the bags, as they are made up of items that are being discarded that night by the retailer.
I received my bags from the friendly store assistant Lynne, who also highlighted the popularity of the app in the local area, and that the store sells a number of these throughout the course of the week.
The Magic Bag purchased contained a selection of foods, the majority of which could be frozen and used later. The bag contained –
- Pains Au Chocolate
- Prawn pasta salad
- Greek Kebabs
- Pork Belly Slices
The items were definitely value-for-money. Although not everything was to my taste, there were things that could be frozen and used for meals later. I live alone, so was able to divide the meat items up and freeze them.
Another app which can be helpful in allowing us to reduce our carbon footprint, whilst saving money is OLIO. The app shows people locally who are giving away food and other household items to their neighbours for free.
Once the app is downloaded, people can share (or select) items locally. This includes local ‘Food champions’, volunteers who are saving items from landfill at local supermarkets and uploading pictures / information to the app for others to request the goods.
The app also allows caterers, hotels, restaurants, offices, retailers, and other food businesses or providers to register to be a part of the redistribution process.
The app claims to have shared over 34 million portions of food, with over 5 million of its users.
Both Too Good To Go and OLIO are available for download from the app store, or through Google Play.
Health & Safety
It is always important to consider health and safety when repurposing and reusing food, especially with meat products, or when the item has previously been frozen.
When reheating food, special attention should be made to the core temperature of the item. Ensure that this reaches a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius and holds this temperature for two minutes. Food which is not reheated correctly can potentially lead to serious illness.
The NHS have an excellent online resource which promotes positive food safety. This is available HERE.
‘Throw-away culture’ seems to become more apparent each day, with advertising and social media encouraging us to purchase, consume and throw-away with items when we are done. By making small changes to our shopping habits, we can save money and have a positive impact on the environment.
At consumeradvice.scot, we have put together our top tips for saving money by using leftovers sensibly –
If you don’t need it, don’t buy it – Reduce waste by not buying as much in the first place. Make a shopping list before you go and don’t be tempted into unnecessary purchases by the shine of deals such as Buy One Get One Free – ‘BOGOF’
Reheat sensibly – Cooked food that has been frozen and removed from the freezer should be reheated and eaten within 24 hours of defrosting. Any longer than this would make it unsafe to eat!
Check the temperatures – Remember that when reheating food, it should reach a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius for at least two minutes. This kills potential bacteria and could save you or your loved ones from becoming ill.
Portion-positive – Ensure that you dispense leftovers into portion sizes before freezing. This allows you to keep the food for longer in the freezer and not have to defrost the full dish. You should only take out what you intend to use over the next 24 hours.
Soup for the soul (and the wallet) – Soups can be made from leftover vegetables and meat. You can ‘save by soup-ing’. You can find many innovative (and tasty) recipes online (like our recent Halloween pumpkin soup recipe).
If you would like advice or information on any other consumer matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000.
We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot
Advice Direct Scotland ‘s Safety and Sustainability campaign is taking place between the 27th of October and 12th of November 2021.
The campaign aims to demonstrate the small changes and considerations Scottish consumers can make to help climate change, whilst saving money, and making our lives a little bit easier. For more information visit the campaign page.