Tuesday 1st June, 2010

Save food to save the planet

Image courtesy Samson Mujuda

Curbing food waste not only saves the environment, it saves money.

In the UK, around one third of purchased food is thrown away. Of that wasted third, 40 per cent – almost one million tonnes – has not even been touched and at least a tenth is not past its sell by date.

Food is most commonly wasted when households overstock their pantries and cook more than can be consumed. Putting a stop to the binning of food that could have been eaten can save as much Co2 as taking one in five cars off the road.

Richard Lumingo, a father of three boys, says he has been able to control food wastage in his house by implementing a few simple solutions.
• Trust your senses, not the expiry date. “For instance,” Lumingo says, “I monitor the bread and when I notice it has a day or two before expiry, I put it in the freezer. I don’t throw away eggs because of an expiry date. I eat them and nothing has ever happened to me. We don’t throw way meat or chicken because of the expiry date. We just freeze them. I don’t throw away potatoes: if they germinate, I just clean them and cook them.”
• Portion your food. “We manage the portions of food that we give to our children,” says Lumingo. “Give them small portions and if they want some more you give it to them. What remains is put in the freezer for reuse. Prepare food in advance and pack it in small portions and freeze. Pick the portion you need for your meal.”
• Make shopping lists. “Before going shopping,” Lumingo says, “it is important to plan your meals. This is one of the most effective ways of cutting wastage and food bills. Before you go shopping, write a list to avoid buying food you already have.”
• Take note of the shelf life. “When you go to a supermarket,” Lumingo advises, “make sure you pay attention to the expiry date. For instance, when buying milk, pick the one that is behind the shelf because the store managers put the one with a shorter shelf life in front just to get rid of it. The other way of avoiding wastage of milk is to buy long life milk. Try and keep your cupboard and freezer well-stocked with a variety of canned foods because they have a longer shelf life.”
• First in, first eaten. This policy is simple yet effective: “Whenever we bring in fresh food we make sure that we bring the older one in front and the new one behind. The first thing we do after shopping is to transfer as much as food as possible straight into the freezer.”

Lumingo’s solutions are not exactly scientific, but by cutting food waste, Co2 emissions are reduced and the planet can breathe a bit easier.

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