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Posted on Jan 25, 2013 in Blog, Food Waste


5 Small Ways to Start a

Food Waste Revolution…

What is your ‘food print’?  I have been reading numerous food waste articles daily and the web is awash with studies and reports on the amount of food waste we are all creating along food cycle.  To be honest, it can be depressing as well as numbing.  What can each of us do?

I am a great proponent of community action…start small, see if it works, and then try it somewhere else.  The whole concept of sustainability is based on active citizenship.  So, I believe that each of us should try to take small steps to reduce our own ‘food print’ in our own homes as well as in commercial establishments.

1. Buy Loose:  When stopping, buy loose vegetables and fruits.  My local green grocer did a test:  he bought a bag of veggies from the local supermarket, weighed them, figured out the per lb cost and calculated that his loose carrots were cheaper than the bag of carrots from a large supermarket.  Moral of this story? Don’t be fooled by marketing techniques.  We believe that buying in bulk is cheaper than buying individually.  This is not always true.  The per lb cost may be higher for pre-packaged produce, which doesn’t even consider the future spoilage in your own frig of the remaining carrots or other fruit/veg that you haven’t used.

Recommendation:  Buy loose and only what you are going to use in the next 5-7 days.


2. “Use-by Dates”:   What’s the nonsense associated with a ‘use by’ date on fresh produce?  Carrots, celery, onions, etc don’t magically go off once it reaches its ‘use by’ date.  Use your eyes, touch and nose to determine if your fresh produce has gone off.  Even if the carrots are a bit bendy or the apples a bit wrinkly, they can still be used in soups or casseroles/stews.  Put that wrinkly apple with some pork and cider and it will be delicious.  You only lose some nutritional value of the fruit/veg when it is older.

Recommendation: Don’t rely solely on ‘use by’ dates for fruits and veg.


3. Eat Family Style:  A large portion of family food waste comes from plate waste…the food that is left over on our plates after a meal.  This is especially true for families with finicky children or children with small appetites.  We sometimes forget that our children’s appetites are smaller than ours and serve them the same amount as an adult.  In my mother’s time, they would all eat at the dining room table with bowls of vegetables in the middle.  This way, they would only take what they wanted and if they wanted more, they could help themselves.   If there was food left in the bowls, it was easy to put away and used in another dish the next day, such as soup or stews.  We have become accustomed to preparing dishes with all the food served before bringing them out to the table.  This increases the amount of food waste because it is very difficult to separate out the plated food to be used again.  It’s too easy to dump all of it into the rubbish bin.

Recommendation:  Eat ‘family style’ where bowls of vegetables are in the centre of the table and your family can take what they want.  Leftovers can be easily used another day.


4. Eat “Ugly Food”:  Most people have heard about ‘ugly food’—that fruit or veg that does not visually fit perfectly with our common perception of how they should look.  I think we have gotten too far away from the farms.  I have an allotment, and I must say that most of my veg and fruit would be great candidates for an ‘ugly food’ competition.  Nevertheless, they taste great and no one notices them once they are in my various cooking creations.  Most of this ‘ugly food’ never makes it to our shops as they are quickly rejected.  Why not urge your local green grocer or shop to stock less than perfect produce?  They would be cheaper and give a home to a poor rejected piece of fruit!  There are some shops in the US that sell small apples and other rejected produce at a vastly reduced price and have saved several tonnes of fruit from being thrown out.

Recommendation:  Urge your local shop to source oddly shaped or ‘wonky’ produce from local farmers to reduce amount of food left uneaten and to support your local farmer!


5. Ask for a doggie bag:  I went out to eat with my family and I ordered a side of vegetables to go with my meal.  I was dumb-struck by the amount of food that appeared.  I had mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, and this was for one person!  There was no way, no matter how hard I tried, that I and my family could eat all this.  What can you do?  There have been initiatives in US and UK restaurants where you can order ½ portions at the same or reduced price.  Growing up in the States, we always asked for doggie bags and took home whatever we hadn’t consumed…that goes for wine as well!

Recommendation:  Ask your local eatery to give you a smaller portion (and they may surprise you by charging you less or if enough people request this option, they may offer ½ portions in the future) or ask to take the remainder of your meal home for lunch the next day.  You paid for it, so why not enjoy it later?


These are only a few suggestions to start a food waste revolution in your community.  Start with some actions at home, but also try to start some actions with your green grocer or food shop and your local restaurants.  Talk to your friends and colleagues to get a campaign going and you may see your actions make a change that will reduce food waste, but also save money for both you and the commercial establishments along the way.

Everyone’s small actions will add up to a food waste revolution.  See the UNEP’s new initiative, Eat.Think.Save that encourages local action to reduce food waste.