Simple, zero-waste tips to help you actually eat the food in your fridge

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Making simple changes to your lifestyle helps to prevent food waste. [Photo: Getty]

“Waste not, want not”. It’s something we’ve been told ever since we were children, yet how much of us can say we truly practice this in our kitchens?

We’ve all experienced that pang of guilt when throwing out food, with milk, bread, cooked rice and bananas among the most likely candidates for the bin. Yet 74% of us say we’re ‘left baffled’ about what to do with our leftovers and rapidly-going off food.*

With Brits throwing away £494 million worth of food every single week, it’s time to make some serious changes for the sake of our consciences, our purse strings and our planet.

First up, we need to change the way we think about food, buying in accordance to our needs rather than what cash we can afford to fritter away at the local Tesco, says Margaret Bates, Professor of Sustainable Wastes Management at University of Northampton.

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“We have a disconnect with our food,” she tells Yahoo UK. “Food is considered cheap and therefore not valued adequately considering the resources involved in the production.”

Taking a zero-waste approach to our kitchen cupboards and fridges can prove a game-changer – meaning you’ll actually use up what’s there rather than getting in a bad cycle of stocking up and throwing out.

Here are Bates’ easy zero-waste tips for the kitchen.

Check the right dates

If you always throw food out before its sell by date, you’re probably doing yourself an injustice by wasting perfectly-edible food, says Bates.

“Best before and sell by dates just relate to the intensity of the flavour and quality of the food but don’t relate to the health impact,” she explains.

The date you should keep an eye on? The use before date. “This relates to the health and safety of the food. It’s an absolute. If you’re going to freeze food do it before the use by date and eat straight away after defrosting.

Store food properly

While many have debated whether eggs need to be kept in the fridge, and similar debates arising with regards to butter storage, zero-waste experts are often in favour of the chilled approach.

“Most foods store better in the fridge,” advises Bates, who reminds it’s important to keep your fridge at the right temperature (the NHS recommends 5 degrees Celsius or below).

The one exception is bananas, which should be kept away from other fruits to avoid them ripening faster.

Freeze or keep portions of food for another meal

Rather than tossing away that leftover curry, or the milk that’s about to go off, try packaging it up and putting it in the freezer instead.

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You can also freeze bread, adds Bates – so if you never get throw that whole loaf, try chucking half in the freezer before it has a chance to go mouldy, then toasting it slice by slice.

“A snowflake label shows that foods can be frozen,” Bates advises.

This infographic shows how much food we waste in the UK. [Photo: Gousto]

Plan ahead

You might think there’s no harm in an unplanned supermarket visit, but throwing stuff aimlessly into your trolley is where food waste begins.

“Food marketing is great so we “get our heads turned” and buy stuff we don’t need,” says Bates.

However, we can resist over-buying by making a shopping list containing the ingredients we need for the week’s meals, or, alternatively, using a pre-portioned recipe box like Gousto.

“Gousto is built for zero food waste. Delivering precise ingredients means that we only give customers what they need to create a delicious meal - nothing more, nothing less,” says Timo Boldt, CEO and founder of Gousto.

Use skins

We habitually peel potatoes and carrots before cooking, tossing away the skin – but Bates says we’re doing ourselves a disservice.

“A lot of nutritional value in fruits and vegetables are in their skins, for instance kiwi fruit and potatoes, so don’t be shy to eat them.”

Not quite ready to munch on furry kiwi skins? Make sure you get a compost bin, to make sure you’re making good use of your vegetable and fruit waste.

*According to research from Elmlea.