Lent is here and for many people it’s an opportunity to try to give up bad habits.
This year, rather than cutting out chocolate or curbing the coffee habit, we’re encouraging you to give up something else instead: putting food in the bin.
Because in the UK, 70% of all food thrown away comes from our homes. That’s more than 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year, the majority of which could have been eaten, shared and enjoyed.
Buying only what we need and using up all of what we buy is a great way to keep food out of the bin and honour the lent tradition of self-discipline and restraint. Doing our bit, no matter how small this might seem, could save each of us up to £60 a month. Our collective effort helps protect the environment and the land on which our delicious food is grown.
Courtesy of Love Food Hate Waste we’ve got plenty of amazing food facts, top tips and recipes to help you succeed in throwing away less over the next 40 days. Hopefully the changes you make will help you give up binning food for good.
40 TIPS FOR 40 DAYS
DAY 1 – MAKE A CUNNING PLAN. Who’s got time to plan their weekly meals, right? We know we’re all busy but carving out (no pun intended) 30 mins to map out your meals for the week ahead is so worth it. Grab a pen and paper, draw a 7-day matrix and populate the meals you know you’re going to need to cook. Pin it to your fridge and you’ll be on track for the week.
DAY 2 – POKE AROUND YOUR CUPBOARDS. One of the best ways to keep food out of the bin is to peer into your kitchen cupboards more often. We’re serious. Set aside at least half an hour each week before shopping to dig out what you’ve already got before buying any new food and you’re less likely to end up with old tins, bendy carrots and out-of-date pasta that needs chucking.
DAY 3 – Ask around your family or check your diary at the start of the week to see how much you’ll be eating at home. It’s not an exact science but knowing how many mouths to feed and when can help you buy in enough food to keep everyone satisfied, and limit the chance of overbuying then having to chuck it away.
DAY 4 – RESIST BOGOF, STICK TO YOUR LIST. It’s hugely tempting to pick up buy one get one free or ‘woops’ items at the supermarket, but this lent exercise your discipline and try to stick to what you need to buy. BOGOF and ‘woops’ deals happen every day – and if you really can’t say no, then only buy BOGOF you can freeze and save for later, instead of throwing it away.
DAY 5 – CURRY FAVOUR WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS. Going on holiday? Plan to share whatever goodies you can’t eat before you go with your neighbours instead of binning them. Either parcel up individual items into an attractive gift basket, or cook up your leftover veg or meat into a stew/casserole/slow-bake and offer it up. They’ll love you for it.
DAY 6 – KEEP THEM IN THE DARK. Spuds love nothing better than a home in a cool dark place. It keeps them from sprouting unsightly shoots or going soft before their time. Nobody likes a spongy wrinkly wasted potato, so keep them out of the bin this lent by storing your spuds in the best possible conditions.
DAY 7 – WHO KNEW THIS ABOUT MILK. Yes it’s true – you can freeze milk. We surveyed quite a few members of the Love Food Hate Waste community and hardly anyone knew that you need never pour milk down the sink again. When it’s coming up to its use-by date, and definitely still smells fresh, simply put it in the freezer. Defrost fully in the fridge and use within 5–7 days.
DAY 8 – OH THE WOE OF YELLOW BROCCOLI. We’ve all been there – with the best intentions of cooking that super-healthy broccoli but slowly watching it go soft in the fridge (while we eat something less holy). This lent, prevent your broccoli getting past its best by slicing a chunk off the stalk, immersing the end in water and leaving it to crisp up overnight. Perfect with stilton in a soup or alongside some fresh salmon.
DAY 9 – SURPRISING STORAGE FACT: TOMATOES. It’s a universally underapprecited truth that tomatoes do very well in the freezer. There’s no need to throw them away even if they’re past their best. Just chuck them in a freezer bag (not the bin) and pop them in the cool box. You won’t be able to use them in a salad, but defrosted they’ll be a brilliant addition to your next tomato pasta sauce.
DAY 10 – DON’T BE A SQUARE, CHILL OUT. The humble plastic ice cube tray can be used for some many things we simply don’t have space to list them all here. Excellent ideas include: freezing wine that’s on the turn to add to sauces; chopping up herbs that are about to go brown in water to use in cooking; freezing odds and ends of fruit juice to add an interesting twist to your Friday night cocktails.
DAY 11 – UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH: KITCHEN ROLL. If you don’t know this one already, you’re going to love us for sharing this storage tip. So simple and so easy to remember. Just by putting a sheet of kitchen roll in a container or bag with lettuce or spinach leaves can keep it fresh for up to three days longer. Who’d’ve thought it? Brilliant.
DAY 12 – THE SCIENCE OF AVOCADOS. They’re the hipster food that’s taking urban cafes by storm – topping toast with eggs for breakfast. But they’re notoriously hard to get just soft enough to cut like putty, without tipping over into sludge. Science has the solution: put your hard avo by a banana overnight. Ethylene in its skin will ripen it ready for a trendy brekkie tomorrow.
DAY 13 – ADVENTURES IN FRIDGE FORAGING. Before you think of making a trip to the supermarket or local shops, delve deep into your fridge and use up (or plan to use up) everything that needs eating. Fridge foraging is fantastic on two fronts – it keeps more food out of the bin and allows air to circulate in your fridge, helping to keep everything properly chilled.
DAY 14 – INCREDIBLE FRIDGE FACT YOU WON’T BELIEVE. We’re just going to come right out with it, without further ado, because it’s such a quick and simple win – keeping your fridge below 5oC can add three days to the storage life of some foods. Yes, three days. Follow our link to find out more.
DAY 15 – FRIDGE MYTHS YOU CAN’T IGNORE. There’s a lot of confusion about how to chill perishables to help them keep fresh for longer. We recommend you cool down leftovers as quickly as possible (ideally within two hours), which stops illness-causing bacteria growing. Store them in the fridge and eat within two days.
DAY 16 – WHERE FOOD SHOULD LIVE. OK, so it seems like common sense, but keeping your foods in the right parts of the fridge prevents cross-contamination (and keeps them good for longer). In a nutshell, keep ready-to-eat food on the top shelves and fruit and veg in the bottom. Wrap or cover open items and put raw meat, poultry and fish in sealed containers to avoid keep raw away from cooked foods. Simples.
DAY 17 – DISCOVER THE JOY OF FRO-YO. It rarely happens to us, but if you’ve not managed to get through your pot of yog before it’s nearing it’s use-by date, there’s a brilliant way to keep it out of the bin. Mix it up with overripe fruit, chuck it in a tub and freeze: instant frozen yoghurt dessert. Yum.
DAY 18 – MIND-POPPING EGG FACT. Did you know you can save surplus eggs from going off by popping them in the freezer? We know, it’s eggsellent (ahem). Just crack your fresh eggs into a container and when you’re ready to use them, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure your eggs are within their ‘use by date’ before freezing.
DAY 19 – TO CHILL OR TO CHUCK? That is the question. Well, we’re clearing up the confusion. If you have leftover rice, rinse it with cold water and tip it into a large shallow container. Cool it as quickly as possible (ideally within an hour) and it will keep in the fridge for up to a day. Make sure your rice is piping hot when you reheat it – and then enjoy.
DAY 20 – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Kicking off our week of daily tips on portioning is the simple mantra to ‘cook what you need and eat what you cook’. Paying closer attention to how much you need to cook means you’re less likely to make too much food, which ends up in the bin. Today, just hold that thought and come back tomorrow for a how-to.
DAY 21 – HOW TO: GET RICE RIGHT. Rice is a very tricky food staple to portion correctly. How many times have we all ended up with way too much? If you’re pushed for time, buy already portioned parcels of rice. And if you make too much, why not add it to a soup, make a fried rice dish the next day or freeze it for another time?
DAY 22 – WRIGGLE OUT OF THIS ONE. Another slippery customer to portion perfectly is spaghetti. It’s a hugely popular UK food staple, but so many of us make more than we need. The ideal single portion of dry spaghetti is about the width of a penny coin, when held between your thumb and index finger. For two people, add tuppence worth, for three, three penny portions, and so on.
DAY 23 – TUPPERWARE PARTY, ANYONE? Next time you’re catering for a crowd, inject a little fun into proceedings by offering each of your guests a container in which to take home leftovers. It’s incredibly hard to portion a party and so make the most of your leftovers by getting your guests to take them away. You’ll appear both generous and food-conscious: win win.
DAY 24 – HELP! I’M IN A HURRY. If you’re cooking with the clock ticking and only minutes to prepare, always check the packaging of the food you’re making for guidance on portions. Most shop-bought items tell you how much to cook for one or two people and if you’re whipping up a bigger batch, just multiply.
DAY 25 – SMASH, SCOOP, SERVE. Spuds are so easy to over-portion owing to the variety of shapes and sizes they grow in. On the whole, a handful of spud per person is enough to cook. If you’re making mash, get an ice cream scoop for serving. It’s a fun way to present your potato and helps prevent overserving a mound of mash on the plate. Instead, you can start with 2–3 scoops and serve more if still hungry.
DAY 26 – COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE. OK, so we’re not suggesting we’re all going to get our portions perfect every time. There are bound to be occasions when there’s just too much food. A great way to keep it out of the bin is to create single portions in tupperware and freeze them for later. You, your partner, your family will always have a healthy meal to reheat when cooking seems like a chore.
DAY 27 – TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. Inspiring our servings of daily tips this week is the confusing world of date labels. Use by when? Best before what? Let’s demystify the first one: ‘use by’ is all about safety. Foods can be eaten and most frozen up until the ‘use by’ date but not after, for example meat and salad packs. Make sure you store ‘use by’ foods correctly otherwise the dates don’t apply.
DAY 28 – MAKE A DATE WITH QUALITY. ‘Best before’ dates are less to do with safety and more to do with the quality of your food. Eat it up ahead of the ‘best before’ and you’ll be having it at its best. Eat it after and it’ll still be fine, but the flavour and texture might be waning. Again, make sure you store best before’ foods correctly otherwise the dates don’t apply.
DAY 29 – TOMORROW’S ‘USE BY’ IS GOOD TODAY. Keep more food out of the bin by using up everything in your fridge. Check the labels regularly and if you find a use by date that’s tomorrow, you can: cook it and eat it today; cook it and eat it tomorrow; freeze it and eat another day. Never throw it away, oh no no no, that would just add to the UK’s food waste mountain (which is already 7.3million tonnes high, eek).
DAY 30 – THE TRUTH ABOUT MEAT. Most of us are super cautious about freezing meat, and with good reason – we’re often warned about the perils of poorly kept poultry and the dangers of mismanaged mince. But the truth is you can safely freeze most meats right up until the ‘use by’ date – you don’t have to stick exclusively to ‘freeze on day of purchase’. So if you’ve got some lamb lying about, bung it in the freezer and not the bin (the earlier the better of course). Sorted.
DAY 31 – PAUSE THAT (FOOD) THOUGHT. In yesterday’s tip we let you in on the truth about meat, but the even bigger reveal is that actually you can freeze just about anything up until the ‘use by’ date. Freezing acts as a pause button, allowing you to preserve both uncooked foods and cooked meals. Just defrost your food as you need it and eat within 24 hours.
DAY 32 – PLAY BEST BEFORE BINGO. Short of time or cash? Dig around in your fridge for anything close to its ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ bingo and see what you can make of it… A slice of ham, a bit of cheese, a couple of eggs, a few mushrooms and half an onion – boom, you’ve got an omelette. Rescue your browning bananas and chuck them together with some ice cream and pud is served.
DAY 33 – MULTI-BUY AND BOGOF BONANZA. If you’re easily dazzled by amazing multi-buys and brilliant BOGOF deals, you can freeze portions in tupperware or freezer bags right up until the’use by’ date. Be sure to label them with the date on which you freeze them and use within 3–6 months unless the packaging says otherwise.
DAY 34 – AVOID A BANANADRAMA. Starting our week of lovely leftovers daily tips is this banana special: just because your bananas are brown or bruised, doesn’t mean you need to bin them – whizz them up with any fruit to make a delicious smoothie or peel them and freeze them for another time.
DAY 35 – FABULOUS FACT ABOUT OLD VEG. You need never chuck it in the bin – yes it’s true – vegetables are good to eat in soups and stews even if they’re past their best. Just thinly peel them, chop them up and chuck them in with some stock. Add herbs and whatever meat you like, and hey presto you’ve got a healthy, tasty meal ready to eat. And no unnecessary waste.
DAY 36 – HOW CAPABLE IS YOUR CUPBOARD? One of the best ways you can help yourself keep food out of the bin is to have a few store cupboard essentials ready to go at all times. That way, if you need to stretch leftovers to create new meals, you’ve got everything you need. Have a look at our full list for more.
DAY 37 – USING UP LEFTOVERS = MORE CASH. You could save up to £60 a month just by saving more food, and using up your leftovers is an excellent way to do it. Today’s tip is an out-an-out awesome recipe idea centered on the humble pancake. This savoury or sweet treat could have the power to become a staple of your food saving strategy – you can wrap just about anything in a pancake and it tastes great. Find out more with our must-read article.
DAY 38 – MYSTERY TIPPER. Today’s tip comes straight from one of the UK’s leading sources of food wisdom and good old-fashioned practical know-how. When asked about her favourite leftover dish, she recommends we try: “”Bubble and squeak shaped and fried like fishcakes, with egg, bacon and Hollandaise sauce.””
DAY 39 – THE GRAPES OF WRATH. Say goodbye to one of the seven deadly sins this lent by freezing your leftover grapes (of wrath, sorry). If you’ve bought too many grapes to feasibly eat, stay cool – wash and freeze them and add them to drinks as alternative ice cubes, or use them as fun ice cream decorations.
DAY 40 – END-OF-LENT. It’s the last day of Lent. By knowing yourself better, you can keep up the good habits you’ve put in place this Lent by taking part in our challenge to GIVE UP BINNING FOOD INSTEAD. Thanks so much for being involved!