How to fight food waste & keep food fresher for longer
Food waste has reached mammoth proportions in the UK, where households chuck around 6.6m tonnes of food, of which more than half is perfectly edible. At Crop Drop, we’ve partnered with the Felix Project to help tackle food waste at industry level. The Covid Meal project has been transforming surplus food into healthy delicious meals for the borough’s hungry. But there’s plenty we can all do at home to reduce our food waste footprint, from simple storage solutions to food waste apps to getting the most out of your scraps.
What fruit and veg can be stored in the refrigerator?
Most veg stores well when kept in the fridge. Use the drawers for your greens as these trap the most moisture so will stop your veg drying out. A good way to use up plastic bags is to use them for storing veg. While we wait for a more sustainable alternative, we’ve found that leafy greens stay fresher for longer in a plastic bag.
Which vegetables can stay out of the fridge?
Not only do some things keep best at room temperature, but leaving this produce on the counter is a daily reminder to use it!
Potatoes are our single most wasted food. Keep them in a paper bag to avoid light exposure. You’ll find plenty of spud inspiration in our recipe section.
In addition, onions, garlic and squash are best kept on the counter. We’ve also seen some research suggesting that cucumbers and peppers keep for longer this way. You should always keep tomatoes on the counter as the cold temperatures affect their flavour - not in a good way!
How to revive limp veg
We’ve all had those moments where the less visited nether reaches of our fridge throw up some wilting salad leaves. If things are a bit floppy, don’t despair.
Spinach, lettuce, kale, asparagus, celery, broccoli, rhubarb and herbs can be revived by soaking in a basin of cold water for 20 mins. If in a bunch or on a stalk, stand them in a glass of water and they’ll soon perk right up. Bendy carrots also don’t need to be consigned to the compost just yet, just stand them root tip down in a glass of water and they’ll soon spring up again.
How to ripen fruit
Did you know bananas, apples and pears produce ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process? This is why you should never put a vase of flowers next to your fruit bowl. However, if you want to ripen something like an avocado quickly, place it in a closed paper bag and let the fruit do the work.
How to freeze your vegetables
The freezer really is your friend when it comes to halting unnecessary food waste. If you’ve got a glut of veg and you’re short on time, freeze it. Always wash veg thoroughly first and separate into portion sizes so you can easily defrost the amount you need. Avoid confusion later on by labelling and dating your items.
Fresh bread can be frozen while stale bread can be whizzed into breadcrumbs and then frozen, while frozen bananas are great in smoothies (save yourself the hassle and peel them first!). Download our vegetable freezing guide for the complete low-down on freezing your veg.
How to blanch: Submerge veg in boiling water for one to three minutes then plunge immediately into icy cold water. Pat dry and store in plastic bag, tupperware or glass jar. Use within six to 12 months.
Unblanched freezing: This is the fastest, easiest method. But some vegetables don't fare too well when frozen from raw e.g. most squash, once thawed will be soft and watery, so for the most part, cooking before freezing gets you best results. However there are exceptions to the rule. There are still lots of veg can be frozen raw (see table) but must be used within two months.
How to freeze herbs: Use frozen herbs in cooked meals rather than salads as they go limp when thawed. Strip the leaves of woody herbs or keep sprigs whole before packing in bags or jars. Ice cube trays are great for soft herbs, such as basil and coriander. Once frozen, you can take them out of the tray, store in a bag, and enjoy as needed.
Feed your plants (not your bin)
When food ends up in landfill it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global heating. Sign up to your council’s food waste collection (or pressure them into starting one), invest in a compost bin (there are now types suited for kitchens and gardens) or consider reusing your scraps before throwing them.
Use your scraps
The bottoms of lettuce, celery and spring onions and the tops of carrots and radishes will sprout again if placed in water and put on a windowsill. The seeds of tomatoes, peppers and chilis will happily grow into new plants - just cover in soil, water regularly and place in a plastic wallet to create greenhouse conditions. Potatoes sprouting eyes? Cut them up and plant in a large container or grow bag and you’ll soon be treated to new spuds. To really ramp up your zero waste efforts, freeze your peelings and use them to make your own stock.
Plan your meals around what you have
Digital platforms such as Paprika and Stockcubes allow you to upload the contents of your cupboards, organise recipes and create grocery lists so you don’t double up on shopping. They make it easier to keep track of what you’ve got and prioritise cooking the stuff that’s going off soonest. It’s just one of a number of ways tech is tackling the food waste problem.
If after implementing all of our tips you’ve still got food to spare, apps such as Olio and Too Good to Go are great for sharing your surplus with neighbours.
Veg bag tips
Let us know if you’re going away and would like to pause or donate your veg bag and try to pick up your veg bag as close to Thursday as possible to avoid spoilage, particularly in hot weather.