Christmas is traditionally the time for overindulgence, lying on the sofa watching TV as you slowly digest your enormous festive lunch. This is a great time to think much more carefully about ways to reduce how much food you waste in your own home.
We all know that food waste is a huge global issue – and Christmas is the time when people waste the most by overstocking the fridge. According to Unilever 4.2 million, Christmas dinners were wasted across the UK in 2014. The figure is the equivalent to 263,000 turkeys; 7.5 million mince pies; 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding; 17.2 million Brussels sprouts; 11.9 million carrots and 11.3 million roast potatoes.
It’s Fresh!, the food freshness technology experts, has probed survival guides, studied historical techniques and spoken to food experts to pull together a dozen ideas to help reduce food waste in UK homes over Christmas.
While meal planning and shopping smart are massive, there are also many more creative and unusual ways to reduce food waste. From building your own smoker, making soups to curing fresh ham, It’s Fresh say they have it covered.
“Food waste is a critical issue. Never underestimate the positive impact that cutting down waste in the home can have as part of overall global food waste reduction,” said Euan Murray, chief executive of The Sustainability Consortium.
“Carefully planning meals and how to use leftovers is obviously crucial but exploring some slightly more left-field ideas is really worth doing as well. We could all learn a lot from other cultures and what has been done historically to preserve food.”
To help combat food waste, It’s Fresh! has developed a discreet sheet-like filter that functions like a sponge to absorb ethylene, which is emitted by fruits and some vegetables as they begin to ripen.
The green and white striped filter slows the ripening process and extends the quality, freshness and flavour. The innovation can extend the shelf life by up to four days, according to It’s Fresh!
“The festive season is a time to celebrate, but it is also a time when vast quantities of food are wasted,” said Simon Lee, founder of It’s Fresh!
“Our discrete filters purify the air around perishable produce, from field to fork; thereby significantly increasing shelf life and reducing unnecessary waste.”
The green and white filters are being used in produce packs in retailers including Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.
Here are the top ten tips from It’s Fresh!
1) MAKE A MEAL PLAN – AND STICK TO IT
Plan meals and portion sizes carefully for Christmas. Family staying over? Think about what you’ll give them on Boxing Day so you’re less likely to over-shop. Whatever you do, don’t overbuy If the recipe calls for three carrots, don’t grab the “Buy One Get One Free” multi-buy bag offer. Only buy food when you have a plan for using it, and wait until your perishables are used up before buying any more.
2) DON’T BIN YOUR CHRISTMAS LEFTOVERS – REUSE THEM
Bubble and Squeak is a brilliant way to use up leftover veggies from your festive roast. Fry them up with some mashed potatoes and serve with any turkey or goose leftover from your Christmas lunch.
If you like to peel your potatoes before roasting them, don’t bin the peelings. Turn them into crisps for Boxing Day nibbles instead.
3) FREEZE WHAT YOU CAN
Rather than chucking away leftover veggies, turn them into soups and freeze them. Or if you don’t fancy whipping up a soup with your leftover veggies, pop them in a freezer bag, labelled and dated. These will be a life-saver for busy weekday suppers.
4) CAN, PICKLE AND DRY
These are some of the oldest known techniques for preserving food, and all achievable at home. Since the beginning of time, people have used the sun as a way to remove moisture from food. The canning technique was developed by a French chemist in 1795 and was used to preserve food for Napoleon’s army. Pickling is great as it doesn’t change the texture of the food too much. Pickled vegetables also have an increased level of Vitamin B6.
5) USE THE BIRD CARCASS FOR STOCK
Our great-great-grandmothers wouldn’t dream of throwing out the goose or turkey bones. Put the whole carcass in your largest saucepan with any vegetables you have to hand (both cooked and raw are fine), any leftover gravy and wine. Boil it up and keep the stock for future cooking such as soups or risottos.
6) CURE YOUR OWN FOOD
If you have the time and the inclination, you can make lots of food yourself – even your own pastrami This technique came from the ancient Turkish horsemen who stuffed their saddlebags with spice-cured raw beef, which repeatedly banged against the horse’s side as they rode along. But if you don’t happen to have a saddle bag – or a horse – you could use more achievable techniques to cure your food such as smoking it.
7) GO SURVIVALIST – GET AIR DRYING
There are all sorts of unusual food preservation tricks that survival experts use. Curing fresh produce by air drying, salting and smoking are traditional skills that still work perfectly well. You could spend a fortune on specialist equipment, or you can make your own. All you really need is steady dry (not humid) heat and ventilation.
8) LOOK BEYOND THE PERFECT
Fruit and veg doesn’t always need to look perfect for it to taste great. In some cases, choose wonky fruit and veg instead of the perfectly-formed. Up to 40% of a vegetable crop can be rejected because it fails the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets. There’s a growing trend for stores to stock some wonky fruit and veg to help reduce waste. There are even companies offering wonky veg boxes.
9) KEEP IT IN THE RIGHT PLACE
Ensure you have the appropriate food storage – not everything should go in the fridge as it can affect the taste, flavor and texture. Tomatoes will ripen and taste best in a fruit bowl, while cucumbers do best on the top shelf of your fridge. Apples are great stored with potatoes, they help each other ripen at a steady pace. Strawberries and other berries last longer if they’re not touching one another.
According to the National Academy of Sciences journal, when tomatoes are stored in the fridge, genetic changes occur that alter the flavour permanently. Plus, some fruits and vegetables produce higher levels of ethylene while others are sensitive to its effect. Some fresh produce will wilt if stored incorrectly.
10) CHECK YOUR FRIDGE AND FREEZER
Make sure the settings are right – too cold and your cucumbers will freeze, too warm and your fruit will ripen too quickly and start to rot.
11) BEST-BEFORE AND USE-BY DATES
People are often confused by Best Before and Use By dates. The Co-op has just started selling food after “best before’”dates in an attempt to fight waste. The new initiative complies with food safety standards and reflects how Best Before and Use By dates are now being questioned to help prevent edible food being dumped.
Many foods, particularly non-meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, can often be perfectly edible several days after dates suggested on the best before labels. In the days before these labels, people used their own senses to judge whether something was safe to eat.
12) USE UP YOUR STALE BREAD
Don’t chuck out your stale bread or give it to the ducks. Blitz it in a food processor to turn it into breadcrumbs, or use it to make eggy bread or Pain Perdu.