How to avoid food waste

The New Year's diets are well underway and the fridge stocked with healthy, fresh food. But how much of that will go to good use? A recent study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers revealed that an astonishing amount of food is simply binned.

Avoid food waste

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The research found that a shocking half the world's food never makes it to the pot, either because of poor storage, confusing sell-by dates, over zealous bulk buys or produce imperfections. In fact, the average household forks out a sizeable £480 a year on items that simply get binned.

Why not save yourself a few pennies - and be a little more environmentally friendly while you're at it - with these simple steps to avoiding food waste.

Plan ahead
Impulse buying is a major culprit when it comes to wasting food, with much of what we pick up on a whim going in the bin just days later. Planning meals for the week ahead means you can hit the supermarket with a list, and buy only what you need, thereby avoiding the temptation to buy items that languish in the back of the fridge.

Check your dates
Now that you've carefully planned your week's meals and have your shopping list in hand, it's vital to check the use-by dates on the ingredients you're buying. Planning ahead is all very well, but it'll be of no use to you if everything goes out of date on the Tuesday.

Rearrange your fridge
It's not always because we've over-shopped that we end up throwing out food - let's face it, who hasn't discovered the odd out-of-date item hiding behind the lettuce? That's why fridge arrangement is key to making the most of your purchases. Keeping labelled leftovers or 'must be used soon' ingredients on a separate shelf, or make sure you put newly-bought items at the back and bring the remainder of last week's shop to the fore.

Think before you BOGOF
The supermarket giants are masters at persuading us to buy more than we really need, or even want. Two-for-one offers and bargain prices are all very well and good, but if you end up chucking half of it away, you won't have saved yourself a penny. Restrict your bulk buying to things that won't go off in a hurry, like canned goods or toiletries, and only succumb to the buy-one-get-one-free deals if you're sure you'll use it all. Alternatively, freeze your freebie, making a note on the pack of how long is left until the use-by date.

Leftover lunches
Because our eyes are so often bigger than our stomachs, a huge amount of food gets chucked simply because we've cooked too much. Instead of scraping your plate after dinner, get creative with your leftovers and think about how they could be used the following day. Soups, stews and rice or pasta salad inventions will happily take on your cooked veg and turn them into a meal for tomorrow or even a packed lunch for the office. And remember, the freezer is your friend - if there's plenty left in the pan but you can't face the same meal twice running, bag or box it up and save it for a rainy empty-fridge day.

Shop locally
The convenience of buying everything in one place is one of the major reasons we all head to the nearest supermarket for our weekly shop. But don't dismiss your local stores. You won't be bombarded with tempting bulk buy offers and you'll find that many local shops stock locally-sourced fruit and veg that isn't up to supermarket standard and is often cheaper. Embrace the curvy cucumbers and knobbly squash!

Have you made it your mission to avoid food wastage? What are your top tips? Leave your comments below...