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Seven top tips to reduce food waste

Across the UK we throw away mountains of food every single week and it’s becoming a growing concern for businesses and homes alike. There are lots of easy ways we can all reduce food waste (and grocery spending), both in our own kitchens and in bigger ways, too. For example, our Community Food Connection works with the charity FareShare to redistribute food among local charities, such as the Bo’Ness Academy near Edinburgh, who use the surplus ingredients in their community café. We asked our audience for some top tips on reducing food waste and how to make the most of the food you have in your kitchen. Here are some of the great suggestions you can try at home.

  1. Batch cooking

    ‘I cook pasta sauces in big batches – they’re quick to defrost and stop me buying pricy pre-made food.’ Emma Robertson, Kent

    Rich, tomato-based sauces are perfect for batch cooking as their flavour tends to develop even further when left overnight or frozen. Try making a batch of these ‘secret veg’ meatballs to stash in the freezer. You can use up any odds and ends of vegetables you have in the fridge and serve with pasta, rice, noodles, mash or whatever you have to hand. 

    Batch cooking
  2. Extend the life of fresh herbs

    ‘Wrap fresh herbs, such as parsley, in damp kitchen paper and store in the fridge to keep fresh for longer.’ Gwenneth Bowie, Cumbria

    A half-used packet of fresh herbs can quickly turn limp and lifeless, so this top tip from Gwenneth is a great way to make sure they stay fresh for use another day. Soft herbs such as parsley, basil, mint and coriander tend to have the shortest fridge life once cut, so make the most of them by whizzing into an easy pesto or herb sauce to serve with pasta, grilled meats or for drizzling over a salad. It’s an easy, delicious way to add flavour to a dish.

    Extend the life of fresh herbs
  3. Bake a cake

    ‘I never throw out brown bananas. They’re perfect for baking into a deliciously gooey banana bread!’ Elli Donajgrodzki, Food Editor

    Most fruits are at their best when just ripe, but just because they’re a little squishy doesn’t mean you should chuck them out. Over-ripe bananas (with brown or black skins) are perfect for baking as they become even sweeter in taste, so like Elli or the Bo’Ness Academy, whip up an easy banana bread or a delicious batch of muffins instead of throwing them in the bin. Similarly, other fruits that are looking a little soft or wrinkly can still make delicious fruit compotes or the base for a tasty crumble – just cut away any bruised sections, chop into small pieces and cook down to a lovely soft texture. 

    Bake a cake
  4. Turn risotto into a super snack

    ‘Turn leftover risotto into arancini: shape into balls, coat in breadcrumbs and shallow fry. Freezable, too!' Denise Rance, Newport

    Risotto is never quite as tasty the next day, as the starch in the rice turns stickier and stodgier as it cools, but that makes day-old risotto perfect for making arancini. These little Italian balls rely on the rice sticking together before being coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Try experimenting with different flavours of risotto, or add a gooey cheese centre. See our step-by-step guide to how to make arancini.

    Turn risotto into a super snack
  5. Clever cupboards

    ‘Stock up on ingredients that are quick to turn into a meal – so you aren’t tempted by a takeaway if you get in late.’ Alex Clarke, Cardiff

    This doesn’t have to mean a fridge full of ready meals, instead stock up on simple, tasty ingredients that you are can cook with confidently. Chicken, prawns or fish fillets are quick to cook and can be served simply with veg or salad, or thrown into curries, soups or stir-fries. Keep a carton of eggs in the house to indulge in the breakfast-for-dinner craze so you can rustle up an omelette, frittata or a pan of baked eggs in no time. Fill the cupboards with dried pasta, chopped tomatoes and jarred pesto, or dried noodles and soy sauce – then just add whatever veg you have in the fridge for a hearty meal. 

    Clever cupboards
  6. Saving stale bread

    ‘Bread gone hard? Blitz into crumbs and use in casserole toppings, meatballs or fishcakes.’ Janice Morris, Dumfries and Galloway

    There’s no excuse for throwing away old bread – it may be a bit tough for a sandwich, but as Janice suggests, it’s perfectly fine whizzed into crumbs and saves you having to buy ready-made breadcrumbs when you need them. Stash in sealed bags or tubs in the freezer and you’ve always got some at the ready to add substance to meatballs, burgers and stuffing, or to add a crunchy coating to fishcakes, goujons, chicken Kiev or schnitzels

    Saving stale bread
  7. Shop savvy

    ‘If a recipe calls for two onions, I’ll only buy two instead of picking up a whole bag I’d forget about.’ Zosia Edwards, Surrey

    This is a great tip from Zosia as a little forward planning when food shopping can really help reduce waste. Some products are cheaper to buy in bulk, but think ahead to your week’s meals and consider if you will use them up or not. If you’re not sure you will, buy fresh fruit and veg as individual items, consider cooking a larger batch and freezing some of the leftovers, or take the chance to look for new recipe inspiration and try something different with your leftover ingredients. Perhaps this pickled red onion salad for those extra onions…

    Shop savvy