Food Waste: Making your food go the extra mile - Written by Kerry MacKay - The GRAB Trust

Updated: Jan 31

You heard the news, we are in lockdown. Being a good citizen you plan to follow the rules and will save lives in doing so. You stocked up on food to help see you through and felt a sense of reassurance that whatever happens, you can eat. You planned to cook and freeze a load of meals to make things last.

But then reality set in, the kids need constant entertaining, you still have to put in the hours for work, there’s more housework than ever, and not to mention the constant lure of social media to get your fix of socialization and a good dose of procrastination.

You suddenly realise the days have flown by and a big chunk of that beautiful stockpile of food is alarmingly near their use-by dates. How can you possibly eat it all in time?!

Of the food wasted in the UK, almost 70% of it comes from our homes. This food waste is expected to spike after the stockpiling that left supermarket shelves bare. With money also tight for many of us, it’s frustrating to see our investment rotting in the corner. Food waste equates to about £60 per month for an average family, that’s £720 a year!

With the potential for food supply chains to slow down and the reduced bin collection services (no-one wants a smelly bin),not to mention the waste of money and production effort,it is ludicrous to waste that precious commodity in your cupboard.

So what can you do about it? Most of the food that is wasted, 41% in fact, is simply not used in time. So let’s start there. Check the dates on the labels. Make sure you check the right date; “Use by” and “Best before” are very different.“Best before” is just a guide, the produce will be tastiest before the date shown but is still perfectly edible after it. “Use by” is the one to watch, once passed this date the product may not be safe to eat. This particularly applies to meats. If it looks, feels, smells and tastes fine, then it’s probably safe, it’s your call. My granny regularly cuts the green mould of her cheese to get at the good bit, she’s 94 and still going strong so it can’t be that bad! Cut off the bad bits, save what you can.

Dig out the food that needs used in the next couple of days and lay it on the table. If things can be frozen, now’s the time. Freezing them will give you much longer to get round to using it. So what’s left on the table? Maybe a bag of salad that’s gone a little slimy in the corner, some stale bread, a few sprouting potatoes... What on earth can you make out of that?

My favourite way to use up stale bread is good old eggy bread. Leftover mashed potatoes? Make some quick and easy potato scones. If you are lacking inspiration then fear not, there is a plethora of websites/apps that can get you keen to don the apron. Try one like or You can enter the ingredients you have available and it will give you some delicious meal ideas.

Cooking in bulk is a great effort saver too. Soups and stews are ideal for bulk cooking. Freeze in convenient portions for when you don’t feel like cooking.

Surprisingly, personal preference is the next biggest reason for food waste according to WRAP, contributing to almost 30% of wasted food. So if you have something that you just don’t think you will use, donate it. Coronavirus has really brought communities together, so think about your neighbours. Would the old lady next door like those rich tea biscuits your kids refuse to eat, ‘because there’s no chocolate on them’? Maybe set up a ‘help yourself’ box in your block of flats for things you don’t want. When you are at the shops, take things you won’t use and put them in the donations basket.

For the food that really is too far gone. Would it be suitable for animal food? Do you have a pet that would love a bit of soggy lettuce? Do you know someone who does? Someone with hens might appreciate the kitchen scraps; a win-win when you could get some eggs in return.

So there you have it, single out the produce that really needs used, freeze what you can, find a few recipes that tickle your taste buds, cook in bulk, and freeze for later. Get the kids to help too, cooking is a valuable life skill in surprisingly short supply! The perfect way to combine home schooling with housework. Stay safe and have fun cooking!

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