We can point our fingers at any number of key causes for most of our food waste, however at the end of the day we have to hold ourselves responsible. Asside from the food waste that we generate as part of our food preparation, eg fruit and vegetable peelings, meat bones, fat and gristle, in our own homes the majority of our food waste is generated from one or more of the following;
- Buying too much and not using it before it goes past it's best - that includes cans and jars of food that go in the cupboard forgotten for years
- Cooking too much and not using it up before it goes past it's best
- Growing too much and not eating, preserving or passing it on to others to use before it has passed it's best.
Here are some examples of the things i have done in the past that lead my family to generate food waste, I bet you do some of them too!
Buying too much or Can't eat all we buy
I know you do, so do I. There are;
- The impuse buys, something that tends to happen if you shop when you are hungry or buying from menory.
- Bulk buying, I am fully in favour of buying bulk, it saves money doesn't it? Buying bulk of non perishables and food items with a long shelf life, ie tins and bottles, is a great way of saving money, if you have the money to spend on them in the first place. Bulk buying perishables is a bit more tricky. Just how many chicken portions can we eat in a week? Put them in the freezer I hear you say, I bet if you checked there are already a few portions tucked away under the frozen veg long forgotten! Like many of you I am also not immune to the temptation of supermarket multibuy deals either. This is another form of bulk buying. I have become better at not buying 2 to get the 3rd one free as I am not going to save money if I end up throwing 1 or 2 away. But if it's buy 1 get 1 free I really struggle to only pick up the 1 I really need.
Cooking too much or Can't eat all we cook
Cooking the right amount of food for the three in our household should be an easy proposition. Here are the regulars that generate food waste for us;
- My husband is the master of cooking enough veg to feed 6 instead of 3, I have become a master of leftovers soup.
- As mentioned before recipes never seem to cater for the number of people I need to cook for, so we always seem to have extra portions.
- My growing son has an appetite that swings between bird portions to elephant portions depending upon whether he is having a growth spurt or not, he never tells us which way it will be either.
- My son suddenly decides he can't possibly eat whatever gormet food I have assembled for him, that he loved last time, and "I don't like that" gets bandied about just because he'd rather eat something else.
- The technology hicough, you guessed it, I burnt it. Actually it wasn't me but the cooker that burnt it, I just forgot the cooker was cooking it.
- The new recipe proves to be a failure. No matter how experienced you are, us non professional cooks still like to try out a new recipe or tweak an old one to give it a bit of new life. Thoes changes don't always prove successful do they?
Growing too much or Can't eat all we grow
Very few of us really consider growing too much as a problem, in fact it feels fantastic to get a good crop. You have been successful and your effort rewarded. If you like to grow your own, and many of us do, you'll know you have little control over how much you can produce, after all nature has a big hand in the success rate. There are also those plants and trees in our gardens that produce food each year with no help from us at all. So home growers need to be able to adapt their pallet around a feast or famine of seasonal produce. How sad it is to have a successful crop of food you have grown yourself, to then bin it beacuse you are not able use it all!. Excluding the weather, which can generate a fair amount of food wast all on it's own, food waste from your own crop is generally caused in the following ways;
- Sewing all the seeds in the packet and having too many plants to cater for you needs.
- Sewing all the seeds at the same time resulting in all the crop being ready at the same time.
- Not thinning out the crop.
- Leaving your crop on the plant too long, for example, ever have a zucchini (courgette) that looks like a marrow, beans/peas that are too hard to eat or stringy, lettuces that have flowered. In some instances nature will force the crop to drop when it is ready even if you are not ready to eat it. Fruit trees in particular will drop their fruit once they are ready. Sometimes the fruit formed will rot on the bush, this is a particular problem if the growing season is drawing to an end. Roots and bulbs will store well in the ground. So well that they start growing again the following year. If you leave them long enough for the top growth to die down it can be difficult to find your food when you want it.
- Storing the crop in the wrong way
- Storing imperfect crop – damaged fruit and veg will not store but rot and cause the rest of the crop to rot as well. Not passing on extra food to family, friends and colleagues.
I'll bet our experiences vary little from your own, however if you have something you would like to share with us, let us know.