Best-before dates, sell-by dates, use-by dates; do you know the difference between them? Stats say almost 80% of us don’t, which is why Jamie and Jimmy went about putting the record straight in the third episode of Friday Night Feast.
What many of us don’t know is that use-by dates are really the only numbers to which we need to pay attention. Reserved for highly perishable food like meat and fish, use-by dates will tell you at what point food is dangerous to eat. All the other dates, however, are simply the supermarket’s guess as to when food will be past its best. This doesn’t mean they’ll make you ill or they’ll taste bad, they’re just a marker of quality that supermarkets use to rotate their stock.
The problem arises when we treat all printed dates as though they were use-by dates, and bin perfectly edible food because the numbers tell us to. As Jamie says in the show, gone are the days when we’d trust our own judgement on whether or not food is still good to eat. With UK households throwing out around 4.2 million tonnes of edible food every year, it’s time we all got savvy and learned how to tell when our food is off.
Here are a few basic ways to save the food that we most commonly throw away.
To check the freshness of an egg, simply place it in a bowl of cold water. If it’s fresh, the egg will lie horizontally at the bottom of the bowl , but if it’s stale, it’ll float vertically. When the egg floats at a tilted angle, it’s probably only a week or so old, and still good to eat – if that’s the case, you’re not short of recipes for using them up.
Yoghurt & milk
When it comes to yoghurt and milk, best-before dates can be way off. If it smells or tastes ok, then it’s probably ok. You can simply use up the last bit of milk or yoghurt in a delicious smoothie, or for your Sunday morning pancakes.
You can’t eat mouldy soft cheese, but it’s ok to cut the mould off hard cheese. Use up leftover bits and pieces in Jamie’s oozy cheesy pasta recipe, or try melting it on pizzas or in quesadillas. It’s a great idea to save Parmesan rinds too – add them to soups, stews or risottos, as they cook down and add delicious flavour. Alternatively, you can grate hard cheese and freeze it in sandwich bags, ready to sprinkle straight onto pasta bakes or pizzas before cooking.
Fruit & vegetables
Unless they’re mouldy or wrinkly, fruit and veg are fine to eat, irrelevant of the best-before date. If it’s on the turn you can easily save it by freezing it (click here for more ideas), or if you’ve got a glut of veg, chop them into a curry, soup or pasta sauce, and freeze the leftovers.
Britain throws away the equivalent of 24 million slices of bread every year, but there are a number of amazing traditional recipes for using up stale bread, such as panzanella and bread and butter pudding. Alternatively, you could tear leftover bread into a food processor for homemade breadcrumbs (sprinkle them on pasta bakes, lasagnes and shepherd’s pies), or use them to bind burgers and meatballs.
Recipes often call for fresh herbs, but we rarely use as much as we buy, because unfortunately they don’t last long. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save them from the bin. Try trimming the stalks, wrapping them in damp kitchen paper and storing them in the fridge, which will help to keep them for longer. The only exception is basil – keep it out of the fridge!
If you’re not planning on using up your herbs anytime soon, however, chop them up into salsa verde (delicious with roast lamb, fish and steak) or combine with softened butter and crushed garlic for delicious garlicky herb butter. You can freeze both until you need them.
So, if you want to get clever with the way you cook and save on the pennies too, get smart and forget the best-before dates.
Top tips and delicious recipes to help you cut down on food waste
Sixty-six trillion gallons of water goes towards growing food we end up throwing away. If that doesn’t sum up the importance of fighting food waste – and reversing the climate crisis – perhaps this guide to saving your scraps will, writes Hannah Twiggs
Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile
According to the Drawdown Project, fighting food waste is the number one solution to reversing the climate crisis
I f food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, a third of all food grown in the world is thrown away.
When food is thrown away, it isn’t just the produce that goes to waste: it’s also the water and energy that went into growing, storing and transporting it. An annual total of 66 trillion gallons of water goes towards growing food we don’t eat, and would be saved if we only grew what we needed.
According to the Drawdown Project, fighting food waste is the number one solution to reversing the climate crisis and stopping the planet from getting 2C warmer by 2100. If that doesn’t sum up the importance of the food waste reduction mission, I don’t know what does.
Neither does Oddbox, which is tackling the issue head on by delivering weekly boxes of the delicious “too odd” or “too many” fruit and vegetables directly from growers to its customers. With over 2 million boxes delivered since it launched in 2016, Oddbox has already saved 13,790 tonnes of food waste – the equivalent of how much food 29,977 people would eat in a year, with a goal of saving 35,000 tonnes by 2025.
This Earth Day, the vegetable delivery box company (or, as they like to be known, weekly rescue mission) wants to shine a light on the massive impact that food waste has on the environment and how people can take action to save our planet, for Earth Day and beyond.
From vegetable skins and scraps to regrowing your veg and eating what’s already been grown, Oddbox’s CEO and cofounder, Emilie Vanpoperinghe, has plenty of tips on how you can easily join the fight against food waste from the comfort of your own kitchen.
Join the movement and get wonky veg delivered straight to your door with an Oddbox subscription
My Failed Experiment to Produce No Food Waste
I&rsquom staring at the sad remnants of a stir-fry: three shriveled pieces of bell pepper, a spoonful of sauce, and mouthful after mouthful of dry quinoa. I sigh, dump it into a bowl, and put it in the microwave.
A week ago, I would have tossed these leftovers without a second thought. But I&rsquom three days into a monthlong experiment to see whether I can curtail my food waste, and it&rsquos far too early in the investigation to let these leftovers become compost. So I eat the quinoa, bite by dry bite.
Wasting food is one of America&rsquos many climate sins. Almost a third of all calories produced in the United States ends up in the trash, according to a 2014 estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And it mostly happens at home.
According to the USDA, grocery stores waste about 10 percent of our food (with greens being the worst offenders), but we&rsquore throwing away more than double that, 21 percent, at home. That&rsquos because people like me make too much quinoa and not enough stir-fry and chuck the extra, or we buy a package of carrots and use just two for a recipe, letting the rest rot, says Jonathan Deutsch, a professor who works on food waste issues in the Department of Food and Hospitality Management at Drexel University.
This is a waste of energy&mdashit takes tons of fossil fuel to grow, store, and move that food&mdashand decomposing food creates tons (3.3 gigatons worldwide, to be exact) of greenhouse gases. A report issued by the U.N.&rsquos Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if global food waste were its own country, it would rank just behind China and the United States in terms of total carbon dioxide emitted.
The best thing you can do to combat food waste is change your bad habits and buy less, plan meals, and eat more leftovers. Which is what I attempted, and it didn&rsquot go all that well.
I made a meal plan the first week. I mapped out three dinners for my husband and me, hoping each meal would be enough for two nights and one might stretch for three. I surveyed what I already had: some salad greens going limp, celery and carrots, and half a package of parsnips that I&rsquod used for a previous recipe. I figured a soup could use up the parsnips, celery, and carrots, and if I was diligent in making side salads, I could get through the lettuce, too. From there, I planned out my other meals and made a shopping list.
I shopped to my plan, made the dishes, dutifully ate my leftovers, and loaded my salads with spinach to make sure it all got consumed before it turned slimy. I fed the bad spot on my tomato to my secret food-waste weapon: my chickens. At the end of the week, the compost bin was nothing but eggshells and coffee grounds, and I was smug as hell about it.
I planned out week two the same way. First up was venison stew. Unfortunately, the recipe made enough to fill a bathtub. It lasted and lasted. While we plugged away at it, the herbs I&rsquod purchased for fish later in the week went south. Finally, by day six, my husband mutinied. We chucked the dregs of that damn stew. I felt guilty about it, but, well, there&rsquos only so much any one person can endure.
Week three is when the wheels started to come off. My garden burst into productivity, with the cucumber and green bean vines going bonkers. Tomatoes started rolling in. There was no need to grocery shop, and suddenly we couldn&rsquot eat fast enough.
A booming garden takes time to pick and weed and water. Finding hours to cook or pickle what you&rsquove grown can be a struggle. I looked for more ways to use produce. Every client who bought eggs from our farm got a free cuke every dinner was served with a salad. Corn and peas got washed, blanched, and thrown into freezer bags. Green beans won&rsquot have quite the same snap, but they&rsquore fine in soups or tossed into a stir-fry, so those were saved too. I also started freezing tomatoes. Come November, when things slow down on my farm, I&rsquoll can them into pasta sauce. I picked herbs and hung them in my pantry to dry and whirred basil into pesto, which, by the way, freezes beautifully.
Despite all these efforts, we still ended up with okra that got too big to eat (it gets tough and doesn&rsquot taste very good), and I forgot about beans I left in the fridge. Finding time to cook this week was so hard that I didn&rsquot knock through everything on my list. Every morning, I&rsquod look at two wilting bananas and say, &ldquoI&rsquoll make banana bread later.&rdquo Every evening, I went to bed thinking, &ldquoI&rsquoll make it tomorrow.&rdquo (I ended up giving those bananas to the chickens.)
I guess what I&rsquom trying to say here is it takes time, effort, and creativity to really eliminate food waste, especially when your life is hectic.
I entered the fourth week ready to get back on track. And then, on Monday, a work assignment went sideways. It was a time-sensitive story that needed major updates at the last second. My intentions of tossing pasta with pesto and fresh veggies vanished. We were both so busy that we settled for Trader Joe&rsquos frozen Indian meals that night. I should have cooked the pasta on Tuesday, but a friend asked if I wanted to go for a gravel ride after work, and I made nachos afterward. Meanwhile, my garden produce was piling up, as was my guilt. When I finally made the damn pasta on Wednesday, I cooked too many noodles. Old habits die hard.
I tried valiantly to eat those leftover noodles for lunches, topped with a fried egg and some cheese. Two days later, I threw the last handful to my chickens. And not making salads the first two nights of the week meant a bunch of my lettuce and a couple cucumbers had gone south. At the end of this failed week, three pounds of produce hit my compost pile.
2. Be practical, not aspirational.
- Instead of getting a recipe and then go shopping for ingredients, take a look around your kitchen. See what ingredients you already have and then find a recipe to use those ingredients.
The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook” by Cinda Chavich. (Photo: Courtesy of TouchWood Editions)
Cinda Chavich, a Canadian food journalist and cookbook author, organized “The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook” by ingredient — carrots, onions, spinach, pork — so you can start with the specific food you need to use and then decide which meal to make.
Along with scrap-food staple recipes such as savory bread pudding, frittata and stir-fry, her cookbook has ideas for farfalle, salmon and soybeans, which pairs pasta and soybeans with leftover salmon for a refreshing lunch and zucchini gratin, which turns excess zucchini into a luscious gratin.
“Be inspired by what you have,” Chavich said.
Confusing best-before dates contribute to food waste
In the US, “best before,” “best by,” “sell by” dates and so on serve merely as guidelines—the FDA does not regulate these dates. Food manufacturers stamp the dates on packages to indicate when the food will be the best quality, not when the food expires. These dates encourage consumers to throw out edible food—and buy more food (and thus bring home more plastic packaging as well). Decomposing food in landfill releases methane gas, a greenhouse gas about 80 times more potent that carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Confusing best before dates increase these methane emissions.
A new UN report that came out last week shows that worldwide, an astonishing 931 billion tonnes of food purchases go to waste yearly, with households accounting for 61 percent of that waste. Food service businesses make up 26 percent, and retailers, 13 percent. When food goes uneaten, it squanders the opportunity to feed those who are hungry and it wastes all the resources that went into producing the food—this rescued milk required many more resources than foods lower on the food chain. According to the report, food waste and food loss account for 10 percent of emissions heating the planet. (Food loss is food that never reached the market, due to various problems in the supply chain.)
How to Reduce Food Waste + Best Zero-Waste Recipes
1. Store Food Properly
This is an essential first step to reducing food waste at home. Refrigerators have different temperatures in different spots and because of this, some places are better to store your produce than others. As well, some things are better stored outside the fridge for maximum freshness.
Storing food properly will help your food remain fresh and last longer, which means you’re not going to end up with mouldy berries or limp carrots. We cover this in detail in How to Best Store Produce, which includes instructions for common fruits and veggies and has a free downloadable storage guide.
For non-produce foods, here are some quick tips to reduce food waste:
- Store nuts and seeds in the fridge or freezer so they don’t go rancid
- Store omega-3 oils in the fridge to preserve freshness
- Store nut and seed flours in the fridge
- Keep grains and beans/legumes in clean, sealed containers
- Place meat in the bottom drawer of the fridge, where it won’t potentially leak onto other foods
- Freeze homemade nut milks and remove as you need them (homemade dairy-free milk can go rancid after only a couple of days)
- Keep eggs in the main part of the refrigerator, rather than in the door
2. Organize Your Fridge and Pantry
Take stock of your fridge and culinary nutrition pantry on a regular basis so you know what you have (so you don’t purchase duplicate items), as well as what needs to be used sooner rather than later. Clean your fridge regularly, as dirt, residues and shrivelled stems can affect the freshness of new items.
Generally, after grocery shopping, we like to put the older stuff up at the front so we’ll use it first. Also, it’s helpful to store prepped items or bulk ingredients in clear containers to actually see what’s in them. If you’re hyper-organized, you could keep an inventory of what’s in your fridge, freezer and pantry to optimize your cooking and reduce food (and economic waste).
3. Shop with a Plan
How many times have you been enticed by a bright, fragrant fruit or vegetable and ended up tossing it because you could never figure out what to do with it?
One of the fundamentals we teach our students right off the bat in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program is how to create and execute a menu plan. Designing your meals and snacks at the beginning of the week can help ensure you stick to your healthy eating goals and actually use up all the food in your fridge.
Plan your meals, make a list and take it with you to the grocery store or market. If you’d like to leave some room for what’s locally available, you can make a skeletal menu plan that allows for variation, for example ‘hummus with vegetable of choice’ or ‘salmon patties with whatever dark leafy greens look the freshest’.
4. Buy Local
Purchase food that is in season and grown close to where you live. This is going to be cheaper and you’ll end up with less waste because food will be fresher, having travelled fewer days to get to your plate. If you shop at local farmers’ markets, items are often picked the day before or even the morning of market day, which means they will last longer in your fridge if stored properly.
5. Buy What You Need
If there is a sale on tomatoes, will you be able to eat all of them before they go off? Or prep and cook them into something that can be stored and frozen for later? Bulk shopping is only cost-effective and convenient if you actually end up using everything you buy. If you find that you’re throwing out food, even if it’s a small-ish amount, you’re losing cash.
6. Assess Best Before Dates
Very few foods have a true expiry date. Most labels will have a ‘best before’ this indicates the date after which a food may lose its freshness, nutritional value, or taste. You may also see voluntary terms like:
Best before dates don’t mean that a food is safe – I’m sure we’ve all opened packages of hummus or guacamole only to find they have bits of mould. However, people tend to view these dates as gospel and toss something when it’s still fine to eat. Of course, this leads to more food waste. You can learn more about date labelling here, and begin to use your senses – sight, taste, smell, touch – to assess your foods.
7. Be Smart When Buying in Bulk
A good deal is only a good deal if you’ll end up eating what you buy. Of course, there are certain times of the year when you’ll want to take advantage of an abundance of produce (oh hi berries and tomatoes), so make a plan to ensure you can enjoy your bounty without excess waste. For example, if you’re buying 10 pounds of blueberries from a farmer at the market, decide what you will freeze as-is for smoothies, how much jam you’ll cook, what you’ll bake, etc.
8. Creatively Repurpose Leftovers
We have no problems with leftovers and will happily eat bowls of chilli or creamy pumpkin noodles for three lunches in a row. If you’re not into leftovers, think of ways you can creatively repurpose and reuse leftover food, such as creating a recipe-free dinner bowl, using leftover turkey in potpie, crumbling a burger over a salad, or shoving chilli into a taco with salsa and guac.
If you can’t repurpose, then freeze your leftovers in a labelled container for your future self to enjoy.
9. Start a Cooking Cooperative
Enjoy the benefits of healthy meals with less cooking by starting a neighbourhood cooking cooperative. When cooking, you can reduce food waste by only buying what you need to make your recipe contribution for the week, then make a plan to consume what you collect on sharing day.
10. Explore ‘Root to Stem’ and ‘Nose to Tail’ Cooking
We have a habit in North America of throwing out parts of vegetables that we could easily use for another purpose. Animal production and consumption can be even more wasteful, as we view certain parts of the animal as ‘good’ to eat while other parts are ‘gross’. Many other cultures around the world use all parts of the animal and this not only reduces food waste, but adds nutrition and flavour.
The nose to tail movement has been gaining ground for a few years, and more recently cooks are beginning to explore how they can use all parts of plant-based foods (see more ideas of how to do this below).
11. Save Almond Pulp
When whipping up batches of homemade nut or seed milk, save the pulp in the freezer. When you’ve got a full jar, make a variety of almond pulp recipes.
12. Use Broccoli Stems/Stalks
Yep, they taste like broccoli too! Save them for stock, or chop them up for soups, stews or as a side dish. If you’re blending your stalks, you don’t need to peel them. If you’re eating them chopped into chunks, you may want to peel them as the outside of the stalk can be tough and fibrous.
Recipe to Try: Vegan Broccoli Stalk Soup by Sondi Bruner (*ACN Head Program Coach)
13. Use Beet Greens, Radish Greens, Turnip Greens and Carrot Tops
Don’t toss these nutritious greens into the compost or trash! Incorporate them into your cooking instead. Since they can be bitter, you may not want to eat them raw – but they work wonderfully when cooked, or when paired with acidity, salt and a pinch of sweetness in a pesto recipe.
14. Save Scraps for Broth
Keep a large bag or container in your freezer with veggie scraps for broth. Onion and garlic ends, carrot and celery ends, vegetable peelings, mushroom stems, leftover herbs, zucchini ends – use it all! When your bag is full, put the contents into a pot, slow cooker or Instant Pot with water to make broth.
15. Use Stems of Dark Leafy Greens
After you strip the leaves off of dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard or collards, use the stems for cooking or juice them.
16. Zest Lemons and Limes
Citrus zest is packed with flavour, along with Vitamin C and flavonoids that have anti-cancer properties. Zest your lemons and limes and freeze the zest for later, or dehydrate it for a fantastic condiment.
Recipe to Try: Homemade Dried Lemon Zest by Jaclyn Desforges (*Culinary Nutrition Expert)
17. Freeze Herbs in Olive Oil
Sometimes you simply can’t get through a bunch of parsley. Finely chop your herbs, place them in an ice cube tray and then pour olive oil over top. This would also be great with homemade ghee!
18. Roast Squash Seeds as a Snack
After you scoop out your winter squash, rinse the seeds and either dehydrate or roast them with spices for a tasty, homemade snack.
19. Use Carcasses for Broth
Roast a chicken last night for dinner? Use the rest of it to make a rich, health-promoting broth.
20. Leave Skins on Veggies and Fruits
Many veggies and fruits don’t need to be peeled – this reduces food waste and also saves you the trouble of peeling! Don’t bother peeling your carrots, potatoes, apples, plums, delicate squash, cucumbers, etc. If you’re eating the peel, we recommend buying organic as many peels can have pesticide residues.
21. Learn to Preserve
Canning, fermenting, freezing and dehydrating are just a few of the preservation methods that can help your food last longer and reduce food waste. Our go-to experts on all things preserving are Joel MacCharles and Dana Harris, who are behind the cookbook Batch and the blog Well Preserved, which delves into preserving types in detail.
Recipe to Try: How to Make Homemade Pickles by The Academy of Culinary Nutrition
22. When All Else Fails, Compost!
If you’re unable to use food or it spoils, toss it into the compost instead of the trash if possible. Many large cities have curbside composting, but you can easily get a compost bin for your yard, balcony or even underneath your kitchen counter. That way, your unused food can go towards growing new ingredients.
Just Eat It. A Food Waste Story
As a huge lover of food and as someone who loves to cook, this documentary, “Just Eat It. A Food Waste Story” grabbed my interest within the first two minutes of it starting. Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer are partners who live in Vancouver, BC. This documentary follows the couple as they try to complete the challenge of only eating food that is expired or was already wasted with the exception of what family and friends serve during get-togethers. This all started when Baldwin heard that we are wasting 40% of our food and he thought “How much of that food is still good and can I still eat it?”
This film runs for 75 minutes and it includes interviews with Jonathan Bloom, Dana Gunders and Tristram Stuart, all of whom give shocking statistics and insight concerning food waste. However it makes you think- how did this all begin? We went from using food as a weapon in World War Two when food conservation was a form of propaganda to having ONE THIRD of the food that is produced not being consumed. It is no surprise that we live in what people call a “wealthy society” and many of us buy an abundant amount of food without thinking twice. We are constantly going impulse shopping however 15-20% of food we’re buying is being wasted. This is the equivalent of going shopping, leaving with four bags full of food, dropping one bag in the parking lot and not going back to pick it up.
The grocery stores we buy our food from are also major factors in this issue. If there is any abnormal formation on the fruit such as a slight blemish, an odd shape etc then they won’t put it on display to be sold. It will automatically go in the dumpster. They are more concerned with the aesthetics because many people believe that “What looks better, tastes better.” When it comes to retail standards, there is no market for imperfect food. 10%-25% of food that is sent to grocery stores is thrown out once it is received because of cosmetic reasons. When asked about why so much food goes to waste, even if it is still perfectly good, stores say that when the food is within two days of its sell by date or ugly, it is a “Health and Safety” issue and that there have been two many lawsuits so the food has to be thrown out. However, none of these stores can give an example of a time when a store was actually sued for donating the food rather than throwing it out. There is no record of this ever happening. In the end stores use the “Fear of being sued to cover their shame”. In the U.S. there is a Federal law called the Good Samaritan Act, so giving the food away or donating it is legal. Therefore, being sued is impossible and it is an unfounded fear.
We need to be more conscious of our actions as consumers. When we host dinner parties or gatherings, if we run out of food we have the odd sense that we failed as a host. Chefs in kitchens are told to NEVER run out of food. In some societies, the ultimate sin is littering and not recycling while wasting food is almost condoned. The famous cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, still has almost the exact same recipes as the first edition. However, the only thing that has changed is the number of servings. Since the 80’s, the average cookie has quadrupled in size. In many societies, we buy an abundant amount of food because we CAN and we have slowly become accustomed to larger portion sizes.
60% of consumers also don’t understand the dates on the products. There are two dates that we are given. The first one is the “Sell By” date. This should not even be visible to consumers and it should be encoded solely for the companies to see. Many consumers see this and mistake it for the second date that we may see, the “Best Before Date”. Whether the expiry date is shown as “Use By”, “Best By”, etc. this is only used for the quality of the product, not the safety of the product. In the U.S, the only thing that is Federally mandated to have the expiration on it is infant formula and nothing else.
One month into the challenge, Rustemeyer states that she does not want to continue doing the challenge because “it’s not fun anymore”. Baldwin goes on to state that it was never about comfort or about being a fun challenge. “I don’t want to stop. We haven’t proved anything yet.” Later on in the movie, Baldwin finds several boxes of big chocolate bars that were still good, only expiring in ONE YEAR and yet they were all thrown out. Baldwin also checked to make sure that they had not been recalled for any reason they weren’t. Therefore he believes that this ridiculous amount of chocolate was thrown out simply because of the labeling. The packaging had been in English only and did not have any French writing. I used to work in a pharmacy and I have witnessed this happen myself. It wasn’t always food products but anything that did not have bilingual packaging had to be either sent back or thrown out.
Baldwin and Rustemeyer had been tracking the amount of food they were “rescuing”. In one month alone, they rescued $1,127 worth of food and had only spent $33. They opened their home to friends who wanted to do some grocery shopping because they had too much food. The friendly shopper left with two bags full of food and he could not believe it had all been found in the dumpster. Rustemeyer says that when she tells people about the challenge, she gets funny looks in return. People believe that she is dumpster diving and eating scraps of food. This is not the case at all. The majority of the food is well packaged, clean and still good to use. It got to the point where it was hard for them to keep track of how much they were rescuing.
Not only is the amount of food we waste a huge issue but the amount of resources we use producing the food is also wasted in the end. When we look at the Earth from the sky, what do we see? Fields. The majority of food we waste is sent to a landfill. The food hierarchy should be 1- Feeding People 2- Feeding animals and livestock 3- Creating Energy from it and lastly, 4- Incinerating it, putting it in Landfills etc. In reality, this is flipped around and in the U.S alone, 97% of all food waste goes to the landfill and incinerator.
Gunders spoke of a time she went to a BBQ and there were several leftover hamburgers. For each of those burgers, it would take the equivalent of a 90 minute shower worth of water to produce just ONE patty. Seven miles from the heart of Las Vegas is RC Farms, run by Bob Combs since 1963. He receives 30 tonnes per day of wasted and leftover food which he boils and uses to feed the 2,500 swine his farm holds. “RC Farms rescues just 8% of the food waste from the Vegas strip and feeds 2,500 swine”.
RC Farms is just one example of what can be done with all of the extra food waste. There are also several food banks, such as Quest Foods, which helps those in need. Ken March who runs Quest foods says that this one food bank alone saves $4 Million per year in wasted food. March had worked in the packaging industry for almost 30 years and he had worked in a warehouse that was 1 Million square feet and he doesn’t even want to think about how much food had been wasted during the time he worked there. Dumping food is simple economics and we need to become more aware about it as an issue as a whole and while not focusing solely on the financial aspect of it. Some farmers see how much of their food will eventually go into a landfill and it is disheartening. Therefore they allow people to glean. Gleaning is “the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.” Towards the beginning of the film, a farmer demonstrates what is done to the celery he grows. The majority of the celery is cut off to get the heart and it is cut to fit the store bags. There is 2 pounds of leftover celery which is perfectly good to eat and this is only ONE celery. Imagine how much is wasted for the entire crop.
During the challenge, when the couple had 2 months and 4 days left, Baldwin weighed himself. He had gained ten pounds which he contributes to eating more processed food and stuffing himself. If he didn’t eat the food that was going to expire first, it would be like it was going to go to waste for the second time.
“What we need is to believe that wasting food is not acceptable.”
What can we do to help limit the amount of food waste we produce?
Plan out your meals and make a detailed shopping list.
If you do one huge haul, stick to what you have on your list. If you rather do smaller shopping trips more frequently, buy only what needs to be replenished.
Almost everything can be frozen, which saves leftovers for later use and keeps food good and safe to eat.
When you go shopping, choose the food that is going to expire the soonest. It is still good to eat.
Do research on how long ingredients can actually last after their expiry date. Keep in mind- it is only for quality purposes not safety.
At the end of the challenge, Baldwin and Rustemeyer say that now when they prepare food, they first look at what they have and not what they are in the mood for. They have a new found value of food and that just by being aware of this issue, you almost automatically make a difference because you are more conscientious about your shopping habits. Baldwin has found a new passion for cooking and makes recipes that use the food that they already have rather than going out because they are missing a component. In the 6 months of the challenge, they rescued $20,000 worth of food and spent less than $200 on groceries.
Overall, I loved this documentary and I would suggest that everyone watches it. I will not be shopping the way I used to and I don’t think I will look at the food in my pantry the same way again. I will be doing more research on the situation in Montreal and will be looking into local food banks to see what can be done to help.
To find out more about the documentary and to watch it (for free if you’re a Canadian citizen), go to the official site here.
The truth about expired food: how best-before dates create a waste mountain
Would you eat a six-month-old yoghurt? This is a question you may have asked if you read the recent story about a US grocer and his year-long experiment eating expired food.
It started in October 2016, when Scott Nash, founder of the Mom’s Organic Market chain of grocery stores, wanted to make a smoothie. He likes his with yoghurt. As he was at his holiday cabin in Virginia, though, the only pot he had to hand was one he had inadvertently left behind on his last trip there, six months earlier. He opened it. No mould, no smell. He decided to take the plunge and dumped the yoghurt in the blender. “I drank and waited,” he wrote on his blog. And nothing happened.
Nash had always been averse to wasting food, but now he started documenting his experiences. He whipped up cream to use, uncooked, almost four months past the date on the carton, and stirred artichoke lemon pesto through pasta seven and a half months in. There was also minced beef (15 days old), smoked trout (24 days past sell-by), smoked turkey (six weeks past use-by), chicken broth (more than three months past best-before), roasted tomatoes (seven months past sell-by) and tortillas (practically a year old). Still nothing happened.
It raises the question: were the dates just wrong? Have more compliant people the world over been binning perfectly good food this whole time? Should we be eating expired goods?
The first thing to point out is that Nash is based in the US, where regulations on food dating differ significantly from those in the UK. While British foods carry just one date – either “use by” or “best before” – Nash was confronted by “expiration, use by, best by, sell by, best if used by …” He sells food for a living, and even he doesn’t understand the system. And while fresh chicken and fish went bad exactly when the dates suggested they would, dates on everything else seemed arbitrary. “I don’t think any of them are rooted in reality,” he says.
Nash points out that even things that aren’t food – baby wipes, toothpaste, soap, lotion – are dated, as are jarred and canned goods. A specialist from the US Department of Agriculture’s food safety and inspection service (FSIS) told the food website the Takeout in February that as long as a can is kept in good condition (ie, it is not swollen, rusting, leaking or heavily dented), its contents are safe to eat, for ever. “They will never make you sick,” she said. The FSIS’s own website, however, appears to contradict that advice, stating in its shelf-stable food-safety guidance that there are limits to how long canning will preserve food.
Clearly, this lack of clarity has implications for both the health of the environment and the health of the nation. What you don’t eat, you’ll end up binning, even if you could have safely eaten it and what you don’t know not to eat could make you sick. A joint report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School in 2013 said that 40% of American food goes uneaten each year, and the disorienting effect of the US date labelling system is in large part to blame. At the same time, said the report, that system fails to convey important food safety information, “despite the appearance of doing so”.
Scott Nash . not afraid of old yoghurt. Photograph: Tamzin B Smith
British rules are clearer. The use-by date concerns safety (ignore it and you could get food poisoning), while the best-before date is about quality (you’re probably fine to eat it afterwards it may just no longer taste or look as good). Of course, “afterwards” here doesn’t necessarily mean indefinitely: best-before dates are applied to both long-life products (biscuits, say, or Marmite) and very fresh ones, such as bread and eggs, which can go off. Only, it’s really obvious when they do (they dry out, they smell bad, they go green), so it’s easy for you to avoid eating something that might make you ill. (For uncracked eggs, use the bowl of water test: if it sinks, it is good if it floats, it is bad.) In other words, a best-before date means that you, like Nash, have what it takes (your senses, and common sense) to make the call. The main caveat is that the accuracy of that best-before date depends on your abiding by any storage and “once opened” guidance on the packaging.
Yet date labelling has been accused of generating both confusion and food waste in the UK, too, or of simply being ignored. As recent research by the makers of the food-waste app Too Good To Go shows, British home cooks threw away a whopping 720m eggs in 2018, with one in three saying they will bin any carton that is out of date. Yet eggs in the UK carry a best-before date, not a use-by.
All those discarded eggs show that most people still don’t understand the difference. If 74% of respondents to a 2016 Women’s Institute (WI) survey knew that “use by” was about safety, only 45% knew that “best before” wasn’t. The waste reduction charity Wrap has found that as much as 30% of the food binned for being “past date” had a best-before ie, it probably didn’t need to be binned. And we throw away an awful lot of food in the UK: upwards of 7m tonnes a year. Clearly, understanding dates is crucial.
Andrew Parry of Wrap says that a lot of thought goes into how a business decides on a date: what something is made of where and how it is made how hygienic the space in which it is made is how consumers will treat it how cold (or not) their fridges will be. Wrap’s research has found that only one in three of our fridges is cold enough (at 5C or lower) a degree can shave a day off the life of something. And then there is the question of liability. The microbiological risk assessment that products have to go through is hefty businesses have to provide “robust evidence”, says the Food Standards Agency (FSA). So, sometimes a very conservative use-by date is, as Parry puts it, just a business being overly cautious. Nash thinks businesses might be being more than cautious: “At best [those dates] are a neurotic, cover-your-ass thing at worst, it could be planned obsolescence.” The food industry is in the business of selling you food, after all: the more you throw away, the more you’ll need to buy. Parry agrees that manufacturers’ main job is to sell food, but says that for the most part they actually want the longest shelf-life possible.
He, along with WI vice-chair Ann Jones, the British Nutrition Foundation and the FSA are categorical: as a consumer, you don’t ignore a use-by date. The pathogens that cause food poisoning, from listeria (which the NHS states is found most commonly in things such as butter, cooked meats, smoked salmon and certain soft cheeses) and salmonella (meat and poultry, eggs) to campylobacter (raw milk, raw chicken) and E coli (meat, raw dairy, raw leafy vegetables) are undetectable without a microscope. Even when these bacteria have grown to dangerous levels, food could still look and smell just fine.
Wrap surveys businesses to check whether they’re “absolutely sure” (as Parry puts it) that their products need to carry a use-by date. It has had notable success with hard cheeses and fruit juices – more than 95% of each now have best-before dates after the tech guys in each sector did new tests and realised they didn’t need use-by dates. Which means, as a harried home cook, you are no longer on the clock to use them up quickly or face sending them to landfill. You can just use your nose.
Chapter Seven - A model for cutting food waste in municipal kitchens: The Gothenburg case study
One-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted (FAO, 2011). Food waste needs to decrease to secure the food supply and reduces the environmental impact of food production per capita. The Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 aims at halving per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level and reducing food losses along the food supply chain.
The Swedish law states that all school children shall be served a nutritious, free school lunch every day. About 3 million meals are served per day in the municipal sector in Sweden. A decrease of food waste in the municipal sector may contribute significantly to the overall reduction of food waste.
The city of Gothenburg has about 530 municipal kitchens, and 20 million meals are served per year within pre-schools, schools, and in elderly care settings. In April 2016 the project “The Gothenburg model for lesser food waste” was started. It aimed to reduce the kitchen and serving waste by 50% in municipal kitchens. The project was rolled out on a large scale January 2017. By working with the tool that was developed, the kitchens established routines for reducing kitchen and serving waste. From January 2017 to December 2018, the city of Gothenburg decreased serving waste and kitchen waste in their municipal kitchens by approximately 50% from about 30 g/portion to 15 g/portion. At the end of the project 2018 between 95% and 98% of the kitchens were measuring their food waste. By following the waste levels for pre-school kitchens in a pre-project (2013–17), a possible target seemed to be in the range of 10–15 g/portion for receiving kitchens and 5–7 g/portion for production kitchens.
8. Recipes are just a guideline.
When it comes to savory mains, you have lot more wiggle room than you may realize. You can substitute zucchini for peppers, broccoli for cauliflower, kale for spinach, green onions for yellow onions, cilantro for parsley, canned tomatoes for tomato paste, yogurt for milk, coconut oil for butter, and the dish will still be delicious. Sure, it might not be exactly as the recipe developer imagined it, but if it allows you to use up something that's been sitting awhile, that's an accomplishment.
I also mix leftover meals into new meals if I'm having trouble eating them. A lingering cup of bean soup will disappear into burrito filling, an Indian lentil dal will add body to a Mexican chili, some mashed potatoes or old porridge will enrich a batch of bread dough. If the quantity is small enough, no one will ever know the difference.
15 fresh ideas for leftover fruit that will reduce your food waste
With 40 percent of America’s food going to the trash each year, food waste has become a major factor in climate change, because most of it ends up in landfills and then releases methane, a major greenhouse gas. If you are looking for some creative ways to use the random leftover fruit sitting in your kitchen, try some of these recipes.
We all have the best intentions when we make trips to the grocery store, and the plan is never for the food to end up in the trash. But many of us still find ourselves trying to figure out what to do with food that is on the verge of spoiling, because life got in the way and you didn’t have a chance to eat it. This is especially true when it comes to fruit. You can make everything from healthy drinks to delicious pies with your leftover fruit, so there is no reason for it to end up in the trash ever again.