Minimalism in the kitchen: tips for not wasting food

The rising trend for ‘simple living’ and minimalism is ubiquitous at the moment, with people using Marie Kondo’s guidance to clear out their wardrobes and live better with less.  It’s true that we have an increasing culture of consumption where many people favour quantity rather than quality, and find ourselves owning more than we can cope with (and eventually throwing things out, or being stuck in a cycle of having a clearout but buying more things).

I can certainly relate to that – I found myself sickened some months ago when we moved house and the removals company had to send extra people in the afternoon to help us to pack the sheer amount of things we owned. Our three bedroom house was full to bursting, and there was only two of us.  I knew I had to make some changes to stop the stress I felt at the amount that we owned, and constantly wasted.

Whilst I’ve managed to clear-out a lot of clothes and unwanted belongings like books and DVDs, one area where I am guilty of waste is the kitchen.  Every week I find myself throwing things out from the fridge (especially fruit and vegetables or dairy products) and it makes me feel incredibly guilty to see that amount of food going into the bin.  Interestingly, Sainsbury’s have kicked off their own initiative to save money and reduce food waste; recognising it as a huge environmental issue.  Their research shows that seven million tonnes of food are thrown away by UK households alone, and my generation are the worst culprits, with 17% saying that they throw away leftovers multiple times a week.

So how can we cut down on food waste and declutter our kitchen cupboards? Here are my tips for ways to waste less and save more…

001. Do your food shop online – I’m a big fan of shopping online for a lot of the things I buy, but there’s another reason why I favour online food shopping rather than just sheer loneliness.  I find that I’m not tempted in by the ‘end of the aisle’ treats and new products, and instead can just work through my list and stick to buying exactly what I need.

002. Make more and freeze leftovers – For me, one of the best things I can do for both my health, minimising waste and my bank balance is making bigger portions of meals such as spaghetti bolognese, shepherd’s pie or lasagne.  I’ll then portion them out for lunches for the office or freeze them for meals for the following weeks.  It means I save money not running to the shop across the road to get a pre-packed sandwich, and it means I don’t end up throwing things away that I’ve bought for lunches for the week and then not been bothered to make the night before!

003. ‘Audit’ the kitchen cupboards – One of the things I do try and do is to routinely go through the cupboards and work out what meals I could make with the ingredients I have.  I’ve found in the past that just by looking at what there is in the various kitchen cupboards I can then do a really small shop at the end of the week and make several more meals.  The Sainsbury’s ‘Waste less, Save more’ site also includes a great ‘Food Rescue’ function where you can put in the ingredients in your cupboard and it will show you yummy recipes you can make with them (such a good idea!)

004. Plan your meals – Another good habit I find helps combat waste is to plan my meals every night and then only buy the ingredients required for those meals.  This means I don’t find a leftover ball of mozzarella, bunch of leeks and packet of sausages in the fridge at the end of the week that I bought on a whim and are all past their sell by date! It also takes the stress out of coming home from work and wondering what to cook.

One of the things that Sainsbury’s found out is that our generation (18-34 year olds) tend to spend more on food, and waste more food (on average £460 worth of food a year).  They found that over 55s leave leftovers much less than 18-34 year olds, and tend to feel they know more about managing and cooking food.  My Mum definitely hates wasting food and will always be the first person telling you to finish your food in a restaurant (and then helping you finish your chips as she hates being leftovers!) I asked my Mum what her tips were for avoiding wasting food….

001. Check the sell by dates – Check the dates on the perishables in your trolley to make sure you have a variety of dates, rather than multiple things that run out within the next day or two.

002. Immediately put things in the freezer – Make sure anything that’s refrigerated that you intend to freeze, you put in the freezer straight away, rather than leaving things in the back of the fridge until it’s too late.

003. Have a few favourite recipes for over-ripe fruit and vegetables – Find recipes for fruit cakes or banana bread and whip them up to give over-ripe fruit a new lease of life.  Also make soups, roasted vegetables or pasta sauces with vegetables that are on the turn.  You can also freeze these to really extend their life!

What are your tips for combating food waste?

*This has been a PR collaboration