We recently hosted a Christmas party to celebrate our Changeworks’ volunteers with a meal served by the Edinburgh Real Junk Food Project. I remain impressed that they can source and create such a delicious meal (including mushroom stroganoff and fruit crumble) made from perfectly good food that was otherwise destined for the bin. I was delighted to work with the Real Junk Food Project again, particularly as their goals fit closely with the food waste message that I regularly deliver in Changeworks workshops. Scottish households currently throw away £1.1 billion worth of food a year. That’s enough to fill 250 Commonwealth pools each year! But with a careful eye on use-by dates and portions, we could have used this food up and saved ourselves a tidy sum of money. Thankfully in the last five years Scottish householders have reduced the amount we waste by 5.7% (1), but we still have work to do. A recent report released by the Scottish Government indicates that 45% of people say they throw away uneaten food. We know food waste is a challenge for local authorities, organisations, schools and individual households. And this is where Changeworks can help.
We offer a food waste prevention service to help households avoid wasting money on food bills through workshops, home visits, telephone advice and our Kitchen Canny kit (buy online here). At the heart of our approach is providing the inspiration for householders to get canny in the kitchen. We developed our first innovative Kitchen Canny kit in 2009 to help individual households find out how much food they were wasting, and to provide practical tips to help them reduce waste and save money. The most widely reported benefit of the kit, based on feedback from those who have used it, is its role as an ”eye-opener”: raising awareness of how much food has been going in the bin and, as a result, opening the door to new money-saving changes. Householders receive their kits at one of our Kitchen Canny workshops, where practical activities are facilitated in a friendly learning and sharing environment to encourage canny meal planning, food shopping, portioning, food storage and use of leftovers. Around one to three months after having attended the workshop we conduct telephone surveys with participants to find out if they found the information in the Kitchen Canny kit and workshop useful, and if it is helping them to save money on their food bills.
In the last year (2015–16) we gave out 252 kits to participants in our Kitchen Canny workshops in Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Borders. We surveyed 76 of these households to find out how they were getting on:
- 79% said they had seen a reduction in their food waste since using the kit
- 74% reported saving money on their food bills
- These households are now saving £424 on average per year as a result of managing food in their kitchen better
- One workshop participant from Leith said: “When I used the Kitchen Canny bags initially I was throwing away a lot of fruit and cold meats. Now I’m using up my leftovers and planning meals around food in my freezer. It might be a pun, but it is really food for thought! The two of us are now saving about £10 a week.”
- The total annual savings for those households surveyed was £23,725
So what can we all do in our daily lives to avoid putting perfectly good food in the bin? If you fancy getting canny in the kitchen this Christmas and hearing your pockets jingle with spare cash, then try my top five tips to reduce food waste:
- Freeze your leftover sauces (such as cranberry, bread sauce, water-based gravy) – as long as the glass jar isn’t full they can go straight in the freezer, ready to use another time
- Transform those Brussel sprouts by roasting them in the oven drizzled with honey, cumin or caraway seeds and maybe even crumbled bits of leftover bacon
- Make stuffed Yorkshire puds with those old Brussels, leftover sausages or sausage meat and melted cheese from the cheeseboard on top
- Finish that last bit of Christmas pudding by stirring it into vanilla ice cream
- Use up cranberry sauce or marzipan in chocolate brownies –yum.
Wishing you a Happy Christmas!
Hannah Milne is Changeworks’ Senior Waste Project Officer and Kitchen Canny workshop facilitator