Earlier this month, Changeworks’ Deputy Chief Executive Liz Partington shared some of the actions we can all take to play our part in tackling the global climate emergency.

Here we look at another of those actions in more detail: reducing the amount of food we throw away. Our Senior Waste Project Officer Kathleen Vaughn has some top tips for you on how small changes to your mindset can reduce wasted food, and how that can help tackle the climate crisis.

Every time you throw away food, you’re throwing away money. Maybe you bought more of something than you needed or took advantage of an offer to buy multiple packs. Maybe you just didn’t plan out your week and ended up not eating everything before it went off. Whatever the reason, it’s money going straight from your pocket into the bin.

It’s not just about the money though – food waste has a big climate impact. Food production is one of the most carbon-intense processes there is, and when we throw that food away, we’re also wasting that carbon and energy that went into production and transportation.

At Changeworks we know that food waste is a major issue for our climate. That’s why we run projects like our Love Food Hate Waste workshops with businesses, and Kitchen Canny to help make residents reduce the amount of food they’re wasting. We also work with schools, talking to children in primary and secondary about the importance of cutting food waste.

So how can you avoid wasting food? It doesn’t necessarily require huge changes to make a big difference.

1) Plan

Thinking about your meals in advance and planning out what you need to buy before you go shopping is a great way to reduce food waste. If you only buy what you know you will eat, you cut down on poorly thought out purchases. Don’t get distracted by the offers either! If you aren’t going to eat it, it’s not good value – it’s just money from your wallet straight into the supermarket tills.

The best way to get started with planning is to check what you already have and plan around that. If you don’t check what you have, you run the risk of ending up buying something twice “just in case”.

2) Know your dates

A lot of food that gets wasted ends up in the bin because we lose track of the time. Being aware of when your food goes off, and knowing your ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates, can help avoid the waste. If you aren’t going to eat something in time, there’s a good chance it can go in the freezer. Make sure you don’t forget about it in there though – keep it in mind when you’re doing your next planning session.

3) Use portion sizes

When you are planning your meals and your shopping, think about portion sizes. Only buy enough to make what you are actually going to eat – that bigger tub doesn’t end up being better value if it sits at the back of the fridge until it goes off. You don’t have to avoid buying more altogether though, think about if you can create opportunities for re-use or leftovers. It’s more energy efficient to cook in batches, so make yourself a nice lunch for the next day or put something in the freezer for another time.

4) Share the love

What’s nicer than sharing a meal with friends or family? Not much, so invite people round when you’ve got food to use up. If you can’t get together, make sure people don’t leave your house without a plastic container of leftovers! If you’re going to see someone, take something with you. Take it into work, or share it with your neighbours. We promise there are very few people in the world who won’t be receptive to being offered food!

It doesn’t have to be daunting, and Changeworks is here to help. Start with these four easy tips, and you will be well on your to cutting the amount of food you waste. If you want more help or advice, check out our website.

- Kathleen

Kathleen Vaughn, Senior Waste Project Officer, Changeworks