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Want to save yourself €700?

Just think of all the things you could do with €700…it’s a hard-earned sum of money and yet Irish families throw away on average €700 worth of food every year, and that’s on top of all the wastage along the food supply chain from production to sales.

Nobody sets out to do their weekly shopping with the intention of throwing a third of it into the bin and while anyone who uses their brown bin will acknowledge they have food waste, few realise the extent of how much waste could be avoided. Evidence shows that over 60% of all food going into our food bins is completely avoidable and a further 20% is potentially avoidable.

To give you a sense of how our food waste can accumulate over the week, consider these familiar examples:

  • The few slices of bread that have gone stale at the back of the press (20% of bread and bakery items go to waste).
  • The vegetables going mouldy because you bought them in a 3 for the price of 2 offer even though you didn’t really need them.
  • The banana that you have put in your child’s lunchbox on a Monday and has put up more mileage than the average haulage company on the journey to and from school over the course of the week?(25% of the fruit and veg we buy is thrown away).
  • The half-eaten jars of condiments, dips and sauces that you are advised to eat within three days of opening.
  • The bags of salad leaves or delicate herbs rotting in the fridge (Approximately 50% of all the salad we purchase goes to waste).
  • The leftovers from your dinner (Around 10% of meat and fish products get dumped).

How much food do you end up throwing out because you bought too much, because you cooked too much, because you didn’t store it properly or because you didn’t use it on time?

Aside from the financial costs to us all, there are moral and environmental consequences attached with food waste. Over 900 million people on the planet are starving yet enough food to feed 3 billion people is disposed of annually worldwide. Closer to home where we dispose of over one million tonnes of food a year, it is estimated that 1 in 10 Irish people live in food poverty (defined as the inability to afford or access healthy food).

If food waste was a country, it would be the third most polluting in the world. It is not simply a case of the wasted food, but the huge carbon footprint created in producing the wasted food; water wasted for irrigation, wasted energy required to fuel equipment and transport, wasted fertiliser and the emissions released from its disposal to landfill. Deforestation and biodiversity loss are also issues that can be partly attributed to food waste as roughly one third of the worlds’ total agricultural area is used to grow food that is never eaten.

It is obvious that tackling food waste is an area where the actions of individuals could have a very definite positive impact. There are hundreds of ideas and tips on www.stopfoodwaste.ie but to begin with:

Identify your food waste
The first step toward change is awareness. Monitor your food waste for the next fortnight; identify what foods you are dumping most and also the main reasons this food was wasted e.g. gone off, made too much, stored incorrectly etc.

Write a shopping list
Shop when you are in a hurry, stressed or hungry, you will end up with unnecessary purchases. Whether you shop daily or weekly, give yourself a few minutes to look through what you have and what you need, then write a shopping list and stick to it. Remember that special offers only offer a saving if you actually use the food.

Portion control
Knowing how much to cook and what to do with leftovers are valuable skills. There are countless resources in the library and online that can help. Some quick examples are:

  • Cook the right amount e.g., weigh out pasta, rice and dried goods, count out potatoes etc. (www.safefood.eu offers information on serving sizes).
  • Use serving bowls to let people help themselves and get in the habit of asking for ‘seconds’ (if required) rather than piling food up on plates as you are more likely to reuse food that hasn’t been on someone’s plate.

Summer
Just a couple of tips for the summer (there’s lots more on www.stopfoodwaste.ie): tomatoes should be stored in the open air and keep lettuce leaves fresh for longer by washing them and storing them in a colander in the fridge.

This video is good for summer recipes: https://www.fingal.ie/environmental-awareness/stop-food-waste-catherine-fulvio

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