‘A Week Less Wasted’: How much can you cut your Food Waste in a week?

By Gemma Greig

Gemma Greig

Gemma Greig, a volunteer with Bristol Food Network tries a week of drastically cutting back her food waste for FoodCycle’s #AWeekLessWasted campaign and shares some tips.

Did you know that we waste seven million tonnes of food every year in the UK, while 8.4 million people are struggling to feed themselves? No, I didn’t either. I discovered this from FoodCycle who are currently running a campaign, A Week Less Wasted, where they are encouraging people to reduce their food waste for a week in August.

So I thought I’d jump on board and try it myself. I’d been looking for a new challenge and this seemed perfect. I’m not going to say that I was perfect, because I wasn’t, but I definitely learned some useful tips along the way.

Plan ahead

This one might take the spontaneity out of meals a little, but bear with me. I sat down on the Sunday before my challenge and planned what meals I was intending to have that week. This included breakfasts, lunch, dinner and snacks. I found that doing this meant that I wasn’t sitting at work on Tuesday wondering what would be in the kitchen when I got home. Of course, life doesn’t always go to plan, I ended up going out for dinner on Wednesday night, so the mushroom risotto I had planned on having didn’t happen. See, nobody’s perfect!

Write a shopping list

This is a good one for your bank balance, not just your food waste. Before you write your list, check what’s in your cupboards and fridge to see what food you already have. This will mean you won’t get to the shop and have to stand confused in the cheese aisle wondering how much of that strong cheddar you have left at home. By only buying what you need, you’re less likely to have to throw anything out at the end of the week.

Check the Use By dates

When you’re shopping make sure the dates on your products are within the timeframe you want to be using them. You don’t want to buy chicken that goes out of date on Tuesday when your plan says you’re having it on Thursday. You may have to shuffle things around to make it fit, but it’s so much better than throwing out food because you didn’t get to it in time. But also remember that ‘use by’ dates are NOT the same as ‘best before’ (and in fact, I generally ignore all dates on fruit and veg. If it looks okay and smells okay, then I’ll eat it). Food that has passed its ‘best before’ date is not unsafe to eat, it just would have tasted better if you’d eaten it earlier. Please don’t throw perfectly edible food out for this reason!

Save your leftovers

I have always lived on leftovers. I’m too lazy to cook every night so if I can re-heat leftovers instead then I’m winning. But this week I made a deliberate decision to make four portions of a bean salad to have for my lunches and portioned it all up into Tupperware in the fridge ready to grab and go in the morning. I also made tofu and noodle stir fry on Monday night and saved the leftover tofu and veg to have again on Tuesday night. I just cooked the noodles fresh each time. I even prepped my snacks for the week so that I wouldn’t buy something every day. I made date, chia seed and chocolate energy balls. I made 12 so had two a day for six days. Once again, bank balance and planet-friendly.

But don’t just embrace the Tupperware at home. While out for dinner on Wednesday night, the restaurant allowed my friend her take her leftovers home in Tupperware! I wouldn’t have even thought to ask, but then I rarely have leftovers when I eat out so that might be why… The point is, don’t wait to be asked, bring your Tupperware with you and ask the waiting staff yourself.

Those are my top tips for reducing your food waste, I’m sure there are more, like buying frozen veg, bulk cooking and freezing, but I don’t have a freezer so those options weren’t available to me on this challenge.

If you can get down to zero waste then all power to you, but that’s not always possible and life gets in the way. At the end of my week I had some sorry looking tenderstem broccoli and slightly wilting spinach left sitting in my fridge. Yes, I ate them, but if I’d been going on holiday or had another unexpected dinner out then those might have been wasted. I was amazed by how much more conscious I was during this challenge and I’ll definitely be taking my shopping list with me on food shop day from now on. If nothing else, it saved me money and who couldn’t do with that in their lives?

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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