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18 July 2008

Break the Habit of Wasting Food

Here are some ways that you can cut down on the amount of food you waste each day:

Avoid the supermarket

Supermarkets encourage you to buy more than you need. If you have to go to a supermarket, make a list of what you need beforehand, and stick to it rigorously -- and make sure that these are groceries you genuinely need, and not items you are just in the habit of buying.

Shop daily for perishables

By shopping daily for what you need, you are less likely to buy mounds of vegetables, meat and fish that will then sit in the fridge until they go bad. Plus, you will re-establish a connection with those who produce the food you eat.

Bulk-buy non-perishables

Bulk-buying staples such as rice, pasta and lentils online is cheaper than visiting the supermarket, and reduces the likelihood of being enticed into buying additional food as you stroll the aisles.

Be storage savvy

There are ton of household tips for storing foods to increase their longevity (many of them appear on the site) including topping and tailing carrots as soon as you buy them to prolong their life, keeping apples in the fridge so they last days longer than in the fruit bowl, and ensuring your olive oil is kept somewhere cool and dry to prevent the breakdown of the fatty acids.

Meal-plan for the week

If, at the beginning of the week, you work out precisely what you wish to cook over the next seven days, you can then shop with a degree of rigor, are less likely to be distracted by other products on the supermarket shelves.

Buy quality not quantity

If you buy cheap supermarket food you have no compunction about throwing it away, but if you buy quality food you're more likely to use every last bit of it.


The website will point you in the direction of your nearest group of freecyclers, a "grassroots and entirely non-profit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns" -- stuff that often includes perfectly usable food.

Reacquaint yourself with your freezer

The freezer is the perfect place for making food last. has plenty of basic tips for the novice freezer.

Don't be afraid of an empty fridge

You do not need to buy acres of food each week to keep it chock-full.

Grow your own herbs and salad

Packets of herbs and bagged salad are among the products most likely to go bad in the fridge, so if you have a garden, balcony or windowbox, use that space to grow your own.

Buy vegetables whole

A lettuce bought whole and kept in your fridge will not go bad as quickly as a pre-prepared salad will, because as soon as fruit or vegetables are processed in any way, they begin to decompose.

Bulk-cook meals

Cook twice as much as you need of one dish and freeze the extra portions.

Learn how to use leftovers

There are websites out there ( and, to name but two) that, once you've typed in the primary and secondary ingredients you have spare, will go away and search their databases for recipes to use them up.

Take sell-by dates with a pinch of salt

As a general rule, only "use by" is worth taking seriously; "sell-by" and "display-until" dates are merely stock-control devices for food retailers, and "best before" is simply the producer's estimate of when the food will stop tasting good, which is fairly subjective anyway.

Rediscover packed lunches

Leftovers can easily be recycled as packed lunches for children and adults alike.

Equip yourself

Introduce yourself to the stockpot, the freezer bag, and the salad spinner.


* The Guardian July 8, 2008

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