Brits throw out between £19 billion of food every year. That’s a huge 9.5 tonnes of food and means 22% of the food we purchase ends up in the bin. This is associated with more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Out of the 9.5 tonnes, an estimated 4.5 tonnes is household waste, and there have been positive reports to show this number is slowly decreasing.

It’s time we do something more about this.

We hate food waste here at EatFirst and we want to give you some tools and practical tips to reduce your food waste, both at home and at work.

How to reduce food waste at work

Order corporate catering wisely

Firstly, looking a corporate delivery service (like EatFirst) is the best first step to be made! Long gone are the ideas of office canteens, where food is often overprepared, so the chances of waste are greatly increased.

When ordering, we have handy quantity guidelines to ensure you order just the right amount of catering for your next working lunch or corporate event. It’s important to find the balance between too little or too much food. Have a chat to our friendly corporate catering experts if you need some advice. We'll will be happy to assist and ensure no one goes hungry, while at the same time, no food goes to waste.

Support sustainable caterers

If you’re after some catering that cares about the environment, check out our sustainability rating. At EatFirst, we ask all of our suppliers a few questions regarding sustainability practices and give them a rating out of 5 depending on their answers. This means you can still enjoy delicious catering without having a guilty conscious.

Doggy bag it

Doggy bags are a great way to reduce food waste! Extra food can be placed in the office kitchen for other staff to enjoy, or allow staff to take doggy bags home.

If you're working in a communal office space, they'll always be hungry people around if not in your team. As long as everything is untouched and individually packed leave it out in the communal kitchen! You can even leave your contact details so people know where to thank you.

Bring lunch from home

Packing a lunch from home can reduce food waste majorly. Whether it’s last night’s leftovers, a fresh , or even some fruit, packing food for the day means you don’t need to buy any unnecessary, single-use plastic and you have a set portion size. Plus, it decreases home leftovers and waste!

Aim for in-season food

Seasonal food is likely to be locally produced and be better for the environment. Food that needs to travel half-way around the world just to end up on your plate uses excess energy which means lots of greenhouse gas emissions. Local food not only reduces this impact, it’s also tastier and better for you! Plus, seasonal food is likely to be locally produced, which means you’re also supporting our farmers and growers. Win-win!

Reuse what you can, wherever you can

Use reusable plates, cups, cutlery, glasses and containers when you’re eating at work. Whether that means bringing things from home, or stocking the office kitchen with crockery and supplies, these little steps make a big impact in the long run.

At your next working lunch, conference or corporate event, use glasses and pitchers of water instead of bottled water.

When choosing disposal items, choose utensils and serve ware that can be recycled or composted.

At EatFirst, we make sustainable packaging a priority. We recommend and provide biodegradable corporate catering boxes and utensils to our corporate caterers.

Temperature control

Storing food correctly to optimise its lifespan not only avoids food poisoning, but gives people a change to polish off those leftovers before they head to the bin. Make sure your fridge and freezer are set to the correct temperature. Cold food should be stored in the fridge at 5 degrees or colder to reduce the spread of bacteria. The freezer should be less than -18 degrees. Store any leftover food in airtight containers or wraps.

Donate, don’t discard

While thousands of Londoners go hungry each day, safe, healthy and usable food is being disposed of. We’re passionate about food and giving back to the community and support organisations like City Harvest London. If you’ve ordered too much food, or if a meeting has been cancelled at the last minute, don’t just chuck it. Donate your still-consumable food to City Harvest London and they’ll redistribute it to the people who need it most. To date, City Harvest London have redistributed food valued at more than £18 million, to their partners and offset over 23,000 tons of greenhouse gases.

The story of surplus: City Harvest London | Neighbourly
City Harvest London

How to reduce food waste at home

Plan before you shop

Before you go grocery shopping, ensure you have an idea of what meals you want to cook throughout the week, what ingredients you already have in the fridge or pantry and make a shopping list!
This pre-grocery store checklist will make sure you don’t buy more than you need, or are unlikely to use. Who knew saving the environment could save you money?

Buy what you need

Buy only what’s on your list and avoid impulse buys! If you only need 1 capsicum for a recipe, don’t buy a bag because it’s on special. A lot of food waste comes down to simply buying too much at the supermarket to begin with.

Funny-looking produce is okay to eat!

Food is awesome in whatever shape and size it comes in. Just because it looks funny or isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it’s not good to eat.

Tip: Instead of grabbing the last bunch of bananas, gather up a few of the singles that have been broken off. People usually avoid these perfectly delicious bananas and they end up being thrown away.

Fee fi fo fum

When unpacking your groceries, use FIFO (First In, First Out). This means moving older products to the front of the fridge, freezer or pantry and putting the newer products in the back. You’re more likely to use the older stuff first before it expires, thus reducing food waste.

Use your leftovers

Designate one day a week to using your leftovers or food items that are about to expire. Leftovers can be frozen and saved for later or packed for tomorrow’s lunch.

Make the most of what you've got

Vegetables, bones and meat scraps could be used to make stocks. Use rinds and citrus fruit zest to add extra flavour to meals. Don’t throw away overripe fruit – use it in smoothies, muffins or cakes. Wilted vegetables can be used in soups or combined with other ingredients to make a delicious and healthy juice.

If you’ve got a surplus of fruit, why not freeze it (mmm mango smoothies), make jam or chutney or pickle it.

make a smoothie out of surplus fruit

Store it better

If you’re regularly dealing with pest problems, or throwing away stale crisps, cereal and biscuits, it’s time to invest in quality, airtight containers. Reusing glass jars is also an inexpensive way to store food items and it’s environmentally friendly. Next time you run out of instant coffee, or use up a pasta sauce, simply soak and wash the glass jars for easy reuse! Proper storage solutions not only helps with food safety, but you will also have to buy less, more often.

It’s important to make sure your fridge is running at maximum efficiency so food stays as fresh as possible.

  • Check the seals and the doors close tightly
  • Keep your fridge at between 3 to 5 degrees and the freezer at between -15 to -18 degrees

More fruit and veggie storing tips

Here are some extra fruit and veggie storing tips to help keep them fresher longer

  • See ya later floppy celery sticks! Wrap celery stems in aluminium foil to keep them fresh and crunchy
  • Store onions and potatoes separately - keeping them together actually sends them off faster
  • Place potatoes in a paper bag and store in a cool, dark place. Don’t store them in the fridge as the cool temperatures will convert the potato’s starches into sugars more quickly
  • To keep carrots fresher longer, cut off the tops and wrap them in a damp cloth before placing in the fridge
  • Store apples in the fridge to keep them fresh and crisp

Keep up to date with use-by dates

Expiration dates don’t always mean the food is off. They’re just a suggestion for peak quality, however, if stored properly, most foods will stay fresh several days past the “use-by” date.

If it looks, smells and tastes okay, it should be fine to eat, otherwise, it’s time to toss it.

We hope these tips will help you to reduce food waste in the office and at home. And remember, if you have excess or unneeded corporate catering, please feel free to contact City Harvest London on 020 7041 8491.

For other tips on how to reduce food waste and also do your bit to reduce, reuse and recycle, check out this article from the Mayor of London.

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