How to reduce food waste as a student
According to the charity, Love Food Hate Waste, UK households throw away 5 million tonnes of edible food i.e. food that hasn’t expired and could have been eaten.
This is a big problem for our planet as food waste emits greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and the growing climate crisis.
So what can you do about it?
There are several ways that you and your flatmates can minimise your food wastage and ensure you only buy what you’ll eat.
Follow these tips to do your bit for the planet – and save yourself some money.
1) Plan ahead
One of the main ways to combat food waste is to plan your meals on a weekly basis.
As a busy student with a varied schedule, this can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. And once you get in the habit of doing it, it’ll become second nature in a matter of months.
Here’s what to do:
- Work out what food you’ll need for 3 meals a day (plus snacks) and write your shopping list based solely on this.
- Using your shopping list, do a ‘big shop’ online. If you can, avoid just popping into the supermarket on your way home when you’re hungry; this is when you risk overloading your trolley and making expensive impulse purchases.
- Buy essentials like bread and milk together as a flat – this way, they’re more likely to get used up and you’ll be saving money too.
- Use a food diary or meal preparation app to help you keep track of what you’re eating and what is going to waste. This will help you refine your shopping list, get organised and stop buying unnecessary snacks on the fly.
2) Make the freezer your friend
The freeing process essentially presses pause on the decomposition of food, making it last for months rather than days.
Consider buying more frozen food in the supermarket – think packs of frozen veg or fruit (the 2nd most commonly chucked food type after bread).
Another great practice to get in the habit of, is batch cooking and freezing ready-made meals in individual portions. Simply set aside a few hours one afternoon to make a big curry, lasagne or chilli (for example) and then box them up and pop them in the freezer.
A few days or weeks down the line when you fancy a delicious, hearty meal fast, all you need to do is reheat a portion in the microwave for a few minutes. Better for you than shop bought ready-meals or takeaways, and much cheaper too!
3) Look out for sustainable initiatives from supermarkets and other businesses
As awareness of this issue increases, many businesses have been forced to adapt and find solutions to cut their food waste.
For example, rather than throwing away perfectly edible but misshapen fruit and veg that ‘doesn’t meet industry standards’, several supermarkets have started to sell ‘wonky veg’ at a discounted price.
You’ll have also spotted that yellow ‘reduced’ sticker on food near expiration too. Again, this is fine to eat (and probably freeze!) so look out for these bargains if you do pay a visit to the supermarket.
There are also plenty of apps and food sharing platforms that can connect you to local restaurants or even your neighbours who might have leftover food to share.
Some good ones to check out are:
Although it can be difficult to make lifestyle changes around food, starting small and following these tips as often as you can will make a positive difference to the planet.
For more inspiration on how to lead a sustainable student life, read Zero Waste Week: A guide for students.