How to cut down your food waste

10 January 2013

Half of the food produced in the world is thrown away as waste, according to a damning report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The study shows we throw away as much as two billion tonnes of food each year amid concerns a steadily growing global population could mean an extra three billion people to feed by the end of the century.

The institution blamed inadequate infrastructure and storage facilities, buy-one-get-one-free offers and consumer demand for "aesthetically-perfect" food for the dramatic amount of waste.

On top of a waste rate of between 30% and 50%, the report also found 550 billion cubic meters is wasted growing crops that never reach the dinner table, 30% of UK vegetable crops are not harvested because of their physical appearance and it takes up to 50 times as much water to produce 1kg of meat than 1kg of vegetables.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the 160-year-old institution, says: "The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population - as well as those in hunger today."

The report, entitled Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not, calls for urgent action to halt unnecessary food waste.

How to minimise food waste

Here are our tips to minimise food waste - and cut costs too - in your house:

Plan ahead

Easier said than done but by sticking to a food diary or simply planning a few meals ahead, you only buy what you know you are going to use.

If you know exactly what you need for your next few meals and stick to your shopping list, it should protect you from costly impulse buys which might end up in the bin anyway.

Embrace leftovers

Rarely is a meal ingredient neutral: there will always be too much of one thing or too little of the other. But don't be afraid of leftovers, be it cobbling together a meal made of whatever's left in the fridge or plating up any dinner you didn't finish and using it for lunch the next day.

In theory, it should mean not a single excess mushroom is wasted. The website of leftover lovers Love Food, Hate Waste [] is a good start for leftover recipes.


Buy-get-one-get-one-free deals can be the scourge or saviour of the shopper.

Use them well and they can be the foundation for a healthy freezer store of ingredients, however, if you're a bit of a sucker for colourful offer label, be wary that you don't bite off more than you can chew and end up throwing that "one free" away.

Remember, BOGOFs are made to work for the supermarket - and there's no such thing as a free lunch. That said, free lunches are a good way to save money and food waste.

Shop online

Doing your weekly shop online is another way to fend off the impulse buys. You can save a favourites basket on your site so you can get into the habit of a using a core ingredients in that food diary you're now religiously keeping to - and you'll clock up loyalty points too.

Online shopping also means you can bulk buy non-perishables like butter beans and tinned spaghetti which always come in handy when the cupboards are otherwise bare.

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