* In association with Love Food Hate Waste
I’ve been working with Love Food Hate Waste this month on their #giveupbinningfood campaign, which is asking people to reduce the amount of food they waste over Lent.
The organisation hopes to inspire households to change their eating, shopping and food storage habits to help cut down on the amount of food which is unnecessarily thrown away.
In the UK, £13 billion of edible food was thrown away from our homes in 2015 alone. That’s a total of 7.3 million tonnes of food (400,000 tonnes of that here in Wales), which if prevented, would have the same environmental benefit as taking one in four cars off the road. Cutting back on food waste could also save households up to £15 a week, a whopping £60 a month – or £700 a year!
As a household, we are really aware of just how much food is wasted and how bad it is for the environment. But being a busy family with three kids and two working parents, inevitably some food does go to waste. This challenge has really made me question our food shopping, storage and eating habits to see if there is more we can do.
The campaign started on Wednesday 1st March and runs for the 40 days of Lent until Thursday 13th April, and I’m blogging about it regularly during that time.
Each week has a different theme. Last week, I shared 55 genius food storage hacks to keep food fresher for longer, and the week before that I shared our meal planning tips.
This week, the focus is on making the most of your fridge – knowing what foods should and shouldn’t be stored in the fridge, where in the fridge you should put them, and tips and tricks to keep food in the fridge fresher for longer.
Here are 21 top tips on how making the most of your fridge can help you reduce your food waste.
You can catch up with all our Love Food Hate Waste posts here.
- Food can last up to three days longer if stored in the fridge. However, it’s important to know how and where to store it.
- Your fridge temperature should be set to below 5°C, according to the Food Standards Agency. One of the main reasons for this is because of listeria –a food poisoning bacterium which likes cold temperatures. Listeria grows nearly twice as fast at 8°C as it does at 5°C. In warm conditions, one thousand germs can become one million in just under two hours and this can cause food poisoning!
- Invest in a fridge thermometer as the inbuilt dials are not always as accurate and the numbers don’t always represent the temperature.
- You can check if the seals on your fridge are working properly with a Post-it note. Stick the paper in the door, shut it, and then pull on the Post-it when the fridge is close. If it comes out easily, then get your seals checked.
- A magnetic notebook or board stuck to the fridge door can help reduce food waste – use it for weekly meal planning and writing down use-by dates.
- Don’t be tempted to put too much food in your fridge. Overstocking it makes it difficult for the air to flow, reducing the fridge’s efficiency and impacting on the quality of food. Consider a couple of small weekly grocery shops, rather than one big shop.
- Always check your fridge before you go grocery shopping, so you don’t accidentally over-buy fresh produce.
- Left overs can be stored in the fridge and eaten within two days. However, male sure to cool them down as quickly as possible, ideally within two hours, to avoid harmful bacteria forming. According to the Food Standards Agency, “Prompt and effective cooling of food slows down the biological processes that bugs carry out to live and multiply; enzymes within the bugs and the metabolic processes the enzymes carry out work much more slowly in the cold. For many bugs this halts growth completely but some can continue to grow slowly, even at fridge temperatures below 5°C, so the recommended two days is determined from what we know about how quickly these cold-loving bugs grow.”
- If you’re transferring items from a packet into a plastic food container, make a note of the use-by date.
What goes where?
- Fridge temperature differs throughout. The door area is warmer, which means it’s great for condiments but not so good for milk and eggs. The back is colder, so better suited for dairy products and meat.
- Raw meats need to go at the bottom of the fridge to avoid cross-contamination with other product. However, many fridges have two fruit and veg drawers at the bottom of the fridge, so either use one exclusively for meat and one for veg, or if you need both drawers for fruit and veg, then put a tray on the shelf directly above to prevent any juices accidentally dripping down.
- Keep ready-to-eat dairy food and deli meats on the upper shelves and raw ingredients on the lower shelves.
- Take a tip from the big supermarkets and store food according to use-by dates. Put the longer-lasting stuff at the back and the oldest foods at the front so you can see it.
- A couple of times a week, take a few minutes to sort out your fridge, making note of any produce close to its use-by date and move anything nearing the end of its shelf life to the front.
- Remove fruit and vegetables from plastic bags and packaging to reduce condensation and keep food fresher for longer.
- Fruits that need to ripen are best kept out of the fridge, but if they are ripe and you want to keep them fresher for longer, then don’t just lump all your fruit together. Apples and pears can produce ethylene which causes other food to ripe too quickly.
- Prevent bagged salad leaves from going mushy by putting a folded square of kitchen roll in the bag once opened. Or even better, line a container with kitchen roll and store the salad leaves there. This draws out the moisture and keeps salad crisper for longer.
- If you won’t be eating them for a few days then cut the tops off carrots and parsnips. The roots draw moisture from the veggies, meaning they will dry out quickly and lose flavour. (Although not beetroot as cutting the tops will make it ‘bleed’.)
What not to put in the fridge
- Opened tin cans shouldn’t go in the fridge, because the residual metal on the rim can leak into your food. Not only will this leave food tasting unpleasant, it can also have potential health issues. Instead, decant the food into air tight plastic containers.
- Most people put tomatoes in the fridge, but they’re actually better left out on the counter. The cold of the fridge will stop them from ripening and change their texture, losing their juiciness. However, if they’re already ripe and you’re worried about them spoiling before you can eat them, then refrigerate but take them out at least an hour before eating.
- Don’t keep bread in the fridge as although it will stop it from going mouldy, it will go stale faster.
- Don’t keep uncooked potatoes in the fridge. It causes the starch in the potato to convert to sugar and when this is baked or fried, the sugars combine with the amino acid asparagine to produce the harmful chemical acrylamide.