We are all guilty of leaving poor Mr John West tuna sitting at the back of the cupboard for way too long, or forgetting that we bought new herbs and spices to be used in all of our meals. Despite the fact that we have many food products sitting in our cupboards and fridge/freezer we decide that we have ‘nothing to eat’ and head out to the supermarket to re-stock the supplies instead of utilising the food we already have.
A study conducted by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) found that a staggering £10.2 billion worth of avoidable food waste is disposed of every year in the UK. What is also shocking is that the food we are throwing away is often unopened and nutritious. Meat and fish make up 18% of the avoidable food wastage disposed of every year and the figures for yoghurt are even more shocking. 1.3 million unopened pots of yoghurt are disposed of EVERY DAY.
These figures seem ridiculous considering how much money is being thrown away but there are many reasons why there is so much food in our bins..
- Fresh produce have short expiration dates and are thrown away for being out of date.
- Food is thrown away from dinner plates where oversized portions were served.
- Food is thrown away because we dislike it.
- A great deal of food is thrown away simply to make room for new groceries!
- And of course there are the foods which have a long expiration date but sit in the cupboard for two years unused and eventually get thrown out.
In order to save yourself time, money, prevent food wastage and perhaps even discover some new amazing dishes, you should make the most of the foods you have bought before buying new groceries. There are many long-life food items which become permanent residents in our kitchen, without ever being utilised. Below are examples of foods we abandon and how we can make the most of them.
The average tin (172g) contains no carbohydrate, 21% fat and 79% protein delivering ~220kcal in total. Tuna is a great source of essential fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, selenium and phosphorus all of which contribute to the development of a lean physique alongside regular exercise. Yet as I said previously, poor John West sits there neglected in the back of the cupboard. Yes, you can leave it sitting there for a while because it has a long expiration date but sitting there forever may be a tad too long. Add tuna to a hot evening meal, make up a healthy cold salad or wrap for lunch or simply flavour and eat on its own. Just don’t leave it sitting there while you buy more food and eventually have to throw it away.
Herbs & Spices
I think we all have that day in the supermarket where we decide that we are going to make an effort to make more exciting meals and learn more about herbs and spices and become a professional chef…we get home, the turmeric, coriander, garlic, oregano, cinnamon etc all settle into their new home (the kitchen cupboard) never to emerge again.
Not only does each individual spice offer an array of health benefits, they also aid weight loss by substituting unhealthy additions to our meals. Sweet spices can reduce or eradicate the use of sugar in foods and savoury spices can reduce our salt intake. On average, spices only contain 4-7 calories per tablespoon making them the low calorie solution to maintaining a healthy diet without resorting to dull and unexciting meals.
Black pepper is the world’s most popular spice but it is refilled far less often than a salt shaker. Pepper contains Piperine which is associated with boosting metabolism. If you are trying to lose weight, perhaps using more of the pepper shaker and less of the salt shaker would be a good idea! Don’t neglect herbs and spices, make a conscious effort to make delicious and healthy meals instead of stowing away the ingredients in favour of ready-meals!
Oats are slow-release carbohydrates which will keep energy levels stable throughout the day and help you avoid that sluggish feeling. Foods which release energy slowly help you to avoid the highs and lows caused by simple sugars. Oats are comprised of 70% carbohydrate, 15% fat and 15% protein on average. The balance of macronutrients and high carbohydrate content make oats an excellent meal to provide sustainable energy. Oats provide ~150kcal of energy per 40g serving. Depending on whether you choose to mix your oats with water or milk the nutrient value will vary. Oats are also a good source of fibre (helping to aid digestion) and iron (for blood health). Be sure to choose the natural oats and avoid brands which contain added sugar.
Oats are far cheaper per serving than breakfast cereal, combine this with their nutrient value and it is no wonder they are a permanent resident in many cupboards across the country. Oats may be upstaged by the ‘more exciting’ cereal brands you place in the same cupboard so don’t tempt yourself by buying sugary cereals. Stick to oats for breakfast and spice it up with honey, fruit or nuts to alter the flavour if you are easily bored by eating the same breakfast. If you are an active person who enjoys protein shakes, you can also blend oats into your shake to benefit from the slow release carbohydrate as well as the high protein content of whey protein powder.
Meat is probably our most expensive buy at the supermarket and yet we still throw so much of it away. If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, you probably include some kind of meat in your evening meal every night. If it is not stored correctly, it can go off quickly. If you put the meat in your fridge, consume it within a few days. If you open it and place half back in the fridge, cover with cling film and consume within 24 hours. The best way to avoid wasting meat is to plan your meals and place the meat required for meals later in the week in the freezer and defrost when needed. Just don’t forget they are there and buy more…
It is common to have opened, half used dry pasta in your cupboard that has been there since you had spaghetti bolognese last month. If you are going to buy pasta I strongly recommend sticking to wholewheat.140g serving of cooked whole wheat pasta contains 174kcal from 81% carbohydrate, 4% fat and 15% protein. Whole wheat pasta is a great sustainable energy source and provides the body with a good amount of fibre, manganese and selenium.
While dry pasta is unlikely to go bad and be thrown out, there is no need to have it sitting in the cupboard going to waste. There are so many pasta dishes you can make which do not require another trip to the supermarket. Try using leftover vegetables, meat and some herbs to create a cost effective and nutrient rich meal. Remember to practice portion control to avoid throwing the leftovers away. If you do make too much, store it in the fridge and use in a cold salad the next day.