WE all generate food waste at home, in school, at work, on the run... everywhere.
Nearly all this food waste is thrown in the bin and, while some is composted, most of it ends up in the local landfill.
In the landfill, rotting food decomposes to make methane and other gases. In addition to the smell, these are really bad greenhouse gases.
On average, wasted food costs each Irish household €700 a year and for some households this can be over €1,000. This is an unbelievable waste of money and food - think of the holidays you could have instead of throwing all this food out.
The point is that food waste CAN be avoided and that's what the 'Stop Food Waste' initiative is all about.
The first step is to learn more about what we are throwing out, then we can do something about it. A new EPA sponsored website at www.stopfoodwaste.ie is worth a visit for the huge amount of practical information on preventing food waste and the easy to use nature of the site.
Preventing food waste starts when you go shopping and continues at home in the way you store, cook and use food. First of all, it is very important to have a well stocked kitchen - especially of the essentials. Much of the food we waste comes from 'perishables' - things like fruit, vegetables and dairy products.
So, when you are going shopping consider some of the following tips and see if you can save yourself money and reduce food waste.
■ Don't go shopping when you are hungry - you'll buy more than you need
■ If you are shopping for the week try to plan your meals ahead
■ Check your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you go shopping and plan meals around what you find. Then make a shopping list...and then try to stick to it!
■ Beware of special deals – these are great for toilet rolls and shampoo but bad for fruit, vegetables, salads or anything that can go off quickly. These are the things we buy because of a ' good deal' but often does not get eaten
■ Try and buy loose fruit and vegetables – this way you're less likely to buy more than you need and you can cut down on packaging wastes in your bin as well
■ Check use-by dates to avoid buying food that might get thrown out if not eaten immediately
■ Poke around at the back of shelves - you'll often find 'use-by dates' that are further away
■ Shop for what you actually eat, not for what you want/wish you would eat. For example, ther's not much point in deciding 'I am going to be really healthy this week and eat lots of yogurts' and then not eat them.
■ If it's an option for you, try shopping on line for the basics – you get what you want and save money.
How often do you go to your fridge and find food that can no longer be eaten; or into the larder and find vegetables that you had forgotten and are now gone off ? It happens all the time and mostly it's just because we forgot what we had. But it costs money every time we throw out mouldy cheese, a few rotten apples or the last bit of that sliced pan.
So here are some tips and hints to help you get the most out of your food and make sure you throw as little out as possible and of course save yourself some cash.
■ If you are ever unsure where to store stuff - copy the shops – they try to preserve fruit and vegetables for as long as possible.
■ Use your own judgement when it comes to throwing food out – food that can be eaten is worth money. 'Use by' dates should be followed, but best 'before dates' are a guide. But remember that food isn't like Cinderella – it doesn't go off at midnight!
■ Labels such as 'sell by' and 'display until' are used for stock control by shops and are of no interest to householders
■ Keep all dairy products in the fridge. As the saying goes 'milk left out for an hour is the same as a day in the fridge!'
■ If you are not going to use meat or fish, freeze it, or cook it and eat it in the following days. Also, if you decide to use just some of it, freeze the rest.
■ Use your freezer but don't forget food that's been in there for years!
■ Make sure your fridge and freezer are maintained properly – this will ensure food is cooled properly and saves on electricity costs too.
■ Supermarkets are smart and use stock control to maximise profits. Try this at home – you'll waste less and save yourself some cash.