If you’ve discovered food festering in your fridge that’s only fit for the bin, you’re not alone – the average UK household shells out £480 per year on groceries that get thrown away.
Once you add up the amount of food and drink that’s wasted in the UK every year, the stats are quite unpalatable. It comes to 7.2 million tonnes or £12bn worth, according to research by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
I started to wonder why we’re willing to throw our hard-earned money away this way. Perhaps we’re a nation of bad shoppers and poor planners who buy too much? Or maybe low prices created by years of supermarket price wars have lured us into viewing food as a low-value commodity?
Whatever the cause, the effects are clear – a serious and unnecessary drain on the environment and our finances. What’s more, it’s completely avoidable. And with food prices set to rise as climate change starts to affect global food production, it makes sense to tackle food waste sooner rather than later.
Making the most of your freezer will help you keep food until you’re ready to eat it. And here are some of our tips for keeping fresh produce fresher for longer in your fridge:
1. Check your fridge is cold enough
Do you know how cold it is inside your fridge? Food should be kept between 0 – 5°C to help it last longer and keep harmful bacteria at bay. This is particularly important when you consider that listeria – a bacteria that causes food poisoning – can grow nearly twice as fast at 8°C as it does at 5°C.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that most of our fridges are too warm, so check the temperature inside yours with a fridge thermometer.
2. Store food properly
The top shelf is the warmest part of the fridge cavity and is best for storing pre-prepared foods such as yogurt, cheese and sauces. Cooked meat and leftovers are best stored in air-tight containers on the shelves underneath.
Keep raw meat, fish and poultry in its sealed packaging or in sealed containers on the bottom shelf – temperatures are coldest here.
The temperature in the door racks can fluctuate as they’re exposed to warm air whenever the fridge door is opened. Stow eggs, condiments, jam, bottled drinks and fruit juice here.
3. Keep (most) fruit and veg in the fridge
We bin 4.4 million apples every day according to WRAP. Keeping fruit in the fridge rather than the fruit bowl will help it last longer.
Salad leaves need moisture to stay fresh – they’ll quickly wilt if they dehydrate. Store lettuce in your fridge’s salad crisper drawer and keep it in perforated, loosely wrapped plastic bags. This will let air in whilst preventing too much moisture from evaporating. The packaging of bagged salad from the supermarket is perfect.
Other veg that need high humidity levels to thrive are cauliflower, beans, broccoli, carrots and leafy greens so wrap these in perforated plastic bags, too.
4. Fridge-loathing foods
Not all fruit and veg will thrive in the fridge:
- Bananas will deteriorate in cold temperatures and their skins can turn black.
- Pineapples don’t like the cold – they, too, could deteriorate and are best stored at a cool room temperature.
- Chilling unripe tomatoes before they’ve matured can destroy their flavour. Let them ripen at room temperature, then put them in the fridge to help them last longer.
- Refrigerating potatoes can increase sugar levels which can convert to acrylamide – a potentially harmful chemical – when they’re roasted, baked or fried at high temperatures. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry place.
Follow these simple steps and you’ll find you spend and waste less. What are your top tips for reducing food waste and making your food go further?