Day 17: Up yours, use-by dates

Zero Waste challenge
Jas (The Ginger) and Morgana (The Vegan) are undertaking the Zero Waste Challenge: finding ways to refuse, reuse, reduce, and recycle as much as possible in their lives, and ask you to join them on their journey.

The problem
Morgana is an easy going, low maintenance little cherub. She cares not for much. Give her hummus, peanut butter and fresh crusty bread, and you may not hear an opinion from her about any subject (apart from Love Island) for a week.
Except for food waste.

This is Morgana when someone nearby is about to waste food.

Food waste is lame. It is one of the most unnecessary and arrogant things we do as a species. We have found a way to magic up enough nutrients from the ground for everyone to eat. We raise animals SPECIFICALLY to eat them. We divert lakes and shape rivers into farmland to allow this magic to happen.

And at least 30% of the time, that food never even sees a mouth.

If it were a country, food waste would be the biggest emitter of CO2 after USA and China. That’s unfathomable. We need to do better.

The solution
Solutions on a larger scale involve collective action and lobbying governments to hold the members of the supply chain (the farms, the shipping, the supermarkets) responsible. You can do that too! But what can we do ourselves, in our everyday lives?

  1. DO NOT BUY FOOD YOU DON'T NEED unless it is non-perishable.
    It is SO tempting to buy fresh food, only to discover by the end of the week you haven't used it. Take Jas this week: she bought a load of veggies, and other various #health stuff, only to find that her visitors wanted to eat at nice restaurants and she didn’t get to it until 4 days later. Conventional internet wisdom says that the solution here is meal planning.

    This makes me cringe, personally. It’s so easy to feel like you HAVE to stick to the meal plan, and you don’t have a ‘life’ as a consequence. But if Jas had sat down and worked out how many meals she would be eating, she would have bought about half as much food.

2. DATE LABELS ARE A LIE. Food isn’t bad unless it smells funny. Sell by dates are there for the supermarket workers, not you. Use by dates are about the “peak quality” of a food item. Food is not self aware. It does not observe that is is 12:01 and spontaneously transform into an inedible gremlin. It’s probably fine until it doesn’t look, smell or taste fine.

3. CHECK YOUR FRIDGE. It might be making your food go off quicker than anticipated. We checked ours and found ice build-up at the back (which is a sign that it is using more energy for less refrigerating). Apparently, that bottom draw is for your freshest stuff. We had no idea. So put your vegetables and fresh fruit in that, and the bigger drier vegetables, such as the butternut squash and the broccoli, where there is space at the top. If you have dairy products, they need to go in the middle of the fridge, where the largest, coldest spot is.

4. GET CREATIVE. Despite the fact that we use it for useless things, the internet is really there to try and help us. For example, check out Big Oven. We put in 3 random ingredients we have in the fridge, and bam, 17 recipes.
As proud Brits, we also know how to turn anything into a drink. Fresh fruit might go off quickly, but it also tastes great when blended with ice and rum. Mango daiquiris ahoy.

5. FREEZE. Contrary to popular belief, you can put glass in the freezer. Just make sure it's a wide glass container, like a jam jar, rather than a milk bottle which is curvier. Give it room to expand at the top when it freezes (remember high school chemistry?) and you’re good to go.

There is a common myth that claims a habit takes 21 days to form. Buying excess food is the habit of a lifetime, and takes sustained commitment to break. Jas and Morgana are used to small, regular shops for fresh food, but doing this as a family of four with evil children is probably much much harder. The most useful advice is looking past the dates printed on the side, as this takes no effort, and looking into creative recipes.

This article is part of our 30 days  Zero Waste challenge.
Read what Jas and Morgana were up to in the past few days.

Day 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16

More Stories