It is estimated that students spend £30-£40 pounds a week on food, and much of this food is unintentionally wasted. According to WRAP (Waste Resource Action Programme) we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK, and more than half of this we could have eaten. The two main reasons we throw away food are cooking too much, or not using the food in time.
With regards to food, students do not have to live on beans on toast, spaghetti hoops and noodles throughout their years at university. Being aware of how to shop effectively using a combination of staple foods and fresh ingredients whilst cooking efficiently can save students money and waste. Here are some top tips for students to save pennies and keep their food wastage as low as possible.
- Rotate food in your cupboards and fridge: Put all the new food at the back of the fridge and cupboards and bring last week’s previous items to the front. This avoids mouldy food that you’ve forgotten about lurking in the back of cupboards.
- Use leftovers: Think about whether you could use food before throwing it away. Last night’s pasta becomes today’s lunch, or that bit of cheese and some eggs will make a delicious omelette. Freezing food is also smart and you’ll find that freezer bags, food clips and Tupperware are very handy to have.
Write a shopping list: Draw up a weekly meal plan incorporating ingredients you already have. Avoid being swayed by impulse purchases and simply buy what you need and know you will use.
- Buy meat from the butchers: Butchers sometimes do cheap deals, and the produce is fresh. Find a local butcher and they should be happy to give you some advice on eating well on a tight budget.
- Buy frozen: Frozen fruit and vegetables are underrated. Frozen products are not only cheaper but mean you don’t have to worry about using them up before they wilt. Bread, the most wasted household food, is also worth freezing in slices.
- Buy cheap brands: Most cheaper brands taste exactly the same as more expensive ones. Try a supermarket own brand product and see for yourself.
- Shop in local stores: Many local Asian corner shops can have cheap staple food items such as noodles, rice and pasta. Spices in particular are worth buying here.
- Alternative products: Meat is typically the most expensive ingredient on a shopping list and cheap meat is pumped full of unpleasant chemicals and water. Beans, lentils and peas are packed with protein, very cheap and ideal for bulking out soups, curries or delicious in their own right.
- Understand Labels: ‘Best before’ means the food tastes or looks at its best ‘before’ the date shown. The exception is eggs, which shouldn’t be eaten after this date because salmonella could start to multiply. ‘Display until’ and ‘sell by’ is for staff members and is used so they know when to take a product off the shelf, while ‘Use by’ means use the product by the date indicated which is an important health warning.
- Grow your own herbs: Use a garden or windowsill to grow your own herbs; fresh ones tend to be extortionate and fresh herbs can bring the most basic ingredients to life.
- Be adaptable: Adapt recipes by using the same ingredients for different meals. For example, any basic tomato sauce can be hugely versatile, from your standard tomato and basil pasta sauce, or by adding curry powder and chilli create a delicious chicken curry.
- Cook as a group: This is a cheaper way of eating, but having similar tastes and an agreed group budget works best. You could even run your own version of Come Dine With Me once a week with your roommates or other students near you.
- Take home leftovers: If you’re eating out but you haven’t finished your food then many restaurants are willing to let you take leftovers home in a doggy bag if you ask, providing you with a tasty dinner the next day.
‘Food Waste Philosophy’ is available at the Silverwood online book store, Amazon and other online bookstores.