The countdown to Christmas has begun which means lots of festivities have started, including drinking mulled wine, listening to Christmas tunes and over 270,000 tones of food waste!
Every day, we throw away 20 million slices of bread, 4.4 million potatoes, 5.2 million glasses of milk and 0.9 million bananas.
And every year, 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and 74 million perfectly edible mince pies go in the bin.
So how can you help tackle food waste?
1. Share your surplus food with the community through OLIO
I am a local Food Waste Hero for an organisation called OLIO and make weekly collections from Tesco. I have been collecting for a few months and have enjoyed being able to support my family and local community. I have always been conscious of food waste and was told about joining OLIO by a colleagues at work.
So what is OLIO?
OLIO connects neighbours with one another and local businesses so that surplus food can be shared and not thrown away. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, surplus home-grown veg, bread from your baker, or the food from your fridge when you go away. OLIO can also be used for non-food household items too! OLIO saves perishable food items from businesses that food banks or charities may be unable to accept, and will work alongside other organisations to ensure as much food is saved from going to waste and is helping local communities.
How can you join?
OLIO is a free, easy to use app (download here). Once set-up, you can list items to share (food or non-food) or request any items listed in your local area.
All users are asked to follow the COVID-19 guidelines so I have a designated OLIO box that I leave my items bagged up and labelled for those who have requested to collect at an agreed time slot.
Become an OLIO ‘Food Waste Hero’
OLIO is always looking for ‘Squad Starters’ who can sign up new businesses and ‘Food Waste Heroes’ (like myself) who save and distribute food on the app. I collect from the Stokenchurch Tesco every Wednesday and any ‘use by’ items have to be collected by midnight that day and ‘best before’ items within 24 hours. I have loved using the app as I have been able to connect with so many people in my local community, as well as help my own household because I am also able to keep 10% of my food collections (I haven’t brought a loaf of bread in over 2 months!). You can find more about volunteer roles here.
TOP TIP: You might notice when you first join that there is not much listed locally. I hear this a lot from new users, and OLIO relies on people sharing to grow the community. So why not do as I did to get started and simply list an item. The more people join in Thame, the more successful the app will be for us all.
Can my business get involved?
YES. I would love to get local businesses signed up! If you work for a local business who would like to reduce their food waste and also would like to support members of the community, please do get in contact with me via email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work together to see how OLIO can support you and the local community. You can also find out more here https://olioex.com/businesses/.
2. Tackling Christmas household food waste
In the UK, households spend about £169 on food shopping over Christmas. And research shows that a significant percentage of the average household’s weekly food shop ends up in the bin. So with Christmas around the corner, here are some top tips to reduce food waste, reduce your shopping bill, support your community and help the planet!
TIP 1: DO NOT BUY MORE THAN YOU NEED
It’s so easy to buy more than you need around Christmas because supermarkets are always stocked high with delicious looking goodies, combined with crazy discounts and promotions. Here are a few ways to resist temptation:
- Make a list – and check it again. Will your family really start eating those slightly unusual foods just because it’s Christmas?
- Don’t get caught out by promotions: check the use-by dates on products you buy, as many people get caught out with products that won’t even last until Christmas day.
- You don’t need to stock up for a month: supermarkets will be open for most days in December – they generally only close for the bank holidays.
- Make sure you know the difference between use by (which refers to food safety) and best before dates (which refers to quality, learn more from the Love Food Hate Waste website here.
- Do a kitchen stock check! I recently emptied the cupboard and also sorted through my fridge and freezer and found so many items I had forgotten that I’d bought. Now I’ve planned my meals for the next few weeks around what I already have. I also listed some surplus items on OLIO and shared with neighbours and family.
TIP 2: STORE YOUR FOOD CORRECTLY
Storing your food correctly can make a massive difference to how long your food lasts and also help you save the pennies too. Make sure you create room in your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you go on your shop. I also recommend checking out the Love Food Hate Waste A-Z food storage. I use this guide weekly and have seen a massive difference in how long my food lasts.
And do check your fridge temperature! Many people – including me – have the temperature set too high. Since I learnt this recently, I’ve reduced it and have found milk lasts longer and I can also extend vegetables’ shelf life.
TIP 3: USE THOSE LEFTOVERS
My favourite meal this time of the year is a ‘picky tea’. This is when you set the table with a spread of food that needs eating and tuck in. Also make sure you check out how best to store leftover food using the handy A-Z guide and check out some Christmas day left over recipes on BBC Goodfood. Also make use of your freezer, if you have one – and watch environmental charity Hubbub’s #FestiveFreeze vlog to hear the truth behind 5 common freezer myths!
TIP 5: GIVE
This year has been a difficult year to say the least. So when doing your weekly shop, if you can afford to add a few items to your basket then please do. You can support our local Sharing Life Trust (who run Thame Food Bank and the Thame Community Larder), by dropping items to local stores including Waitrose, Co-op and Sainsburys. For more information on how you can support them and items that are most needed, head to the Sharing Life website.
I wish everyone a very safe and Merry Christmas this year. Look out for one another and keep the wonderful Thame community spirit alive well into 2021.