We’re all guilty of creating food waste. Over-ambitious trips to the supermarket, accompanied by a promise to be healthy that week, can mean ending up with a glut of vegetables that don’t get used. Life gets in the way, an impromptu take-away or meal out can throw even the most organised meal prep plan off course.
In the UK, food waste generated by households (rather than businesses) makes up 70% of all food waste, according to Wrap, a non-profit focused on reducing food, packaging, and textile waste. The edible food that gets chucked out adds up to 4.5 million tonnes per year — while every single day 20 million whole slices of bread, 4.4 million potatoes, and 2.2 million slices of ham get wasted.
It’s an expensive habit too. Love Food Hate Waste, a charity fighting food waste, estimates that a household of four can save an average of £60 per month, or over £700 per year, simply by reducing their food waste.
As well as just being inefficient, excessive food waste is contributing to the climate crisis. About 6% to 8% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced if we stopped wasting food according to conservation charity WWF (Worldwide Wildlife Fund). That’s because of the wasted emissions used to produce and transport the food that then doesn’t get used — as well as the emissions produced by rotting food sent to landfill.
All of our collective efforts to waste less can make a big difference to the environment, however. Since 2007, efforts to reduce food waste in the UK have saved 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of taking 2.1 million cars off the road.
Learning the best ways to store perishable items and finding ways to use older food to create delicious new meals, you’ll make your groceries go further while tackling a serious food waste crisis at the same time. Here are some great recipes to get you started.
Courgette fritters are a great way to use up old courgettes as well as making an interesting alternative go-to weekend brunch option (move over, avocado toast!).
To make four fritters, to serve two people, Olive magazine recommends using one egg, 50 grams of self-raising flour, and 50ml water, whisked together with turmeric and cumin. Then adding one courgette that has been spiralized (or simply cut into very fine strips using a vegetable peeler or knife) and folding it in with the batter mix.
Then the mixture simply needs to be divided into four batches in the frying pan and cooked for two to three minutes on each side. Of course, you can increase the recipe and make more to use up more courgettes! According to Nigella, spare fritters can be frozen but only if separated by baking paper and used within one month.
Roast Veggies to Make Easy Side Dishes
When it comes to veggies, the freezer is your friend. No, you don’t have to eat three meals a day made up entirely of vegetables in a last ditch effort to use up everything you have in your fridge.
Instead, bung all sorts of combinations of veggies — cut up to roughly the same size for ease of cooking — and throw them in the oven drizzled in olive oil, salt, and some herbs of your choice for roasting (which usually takes 30-40 mins, but adjust accordingly). Once that’s done you can save cooled portions in the freezer and you’ve got a quick and easy side dish for many meals to come.
If you’re cooking a chicken for a nice Sunday roast then you’ll want to use up all the bits of meat left on the bone afterwards (you can also check out why a meat-free diet is great for the planet here). Curries are a brilliant way of making use of the tender pre-cooked meat that is leftover — with very little extra cooking hassle.
The Amy’s Meal Plan Instagram account, which is dedicated to making leftovers go further, recommends making a chicken biryani because it can be made in one pot and uses common store cupboard items for the remaining ingredients.
As well as the chicken, you’ll need 300g of rice, one large chopped onion, dried bay leaves, cardamom, curry powder, 850ml of chicken stock, a decent handful of raisins, tomato puree, and about 75g of butter for cooking.
To cook you start with sauteing the onion, adding in the bay leaf and four cardamom pods when they start to soften. Next add a shake of turmeric, the chicken bits, a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree, a couple of teaspoons of curry powder, and some raisins, and mix it round.
When those ingredients have blended well together, add the rice and the stock water, bring to the boil, then put the lid on and let it simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked and the stock is absorbed. That’s it!
Even if you love ripe bananas, after a certain point they can start to look a bit too mushy and the temptation to throw them away is strong.
However, bananas are fantastically versatile and can be used in a number of desserts. BBC Good Food recommends several, including a classic banana bread that takes just 20 minutes to prep, and 1hr 15 minutes in the oven. We’re not all natural bakers though, so if even the thought of trying to use bicarbonate of soda freaks you out, there’s a chocolate baked banana option, which has just three ingredients.
If you’re going for that simply make a slit in the top of each old banana (keep the peels on), add chocolate buttons to the middle, wrap each one individually in loose tin foil parcels and pop in the oven heated to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for 25 minutes until the skins have turned black. Then serve the lovely gooey banana-chocolate combo with ice cream (they can also be cooked on a barbecue).
Alternatively, foodie Instagram account The Wandering Chickpea has a gorgeous sounding Middle-Eastern inspired banana bread made with old bananas, tahini, olive oil, milk, flour, baking powder and baking soda, brown sugar and cane sugar, and is flavoured with cinnamon and dates. Check it out!
Leftover Anything Pizza
Pizza is a great format for using up leftovers. Everything tastes better when accompanied by tomato sauce and cheese and you can throw all sorts of toppings together.
The Love Food Hate Waste Instagram account recommends using up forgotten flatbreads (alternatively a couple of pittas for smaller pizzas would do the trick) and adding any vegetables you might have going spare to the top. This recipe opts for old mushrooms and spinach as toppings. Both are items that tend to need to be used up fairly quickly before they go a bit sad looking, but they are easily revived here.
Start by adding tomato puree, a dash of water, dried oregano, and paprika to the flat bread, then some grated cheese, add leftover mushrooms and spinach (or other bits), before drizzling in olive oil, a bit of black pepper, and grilling for 10-15 minutes.
Quick homemade pizza can be useful for using up things like cherry tomatoes, peppers, and slices of sandwich ham or salami if you eat meat.
Leftover Take-Away Curry Toasties & Poppadom Nachos
It’s very easy to over order when you’re clicking through those take-away options. But don’t feel guilty — that just means more chances to use up delicious leftovers.
Too Good to Go, the app that lets you “rescue” food that is in danger of being chucked out by restaurants and cafes, has some really smart ways for using up take-away food in its recipe lists.
If you have leftover curry and mango chutney, they recommend turning it into a toastie for your lunch the next day. Take two slices of bread with mayo or butter on one side, the last of your chutney on the other. Then add the left over curry to the chutney side — and top with grated cheese if you fancy. Then add another slice of bread, chutney side in, mayo/butter side out, and fry both sides for two mins until the bread is a bit crispy and the cheese is melted.
If you have an oversupply of poppadoms — then they make great nachos. Just add a nacho topping of beans mixed with spices, tomatoes, and grated cheese to broken poppadoms and grill for five to 10 minutes. Serve with coriander, sour cream, and guac.
Finally, that leftover naan can be great for a sandwich wrap or pizza base (see above for “leftover anything” pizza ideas.)
Based in the UK and hungry for more? Global Citizen has teamed up in the UK with Too Good to Go, the app that lets you “rescue” great food about to be thrown out by cafes and restaurants, to launch the Food Waste Warrior Challenge. Complete all three parts of the challenge for a chance to unlock a free Magic Bag from theToo Good To Go app! Download the Global Citizen app now to take the challenge.