Food Waste – Thoughts from a Foodie

Emy Mordue
  • Senior Content Marketing Manager
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By day, I work as a Senior Content Marketing Manager here at gm-design and by night, I’m an avid ‘foodie’, running my own home-cooking inspiration and recipe account on Instagram; @real.foodie. So, it’s no surprise that food trends and topical content around this subject are high on my list of interests!

I was thrilled that this year gm-design choose to support local charity, Exeter Food Action; an organisation that not only raises awareness of food waste, but physically collects it and redistributes it to those in need. In supporting this very worthy cause, we’ve already learnt a lot about food waste and explored tips and tricks to reduce it at home. Now, I’d like to take the opportunity to look a little deeper into the topic and share a couple of foodie tips of my own!

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Food waste at the supermarket

Up until 2009, there were strict aesthetic standards put in place by EU law on fruit and vegetables… but did you know since this date (the best part of 10 years!), it’s largely the supermarkets themselves – and a strange consumer stigma around ‘perfect-looking produce’ – that has actually upheld these standards.

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An estimated 30-40% of UK fruit and veg is rejected before it even reaches the shops – mostly because it doesn’t match the supermarkets' excessively strict cosmetics standards!
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It’s only relatively recently that certain supermarkets and independent veg box companies have started selling less-than-perfect veg, thanks to clever marketing campaigns, promotional wording like ‘wonky veg’ and of course a cheaper price tag, which makes them appealing to consumers.

Asda were actually the first supermarket to start selling wonky veg back in 2016, with the humble carrot… and since celebrating their two-year wonky veg box anniversary, they have reported selling, “1,000 tonnes of carrots that would otherwise have been rejected as less than perfect”. Plus, they have relaxed produce specifications to allow more skin defects, funny shapes and sizes to make it onto their actual shelves: “We previously allowed 10% of carrots with cosmetic defects on to our shelves as part of the Grower’s Selection range, but we increased this to 40% in May last year!”

Since the beginning of August this year, Lidl have been trialling a ‘Too Good To Waste’ promotion, selling items that are no longer considered at their “perfect best, but are still perfectly good to eat”. The £1.50, 5KG box of mixed veg will be put together every morning by ‘freshness specialists’ and is currently on sale in 122 of their stores across the UK, with a view to roll it out permanently. Once established, it’s estimated that this one initiative alone could save 10,000 tonnes of waste per year!

Morrisons have also been on the wonky fruit and veg train for some time now too, with a large number of less-than-perfect products on sale – recently adding chillies to the range (which are 39% cheaper that their more ‘beautiful’ counterpart). Their clever marketing tactic shows an appealing final dish that could be made from seasonal wonky produce, e.g. delicious roasted potatoes, fruit smoothies or a wonky lemon drizzle cake. However encouraging this progress is on the one hand, you’ll notice an extremely large amount of PLASTIC PACKAGING in this advert (and of course in-store!), which is a huge concern itself (I may need a whole series of blogs to discuss that particular topic), accountable for many health and environmental issues:


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Food waste at home

It seems that outlooks are slowly changing, including consumer attitudes; perhaps we should all take a leaf from Japanese Philosophy and appreciate the beauty in imperfection in more objects (AKA Wabi-sabi). That said, as consumers, we still need to be responsible for the produce that we purchase (wonky or not) when we get home! Best before or sell by date (not use by date) followers are responsible for a huge amount of household food waste:

“The UK throws away seven million tonnes of food and drink every year; two million of this is thrown away by households and 670,000 of this is food that has been thrown out because food labels have been misinterpreted! The majority of this could have been eaten. This costs households an average of £470 year in wasted food annually.”

– Approved Food

For even more stats and facts on food waste, check out our eye-catching infographic for Exeter Food Action. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my top three foodie tips for minimising food waste (and maximising your meals) at home:

1. Boil your bones

For a light stock (perfect for soups or risottos!) simply add the bones/carcass from your Sunday roast to a pot, cover with water and gently simmer on a low heat for 2-6 hours (add any veg-ends – carrots/onions/celery/leeks, etc. work well – for extra flavour, but they’re not essential!).

2. Bobbin’ for eggs

Eggs are one of those foods that you can definitely eat beyond their ‘best before’ date – to make sure they’re still good to eat carefully drop them in a bowl of cold water; if they rest on the bottom they’re good to go, and if they float they’re bad (so you can chuck them out without the guilt).

3. Go bananas for banana bread

I actually only buy bananas to let them ‘go bad’… because I get to make one of my favourite sweet treats, banana bread! ‘Manky’ old bananas are perfect for making banana bread, so never throw your brown bananas away – make banana bread. It will last for days too and can even be toasted!

Remember to use common sense and do your research; many foods can be safely consumed way after the best before date (especially heavily sugared or salted items, e.g. jams and soy sauces can easily be kept/used for years!). In general if it looks, smells and tastes OK it should be fine. If you’re worried, Business Insider (and many others) have covered a few basics on how to tell if food has gone bad.

Try to think a little more about how you shop, prep and store food… how about multiple little shopping trips over the traditional weekly shop? There is less risk of over, and impulse buying, which leads to throwing away food that never gets eaten. Or you could try meal prepping and loving your leftovers – you’ll be surprised at how creative and delicious ‘leftover’ meals can be! Use the whole of the food item you’re prepping for a meal, e.g. leave the skin on potatoes and eat the stems on things like broccoli – not only is this less wasteful, it’s so much more nutritional too (plus who can be bothered to peel a spud anyway?). Finally, make friends with your ice cube tray and freezer; so many sauces, stocks and food in general can be easily portioned and frozen for later.

Have something to add? We’d love to hear your thoughts on food waste: tweet us @gmdesignltd.

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