Everyone throws a bit of food away here and there but this really adds up. In fact, one fifth of the food we buy gets thrown away.

Food makes up a big part of north London's waste, and reducing food waste is one of the most important things you can do to help the environment, as this reduces carbon dioxide and methane emissions. It is estimated that if we stopped wasting food in the UK, it would be the same as taking one out of four cars off the road.

Food is also an expense and projects in north London have shown that by focusing on reducing food waste, people can save a significant amount of money. The average household with children is currently estimated to waste £700 of food a year. 

There are many steps you can take to reduce food waste. For more information about what to do with specific foods, as well as details about how to make the most of your fridge and freezer download our food waste leaflet.

Thinking about actions for each stage can make a big difference. 

Plan ahead

  • Make a shopping list and try to stick to it to avoid buying things you already have, or things you don’t need. Either keep a pen and pad in the kitchen to jot down things you run out of or make a list on your phone.
  • Planning meals helps to avoid extra trips to food shops. When deciding what meals to cook, first check the fridge, freezer and cupboards.
  • Choose recipes that can be cooked in batches so some can be frozen or stored. 
  • When shopping, look for smaller packs or split packs. This can help store or preserve food that isn’t needed all at once.

Understand food labels

Food labelling can be confusing and this can lead to unnecessary waste. As well as guidance on when food can be eaten, packaging can also provide information on how to store and look after the food. 

  • Use by date – this is for perishable food advising of the date food can safely be eaten. After this date, the food could make someone ill. Most foods with a ‘use by’ date can be frozen. Freeze any time up until the end of that date and keep them frozen until you need them.
  • Best before date – this refers to quality rather than food safety and is found on frozen, dried, canned and other foods. If the item looks and smells ok, then it is unlikely to be harmful after the ‘best before’ date. 'Just remember that if you want to eat raw/runny egg, it should be within its 'before date'.
  • Almost all foods can be frozen - just not cream, salad, or foods which have already been frozen and defrosted once (though you can freeze cooked meat/fish that was frozen when it was raw.

Cook the right amount

The most important thing is learning what is the right amount of food for you and your family. Measure this and then stick to it.

Here is a list of foods often wasted, along with recommended healthy eating guidelines to show an approximate portion measure:

  • Rice: one mug of dry rice will feed four adults once cooked (75ml-100ml per person).
  • Pasta: An average portion is 75-100g per person.
  • Vegetables, beans and lentils: 3 tablespoons per person.
  • Meat, poultry and fish: one piece about the size of your hand (100g) per person.

Store food correctly

The way we store food can make a big difference in how long it stays fresh. Fruit and vegetables last longer if kept in the fridge between 0ºC and 5ºC, while bread is better kept in a bread bin, to avoid it losing moisture and becoming hard. It is always better to keep food in its original packaging because the packaging is designed to help food stay fresh.

For more advice on storing different types of food take a look at our leaflet.

Freeze food

The most important thing to know here is that you can freeze pretty much anything. 

As long as food stays frozen, it can’t go off. Even if you’ve had food frozen for years it should still be safe to eat, but the quality or texture will deteriorate over time. As a general rule, most food will still be good to eat up to six months after you put it in the freezer. When freezing leftovers, after cooking, cool the food down quickly, place in an airtight container, label and put it in the freezer.