Did you know that vegetables and fruits are some of the most wasted foods at home? In the UK, 70% of food waste happens at home after it leaves the farm according to WRAP in their 2018 findings. There are environmental and social impacts of wasting food which I will not go into, in this article.
I love food and hate wasting it. For this reason, I have made a personal commitment not to waste food. I acknowledge that sometimes it is unavoidable to waste, especially if the food is spoilt or is likely to be unsafe. My conscious decision to prevent food waste helps a lot, as I am always thinking ahead of what I will cook next. Because not wasting food is at the center of my food decisions, I also get a lot of inspiration.
My plum and quince pie
I went out for my weekly shopping a week ago. I picked the last 2 packs of plums on the shelf. Unfortunately, when my family tried them, they found them too soft and didn’t want to eat them. Since I have made a resolution to prevent waste, I decided to make a pie. I looked around the internet for plum recipes to inspire me. For ingredients, I went for Food.Com’s recipe. The ingredient list is quite simple. I had most of the ingredients in my cupboard apart from an additional pack of plums and shortcrust pastry which I picked up from the supermarket. I had a jar of quince jam that I had been given as a gift. The jam had been in my fridge for a long time. I decided to throw that into my pie and cut down on added sugar. Like with the majority of my baking, I fiddled around with the recipe but in the end, the result was great. I made a delicious pie and I saved my unwanted plums from ending up in the bin.
Tips for preventing fruits and vegetable waste
I share below a few rules I follow, to help me minimise my food waste to almost complete elimination.
Proper storage is one of the keys to preventing food waste. Store your fruits and vegetables in the fridge and they will keep for longer, and they also stay fresh for longer. Check out the guide by heart.org which shows which vegetables should be stored in the fridge and which ones are better stored in a cool and dark place.
Luckily, it is not complicated not to waste food. There are a few tips that can be used by everyone; below are a few for vegetables and fruits. There are more tips on how to prevent food waste, see our article Food waste. The Food and Agricultural organisation (FAO) also offers great tips.
vegetables intended for cooking
Unprocessed produce especially destined for cooking tends to be safe, so long as there are no signs of rot and mould. If there are some leaves that have softened, e.g. spinach, I pick those off and discard them. I then wash the rest and use them. Likewise, for root vegetables, if they are a bit old and some have started rotting, select and discard the spoilt and use the good ones.
Slight yellowing of leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, etc, is no reason to throw them away. The yellowing is a result of chlorophyll, which is what gives the leaves the green colour breaking down. The leaves are still safe for consumption; it’s only that they are not at their best quality.
Vegetables intended for eating raw
If vegetables are intended to be consumed raw, it is worth checking the extent of softening. Spinach especially does tend to go soggy quickly compared to other leaves. Again, to avoid throwing away the whole pack, select the soft or soggy leaves and discard them. Wash the good leaves thoroughly before using them in your salad, shakes, or other raw veg meal. If you notice that your bag of salad leaf is starting to spoil and you can’t eat all of it, find alternative use to prevent wasting such as wilting the leaves in a pan and eating for breakfast for instance or next to your protein or carbohydrate stape. You can also make smoothies or salsa verde, etc. See suggestions for alternative use by Bonappetit.com. It is worth noting that by cooking the vegetables, you can get extra days of shelf life.
We all like eating fruits at their optimal quality, ripe but not too soft or too hard. I don’t like soft avocados or soft bananas for instance. I also don’t like squashed or hit fruits. If I happen to have soft fruits, I find an alternative use for them. For bananas, for instance, I use them for smoothies, pancakes, or banana bread. I use soft avocados for guacamole or blending them with olive oil and a dash of lemon for a salad dressing. Soft fruits such as peaches, pears, bananas, berries, etc. make great smoothies or fruit nectars.