The true cost of food

emma marsh

emma marshThrowing good food into the bin costs us, as a nation, £33 million a day. But it’s not just the cost to our purses and household budgets we should be concerned about: it’s also the true cost of actually producing it and the food miles – a huge amount of money that gets wasted every time we let food go off or serve too much of it.

Harmful gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane) are produced when this food rots in landfill. The energy used to make your food all goes to waste when we throw away food.

the true cost of foodTake the humble slice of pizza as an example. If we just think about the pizza base, here’s what’s involved in creating it: the farmer sows the wheat, waters it, fertilises it, harvests the finished crop, sends it to the factory, it’s then turned into flour, packaged to keep it in good condition and sent to be made into pizza dough. Then there’s the mozzarella cheese and fresh tomatoes, which could be flown 1,000 miles from Italy. Black pepper from India; another 5,000 miles. Olives from Greece, pineapple from Kenya? The pizza is then made, packaged, and sent to the shops and stored in the fridge or freezer.

But that’s not the end of it! We then drive or get the bus to the shops to buy the pizza, drive it home, put it in the fridge/freezer, cook it, put it on our plate, the family decides they’re too full to eat the last slice or two and it either goes straight into the bin or waits a couple of days in the fridge before ending up there! What a waste – both money and resources.

If we stop wasting this good food it would have the same impact as taking one in every five cars you see off our roads. For me, it seems this is something we can all do something about – not wasting our money AND make a real environmental impact.

There’s an abundance of good food around at this time of year so this harvest time make a real effort to value it for everything that’s gone into getting this food  to your home. Enjoy delicious local fruit and vegetables, use our seasonal recipes and storage tips – and try my top five tips to get started:

1. Curry carries leftovers

Making a vegetable curry uses up lots of vegetables that need rescuing from the back of the fridge. Any veg can be used – courgettes, cauliflower, butternut squash; the choice is endless. Any extras can be frozen in tubs, to make a homemade ready meal to use when time’s short. Defrost in the fridge, use within 24 hours and cook thoroughly, making sure it’s piping hot all the way through.

2. Grow one, share one!

There’s nothing quite like the taste of home grown fruit and vegetables and if there’s a glut share them with anyone you know who isn’t growing their own. If you’re not a gardening fan make the most of tempting in-store offers by ‘buying one and sharing one’ with friends, family or neighbours.

3. Store well

applesAlmost any food can be frozen and it’s a terrific way to enjoy seasonal food throughout the year. Storing food in the right place is important and preserving and pickling are also great ways to make harvest food last longer. Store apples in the fridge but if you want to keep windfalls store them in a cool, frost-free place, wrapped in newspaper. Having a lot of tomatoes needn’t mean throwing any away. Make batches of tomato sauce for pasta: Simply chop up the tomatoes, add to some fried onion, throw in some fresh herbs and garlic to taste and cook down to a pasta sauce. Put into individual portions and freeze.

4. Make jam or compote

Try Love Food Hate Waste’s quick fruit jam recipe, as even fruit that’s past its best can be put to good use. Apple and berry compote is another delicious way to use up fruit.

5. Halloween pumpkins

When you make your Halloween lanterns this year don’t throw away the scooped out flesh. Instead, make tasty pumpkin soup. And if it’s not all eaten on the day, freeze it for later.

Emma Marsh heads up Love Food Hate Waste, which aims to raise awareness of the issue of food waste and offer simple everyday tips and support to help consumers save money and waste less. Emma is also a keen grower of fruit and veg in her garden and allotment at home.