A staggering 9.5 million tons of food is wasted every year in the UK. That’s the equivalent of filling Wembley Stadium nine times over, or 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. What’s more, a third of all food purchased by households ends up being thrown away.
Yet with the right changes, 70% of the UK’s food waste could be avoided. And the benefits to our planet would be significant. It’s estimated that eliminating UK food waste would have the same environmental impact as taking 1 in 4 cars off the roads – preventing 15 million tons of greenhouse gasses.
The most commonly wasted foods are potatoes, bread, milk, homemade and pre-prepared meals, meat, carrots. fruit juice and smoothies. Need some help reducing your food waste? Watch our recent Sparks Live cookalong with Chris Baber where he cooked up a family favourite and share food-waste hacks.
If you missed our most recent Sparks Live, you can re-watch it here! Simply pick up the ingredients listed below and get ready to cook along with Chris!
Chinese-style clay-pot chicken rice
100ml oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1½ tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp caster sugar
300g basmati rice
1 tbsp sunflower oil
500g M&S Oakham skinless boneless chicken thighs, diced into 6 pieces per thigh
45g pack Cook With M&S prepared chilli, ginger and garlic
300g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
4 spring onions, sliced
250g pak choi, steamed
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.
Mix together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar, and set aside.
Rinse the rice under cold running water. Place the rice in a saucepan, along with 600ml cold water, and bring to a steady simmer. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and cook for 8 minutes.
Place the rice in a casserole dish or, if the saucepan is oven-proof, leave in the pan, and set aside.
Heat a wok or large frying pan, add the sunflower oil and fry the chicken for 5 minutes, until lightly golden.
Add the Cook With M&S prepared chilli, ginger and garlic to the chicken, and cook for a minute before adding the mushrooms. Cook for a further 4 minutes, pour in the sauce mixture and stir through, then add to the dish containing the rice.
Put the dish in the preheated oven and cook uncovered for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and top with sliced spring onions. Serve with steamed pak choi.
At M&S, we’re proud to play an active role in our local communities and, through our partnership with community platform Neighbourly, our aim is to ensure that any surplus food that’s good enough to eat ends up on a person’s plate.
Since 2015, all our 585 owned stores have been partnered with 1,500 local causes – from food banks to youth clubs and hospices. And we’re proud of the difference it’s making. Our stores up and down the country have supported these community causes, and those who need it most, with the equivalent of more than 22 million meals and counting since 2015.
Who hasn’t chucked away an unopened pot of houmous, some wrinkly carrots or chicken that’s just past its best? Emptying the fridge and getting rid of food on the turn has become almost a daily ritual for busy families who just don’t have the time to think up ways of using up all the food they buy each week. Start with our ideas below and see how much you can reduce your waste in a single week.
1. Get your kitchen ready
Organise your cupboards and fridge so you can see what you’ve already got. Bring food that needs using first to the front.
2. Write a meal plan
It sounds so simple, but deciding exactly what you’re going to cook when and what ingredients you need is the easiest way to make sure you aren’t buying unnecessary items. Start by checking your fridge and freezer and asking yourself what you really need, then think about what you’re going to eat for the week and write a list. Click here for more meal planning tips.
3. Shop smart
Write a shopping list and hit the store safe in the knowledge that you won’t be buying things you don’t need.
4. Watch your portion size
Portion perfectly to make it less likely that anything you cook will go to waste. You can cook enough for the meal you’re about to eat or prepare more and then place in the fridge or freezer for later. This portioning guide will help you make sure that not one grain of rice or roast potato goes to waste.
5. Get label savvy
Have you ever been confused by whether food is good to eat? You’re not alone. Food past its best before date is still perfectly good to eat, provided it looks and smells good. Use-by relates to food safety and food past its use-by should not be eaten unless frozen before this date as the freezing process is like a pause button.
6. Love your leftovers
Store leftovers in the fridge, if you plan to eat in the next two days (one day for rice) or in the freezer if it’s longer than that. Cool leftovers as quickly as possible (ideally within minutes) then cover and freeze or refrigerate. Label your leftovers (unless you like a pot-luck dinner) and defrost them properly before turning into a tasty meal. Defrost leftovers in the fridge overnight, or in the microwave if you intend to cook them straightaway. Eat leftovers within 24 hours of defrosting and do not refreeze. The only exception is if you’re defrosting raw food, such as meat or poultry, which once cooked can be refrozen.
7. Check the temperatures
Your fridge should be between 3°C and 5°C, while your freezer should be set at -18°C.
Want more ideas on how to reduce food waster and learn to cook up a delicious family dinner? Click the link below to watch our recent Sparks Live event.
Use up leftover green veg, cheese and eggs by making a delicious frittata. Simply whisk the eggs, then add seasoning and cheese. Pour the egg mix into a lined baking dish and top with your chosen green veggies and extra cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 mins until it’s firm around the edges with a slight wobble in the middle.
If you have fruit in your fridge slightly passed its best, use it to make an epic fruit crumble. Simply place the fruit (berries, apples and pears all work well) in a baking dish and add a sprinkle of sugar and maybe some spices. Top with homemade crumble made with flour, sugar and oats. Bake until the crumble topping is golden and the fruit has softened.
Don’t bin those delicious roast dinner leftovers! Use leftover mash and green veggies to make a bubble and squeak. Simply mix the mash with the veg, then heat a frying pan with oil. Press the mix in the pan and fry until golden. Serve with an oozy poached egg and sliced tomatoes.
Got some bread lurking in the bread bin? Transform it into a family favourite bread and butter pudding. Simply slice the bread, butter and cut into triangles. Arrange in a greased baking dish buttered side up, then top with your choice of dried fruit and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Make a light custard, then pour the custard over the bread. Sprinkle with sugar and bake until golden brown.
Looking for a flavour-packed family meal? Look no further than Chris Baber’s delicious ideas
Find out about how embracing more plant-based foods can help reduce your impact on the planet