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The most common foods we throw out and how to keep them fresher for longer

Making sure to correctly store and prepare our food means that when life gets in the way, our food can get another chance, writes Odile Le Bolloch.

Odile Le Bolloch Head of EPA Stop Food Waste programme

MANY PEOPLE ARE unaware of the amount of food they waste. In fact, 30% of the food we buy ends up in the bin, costing the average household around €700.

Nobody wants to waste food, but often our busy lives and changing plans mean that food bought with good intentions, doesn’t get eaten. We buy too much, don’t store it correctly, or we don’t eat it on time.

Some of the most common types of food we throw away include bread, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.

We waste 20% of bread and bakery products; bananas, apples and potatoes are the fruit and veg we waste the most and 10% of yoghurts, milk & dairy are wasted. Making sure to correctly store and prepare our food means that when life gets in the way, our food can get another chance.

Bread

Bread is best stored in a bread bin or paper bag (not plastic) at room temperature. This allows for air circulation but prevents it from drying out too fast.

Even though smaller loaves are more expensive per slice, they are better value if much of the large loaf goes uneaten. An alternative is to freeze half a large loaf straight after purchasing.

Stale baguettes can be rejuvenated by slightly wetting their surface and warming in the oven. Old, dried bread can be turned into breadcrumbs and stored in the freezer. Breadcrumbs have many uses including coatings for baked chicken or fish, and binding for burgers and fishcakes.

Fruit, veg and potatoes 

Keep bananas at room temperature, without a plastic bag, until they are ripe. Bananas produce ethylene gas which causes other fruits to ripen faster. Unless you actually want to ripen other fruit, store bananas separately.

Store potatoes in a cool, dark and dry place. Plastic bags encourage condensation, which in turn promotes the development of rot. To avoid this, remove potatoes from their bag as soon as you get them home. A cloth potato sack in a dark cupboard is perfect. Potatoes with visible damage such as cuts and bruises will be fine to eat but will not store as long and should therefore be used first. Avoid storing spuds in the fridge.

Small quantities of apple can be used up in soups, salads, coleslaw or bread. Old or damaged apples are still great stewed, perfect for baking or adding to porridge. Stewed apples can be frozen.

Dairy

Milk should always be stored in the fridge. If storing for more than a couple of days, avoid putting it in the door. The door is the warmest part of the fridge and experiences the most temperature fluctuations. Milk should be returned to the fridge as soon as possible.

There are loads of recipes requiring milk so if you find yourself with milk to spare that might otherwise go off, use it up in rice pudding, white sauce, or custard. Alternatively, make pancakes which you can also freeze.

The EPA’s Stop Food Waste programme has developed an A – Z of Foods, a handy resource that provides ingredient specific tips to make the most of these common food items that often go to waste. To learn more about how we can reduce the amount of food we waste visit stopfoodwaste.ie

Odile Le Bolloch is head of the Stop Food Waste programme at the Environmental Protection Agency.

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About the author:

Odile Le Bolloch  /  Head of EPA Stop Food Waste programme

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