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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 18 October, 2019

8 smart changes to make to your weekly shop, according to an expert

Potatoes and green leaves often end up in the bin, says Airfield’s Grainne Kelliher.

Image: Unsplash

WE GET IT, YOUR LIFE can get busy sometimes during the week and with the best of intentions, items like chicken fillets and potatoes can sometimes end up going in your bin rather than on your plate.

But as a nation, it’s estimated that we create around one million tonnes of food waste each year. According to The Irish Times, this amounts to about €700 million worth of nutritious, edible food that ends up in Irish bins.

So, what can we do to avoid this happening? Food waste starts in our trolleys so it’s important we start there, says Grainne Kelliher, the CEO of Airfield Estate – an urban farm in Dublin that’s hoping to give us a better understanding of the food we eat and the impact of our food choices.

Here she shares some simple changes we can make to reduce our food waste.

1. Don’t fall for ’3 for 2′ deals if you won’t use them

One of the worst habits that can lead to food waste is opting for ’2 for 1′ or ’3 for 2′ deals, says Kelliher: “While they look very good in terms of value, they’re only good if you use everything you buy.” Kelliher also shares that a good way of getting value is to look above and below eye-level: “You’ll often find something nutritionally better at a better price.”

Another huge culprit? Not looking around your house before you do a ‘big shop’, says Kelliher: “People sometimes don’t look around the house to see what they have”, which can again lead to having more of the same item than you can possibly get through before it goes off.

2. Take the time to make a list (or shop online)

Before you set off, it’s worth investing a few minutes to make a list says Kelliher: “It keeps you on the straight and narrow and from buying unplanned items that you won’t actually use.” Kelliher also reminds that you’ll find great quality and value with local suppliers in the likes of farmers markets and butchers – and you get to ‘meet the makers’ which is a real bonus.

If you do really find that you struggle to come out with just what you went in for, Kelliher shares that a good way to avoid impulse buys is to do your shopping online. Other important tips include going anti-clockwise to the store layout: “You’ll pick up less and avoid impulse buys.”

3. Be more selective around your vegetable choices

katie-smith-104748-unsplash Source: Unsplash

If you think it tends to be meat that ends up being thrown out, you’d be surprised, which is shocking given our history says Kelliher. According to her, the two food items that tend to end up in the bin are green leaves and potatoes: “Potatoes tend to sprout easily if they’re not in the fridge so they end up being thrown out a lot.”

The same goes for the air miles our food often carry – it’s best to try to buy Irish if you’re concerned about this and at the minute items like turnips, beetroot, apples, broccoli and kale are in season while tomatoes and berries have not yet reached theirs. When it comes to non-Irish ingredients, certain items in your trolley can be harming the environment:

High demand for so-called superfoods like avocado can put pressure on the geographic location where they are grown, which can be devastating to the country’s own supply and result in deforestation.

4. If it’s near the use-by, cook or freeze

Especially if you tend to shop for the week at once, it can be very hard to buy exactly the right amount of food, but Kelliher says you can salvage this by either cooking it off or throwing it in the freezer if you find you don’t get a chance to cook one particular evening.

An even better way to avoid this (as meats tend to have the shortest use-by dates) is to think about how much meat you’re buying in the first place, says Kelliher:

We need to think about is do we need to buy as much meat as we do? Think about portion size and what our bodies require and consider alternatives like beans, peas, pulses and eggs, at least on some days. 

5. Think about your definition of ‘value’

One of the most important things you can do in relation to your weekly shop is to reconsider what’s most important to you when it comes to food – whether that’s price, health, convenience or the environment. While there’s no such thing as a perfect shop, value can mean different things to different people, explains Kelliher:

In our research, when it comes to how people choose their food, price tends to take priority, followed by health. When convenience is the priority, the food you buy tends to be more pricey and processed.

While it’s understandable to reach for convenience at times, Kelliher asks “do we need to have it seven days a week?” She reminds that “it’s way more expensive and you’re handing over control of what you feed yourself to someone else.”

6. If you have time, make your own sandwich fillings

shutterstock_444963034 Source: Shutterstock/Bhakpong

Speaking of research, Kelliher had a calculation of her own that changed the way she thought about shopping. When considering pre-sliced chicken, she found that the price tended to be between €14 per kilo and €33 per kilo, depending on whether you opted for branded or unbranded.

And though it’s not always possible, Kelliher says that if you are using your oven for something else like a roast, try to throw a chicken in at the same time. By preparing home-prepared chicken slices when you do have the time, great quality freshly roasted chicken can cost you as little as €9.30 a kilo: 

That choice for me is better for people, the planet and your pocket – which is the best value at the end of the day. The taste is way better, you know where it was reared and it’s cheaper per kilo.

7. If the price is the same, check the weight

Recently, Kelliher was in the supermarket and picked up two almost identical punnets of mushrooms – both from the exact same supplier and both priced at €1. However when she looked at the weight, she found the difference was 170g and 250g – making it an obvious choice for which was better value.

“I think what people miss sometimes is checking the price per kilo which is usually down in the bottom right hand corner of the price display”, says Kelliher. She says that it’s particularly worth checking on items with a long-ish shelf-life such as cheese.

8. Have a look at your receipts 

shutterstock_91416836 Source: Shutterstock/Julija Sapic

If you’re really looking to reel in your spending this year, it’s helpful to have a look at your current spending habits, says Kelliher:

Look at the items that you’re spending a lot of money on, maybe it’s animal protein. Do you need to eat meat 7 days a week or could you replace it with something cheaper like chickpeas or lentils?

Finally, Kelliher reminds that we actually have a huge amount of indirect control over the way that retailers sell food. This can cover everything from choosing more environmentally friendly packaging to opting for more Irish suppliers, where possible: 

The consumer has huge power in terms of influencing what’s on the shelves – the retailer will only put out what they’ll actually buy so make it work for you and your family.

Airfield Estate is a non-for-profit organisation which seeks to help inspire and enable people to make better food choices.  Open daily for people to visit, there’s a working farm, gardens, heritage centre and farm to fork restaurant. Here you can found out more about their activities and what’s on offer.

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