Members co-operate to tackle food waste

700 words approx. 3 minutes to read.

In 2018 we launched our Future of Food ambition – our recipe for sustainability that sets out our plan to 2030 to protect people and the planet.

We know our members are passionate about sustainability, and we’re listening to and working with them to drive change together.

Since the launch of Future of Food, thousands of members have joined in with Co-op to share their frustrations with, and their ideas and priorities for, packaging, Fairtrade and most recently food waste.

In fact, we received so many suggestions for what both Co-op and members could do to tackle food waste at home, where 70% of the UK’s total food waste is created, that we made a small step into the world of citizen science – enlisting members to help us sift through the ideas to create a shortlist of the best.

Last month we shared this shortlist back with members and asked them to rank and feedback on the ideas, so that we could better understand the small tips that they most valued. We also recruited some members who will test out these ideas at home over a few weeks, to see what impact they have on reducing food waste.

Members’ top five food waste tips

  • Before you write your weekly shopping list, check what is in the cupboard, fridge and freezer. Find the dates on packages and decide what needs to be used up soon. Move those items to the front and plan a meal using those items. It will save food waste and money as you won’t need to buy too many extra items.
  • Plan meals before you do your main shop.
  • Use your freezer and batch cook meals.
  • If you have a local store convenient to you, try shopping little and often, for the day rather than the week so you buy only what you need and will use.
  • If you won’t get through a whole loaf of bread before it goes stale, freeze some slices. Can be put straight in the toaster from frozen. You can even freeze sandwiches and take out of the freezer in the morning for lunch – this works well for packed lunches (avoid things which the texture will be negatively affected, e.g. fresh leaves).

Members’ waste-reducing recipes

And members’ also shared with us how they used up perishables to ensure that they are able to keep their food waste to a minimum.

“Turn stale bread into breadcrumbs and freeze, mix breadcrumbs, grated cheese and parsley together and use as a topping for cottage pie or a chicken casserole, put on top ten minutes before serving until cheese has melted and topping is golden brown.” June Peake, a member from Altrincham

“I like making banana bread and other cakes with left over fruit. Also giving some leftovers to my neighbour as she uses them to make jam and other condiments. We tend to share a lot of things if we are unsure if they’ll be finished.” Kim Hunter, a member from Edinburgh

“Broth is amazing and uses up so much. Think it’s a ‘Geordie’ thing but soak split peas overnight and add them to a massive pan with boiling water and a couple of veg stock cubes, cut up bacon, gammon or a joint and then put veg in – I like leeks, turnip, carrots, parsnips and a little sweet potato – don’t blend it, just eat it as is! Great for batch cooking and freezing.” Emma Anderson, a member from Morpeth

We already do some amazing work to reduce food waste in Co-op stores through Food Share, in our operations and through food labelling, and by co-creating solutions with members we will make a much bigger difference to food waste at home. This co-operative approach is central to our Future of Food ambition and will be absolutely key to delivering against our goal of reducing food waste from farm to fork by half, so a huge ‘thank you’ from me to all the members who have and who will continue to be involved in this activity.

If you’re interested in food sustainability issues, why not take a look at our ‘Future of Food: One Year On’ report to find out more about the progress we’re making towards our goals.

Or, if you’re a member who’d like to get more involved in your Co-op, why not take a look at the opportunities to Join In that are available right now?

Helen Seed
Comms & Campaigns Manager – Food Policy