I recently wrote an article highlighting key figures and restaurants within the Hospitality industry that I felt are contributing the most in the field of sustainability and resource management when it comes to food. The truth is, these guys have put time and research into their respective restaurants and establishments that have propelled them above and beyond the usual call of duty, and hence this makes them great examples to us chefs, diners, home cooks and foodies.
In this article, I want to share with you some small tips and tools that I think are amazing at minimising waste and promoting sustainability in the food chain, they have the added benefit of being easy to incorporate into your daily routine and lifestyle. Although I am a chef and passionate about the traceability of my food, I still have to do my weekly shop at the supermarket like most others, however, one of the big supermarkets got one thing right with their slogan - 'Every little helps' - right?
Anyone who knows me knows I don't mind spending time food shopping - although amongst friends and family I am definitely in the minority, most people I know want to be in and out of a shop as quickly as possible. This brings me to my small list of shopping tips; and indeed one could duly preach on about buying organic and local, but frankly there has been a lot of that and I appreciate us consumers will buy with what our wallets dictate - and mine regularly tells me that there is no way I can have a basketful of Harrods local, artisan-made, organic certified everything.
The rules I try to stick to are simple ones:
1. If there is a version produced in the UK, buy that one. Think things that should really be made or grown here - Apples, Carrots, Ham, Cheese - if it happens to be organic, free-range or have some label of quality assurance and is still affordable, then everyone is better for it.
2. Buy the most expensive UK milk you can afford and try not to buy milk from a cheap supermarket. Hard-working UK Dairy farmers should be looked after and ensuring you have the cheapest milk possible would be doing them a disservice.
Please watch the video above, it shows the dire situation with which Dairy Farmers have been put into as a result of corporate spending power and supermarket price wars.
3. Vote with your feet - okay, you may be used to buying your same big brand crisps or chocolate bars every week but instead you could give your money to a smaller supplier or independent shop for a treat in the week (I'm not going to get into the scandalous tax avoidance schemes by large corporations!).
See our friends at The Crunch below producing premium batch-baked granola delivered to your door in London @ £1.33/100g compared with some premium supermarket brands @ £1-£1.70/100g. Check out Lyds Produce (the amazing Elderflower Cordial pictured in the first photo above) - Dorset-based, but they may be willing to ship further afield.
4. Eat healthier - finally, less meat and fish, in general, can put less strain not only on your wallet (animal proteins are horrendously expensive for what you get - at least on a poor chefs budget), but also it can help your general health and well-being. Believe me, I am not one to talk about healthy eating at all but these are the facts (I love animal fat as much as the next person). The best bottom line, however, is that rearing animals and catching fish puts immense pressure on the environment in terms of land, ocean, fuel, food resources, and a general lessening of consumption by a small amount can only be a good thing.
These I think are simple rules to shop smarter. To give you an idea, I recently was excited by a yoghurt I bought from one of the big four supermarkets (let's face it we all can't just shop at small independent stores all the time - that would be ludicrous), it was a Yeo Valley 'Left-Yeovers' yoghurt - apparently taking leftover fruit from production and utilizing it to make the yoghurt, all white giving a small portion of money to charity. I would normally buy a big pot of yoghurt for the week anyway so this is a good example of a larger company doing some good to combat food waste - I'm in - and I'm sure it doesn't hurt their profit margins either to make a product from food set for the bin! My advice is take an extra five minutes to calculate your costs and look at the food you are buying when you are next out, it will help you to shop smarter, potentially cheaper and hopefully more sustainably. A.