We need to talk about food waste

Roughly one-third of the food we produce annually is never eaten.

Just let that sink in for a second.

As a society, we have become so disconnected from our food system that we have forgotten all of the resources that went into making it, at every stage, and getting it onto our plates that we have just stopped valuing it.

We use land and water to produce crops. They are transported to factories where they are processed. Then transported from there to be packaged. Finally, packaged items are transported to store. And then we end up throwing a third of it away. 

When you consider that between April 2018 and March 2019 a record 1.6m food bank parcels given to people in the UK (Trussell Trust), it’s obscene. 

Some more facts to shock and disgust you (if I have to be depressed about the state of the world, I’m taking you down with me!):

  • If wasted food were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of carbon dioxide.
  • Food waste generates about 3.3 BILLION tons of carbon dioxide.
  • The annual value of food wasted globally is $1 trillion, and it weighs 1.3 billion tonnes.
  • 25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.
  • An area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • The average UK family is wasting nearly £60 a month by throwing away almost a whole meal a day – that’s £720 a year!

So where does it all go? 

Well, most of it just ends up in our regular bins and then in landfill. 

What happens to food waste in landfill? 

“Food waste is mostly organic material, composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen along with small amounts of some other elements. In a landfill, this organic material is buried and when this happens, microorganisms begin to break it down in a process known as ‘anaerobic digestion’. This is digestion in the absence of oxygen. The microorganisms derive energy from this to support their life cycle however as a by-product of this process, greenhouse gases (methane, carbon dioxide) are produced. If these gases are not captured they are released into the atmosphere. (https://disruptiveenvironmentalist.com/what-happens-to-food-waste-in-landfills-the-full-environmental-impact/)

The gas produced is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide!

It’s well and truly time to stop this madness so……what can you do?

The good news is that now you are aware of this problem, there are actually lots of things that you can do to reduce food waste.

My Top Tips

  1. Eat at home more – the restaurant business is a MASSIVE generator of wasted food. When you do eat out, only order what you can eat. If the portion is too big, take your leftovers home (and eat them!). 
  2. Grow your own food – this is not an option for everyone as it requires some space and time but if you do have a garden, home grown veggies taste incredible and work out so much cheaper than store bought. After seeing the effort that goes into producing just a handful of tomatoes or strawberries, you will have a newfound respect for food! Even if you don’t have a lot of space for vegetables, pretty much anyone can pot some herbs in your garden/balcony/kitchen so you have lovely fresh herbs to hand and you don’t need to go to the supermarket. Start with your favourite one and see how you get on.
  3. Store your food properly – a big part of why we throw food away is because we don’t store it properly and it spoils before it’s time. My favourite place for storage tips and kitchen “hacks” is Pinterest. There are so many amazing ideas there.
  4. Avoid a “big shop” if you tend to have a very busy schedule – did you know that bagged salad is one of the most thrown out items in British households? When I first heard that I wasn’t surprised at all and have thrown away many a sad bag of soggy leaves. I never know if I will have to work late, transport will be a disaster or last minute drinks with colleagues will come up so I only buy what I am going to cook in the next day or two to avoid forgetting what’s there and having to throw it out. 
  5. Use your freezer – If your fruit or vegetables are on the verge of going off, freeze them. Kale and spinach are great to have on hand for smoothies or curries for some extra nutrients. Frozen bananas make delicious vegan “nice cream“.
  6. “Rescue” food before it’s thrown away: there are lots of innovative programmes popping up in an attempt to collect and redistribute food that might otherwise go to waste.
    1. Olio – OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from your baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away. For your convenience, OLIO can also be used for non-food household items too.
    2. Karma – Karma is a Swedish startup founded in Stockholm, November 2016. The app connects surplus food from restaurants, cafes and grocery stores to consumers for a lower price. As a result, users eat great food for less and businesses receive an additional revenue stream — all while reducing food waste.
    3. Approved food – specialise in surplus and short-dated stock, food that is either near or just passed its ‘best before’ date – allowing us to pass on huge savings to our customers.
    4. Oddbox – “20-40% of produce in the UK is wasted before it even leaves the farms meaning a lot of unnecessary waste for the planet, a raw-deal for producers and a whole wonky world of missed opportunities for people like us to eat. Determined to battle food waste and give ugly, wonky veg a better, more beautiful future, they visited farms, talked to producers and came up with the idea for Oddbox. “
  7. Reduce your waste by using everything up: Read “More Plants, Less Waste” by Max La Manna for tips on using up everything amazing recipes and ideas for using up everything so there is less to throw away/compost in the first place
  8. Compost – Not every borough in London has a composting programme (10 boroughs don’t collect, 16 don’t collect from flats). If you don’t have composting in your area this is what you can do email your MP and the local council and request it. The more people who ask, the more pressure they will be under to provide it. Council tax is ridiculously high and this is exactly the kind of issue that councils were set up to tackly. To find out how to compost at home follow Amelia Barnes (@ameliakbarnes) on Instagram who has tons of information in her story highlights and on her website.
  9. Clean your recycling – Wash your plastic, cans etc before throwing them in the recycling bin to ensure no rotting food waste is left and causing gas to release as it decomposes.

Read: More Plants, Less Waste by Max Lamanna

Follow: @maxlamanna, @ameliakbarnes, @zerowastecook

Low waste (and low cost) skin-care swaps

In my quest to create less waste and spend less money, I’ve actually discovered several skin care swaps that have my skin feeling better than ever.

Ice roller -> lavendar infused ice cube

Ice rollers or jade rollers have been popping up on social media a lot of late with beauty bloggers swearing by them. The supposed benefits include

•reducing puffiness

•increasing bloodflow

•reducing appearance of pores

I have no idea if any of that is based on fact but I kinda loved the idea of rolling something cold all over my face! 🤣

A “sustainability influencer” suggested making your own by adding a drop of essential oil into ice cubes so I tried it and loved it. I use it every morning now. It helps me wake up and I feel like it reduces any puffiness. Also, smells amaaaazing. Cheap and easy to do but it feels like a luxury!

Oil-based cleanser -> Almond oil

Every night, I remove my makeup up (which is typically just tinted moisturiser and mascara these days) with Sweet Almond Oil and a hot face cloth. Just work the oil into your skin for a minute or two and then remove with a face cloth (mine are bamboo)you’ve run under the hot water tap. It’s dreamy!

After that, I wash with a facial cleansing bar to make sure my face is properly clean.

Then, cos I’m fancy AF, I spritz my face with some Rosewater.

Serum -> homemade oil blend

Instead of a super expensive serum, I made my own blend of Sweet Almond Oil and Argan Oil (50/50) with a couple of drops of frankincense. I read that frankincense has anti-aging properties and I have no idea whether or not that is total bullshit but it smells good and I cross my fingers!

Homemade scrub

Once a week, I exfoliate with a homemade honey and brown sugar scrub.

It’s so cheap and easy to make and if I accidentally get any in mouth, it tastes fab!

Homemade body butter

For years, I just used Palmers Cocoa butter and it was the only thing that I felt worked. I have pretty dry skin especially here in London where the water is really hard (I actually really miss the humidity of Taiwan!).

That was until I tested out this recipe that I came across on Instagram over the Christmas holidays.

You take equal parts;

• Shea butter

•Cocoa butter

•Coconut oil

Put them in a glass bowl and place over a saucepan of water. Boil the water and wait for your mixture to melt. Once it’s melted, let it cool for a few mins and then pop it in the freezer to solidify it a little. When it’s started to solidify around the edges, take it out and use a whisk to whip it up. When you have a nice fluffy consistency transfer it to a jar. I use a salsa jar because I eat chips and salsa at an alarming rate and always have a ton lying around my kitchen! You can also add a couple of drops of essentail oil if you want to make it scented.

Tranistioning from “normal” moisturiser to oil did cause some breakouts for a couple of weeks but I’ve now followed this regime since last summer and my skin is happier than it has been in years!

Let me know if you try any of these and how you get on with them.

Anxiety

I was going to write about staying motivated to save this week but truth be told, I’m not feeling motivated to do anything at the moment thanks to my old pal, anxiety.

My anxiety is a real bitch because it keeps changing the way it manifests and catching me off guard. When I think I’ve figured out the best coping strategy and I’m feeling good, boom. Anxiety changes its strategy. It’s basically The Many-Faced God.

My anxiety is currently playing the role of Total Overwhelm.

I have felt constantly overwhelmed now for over a month and am really struggling to get a handle on it. It seems like there are never enough hours in the day and I always feel like I’m neglecting someone or something.

It’s especially frustrating because I enjoy all of the things I’m doing. I love my job, writing, dancing, seeing friends, travelling. The problem is that there is always so much going on and I constantly want to push the pause button to catch my breath.

My thoughts come in thick and fast and don’t stop so it’s difficult to focus. There are too many to sort through and organise. I end up with ‘task paralysis’ where everything seems equally important and daunting and I don’t know where to start so I just, don’t. Even the smallest “clutter” can tip me over the edge. Physical, mental and electronic. When my anxiety is heightened I notice dishes in the sink, emails that haven’t been filed, post that hasn’t been read, my podcast queue being too long, desktop unorganised, too many open tabs in my browser, laundry piling up. Somehow all manner of clutter affects me equally and I start to feel really claustrophobic.

I want to meditate more, cook more healthy meals, do more yoga, write more. But even these things that I do to reduce my stress are beginning to causing me stress because they are extra tasks and I feel pressure (from myself) to find extra time somewhere to do them. If you’re not an anxious person you probably think that sounds ridiculous but if you’re anything like me, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about!

It’s been building for weeks and now the other symptoms are creeping in. I feel impatient and short tempered. I’m tired. I want to retreat. My chest feels tight. I feel guilty. I feel inadequate. I feel crowded. I have butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat.

To reduce the overwhelm in general, I am on a mission to just simply my life wherever possible. At the moment, though, there are a couple of key things I know will make a significant difference.

  1. Telling someone – kinda covering this by default through this blog but ordinarily, I would reach out to a close friend and just say, I’m struggling a bit at the moment and need to vent. A problem shared and all that.
  2. Sleeping at least 8 hrs every night – anxiety knackers me! It always comes with physical symptoms for me and that just adds to the tiredness and makes it harder to get things back under control. I will be putting my ass to bed for 9.30 on school nights until further notice!
    3 . Taking a break from alcohol – I haven’t been drinking a lot (certainly a lot less than in my 20’s!) but I find that even one drink can exacerbate my anxiety the next morning. This is actually one of the things I expect to make the biggest difference
  3. Limit social media – the phone is going on aeroplane mode at 9 pm for a while.
  4. Swap TV for reading in the evening – I bloody love TV. So many amazing shows but the blue light from the screen definitely affects my ability to fall asleep and my sleep quality.
  5. Going for walks at lunch – the sun has finally graced us with its presence and London is looking buff. I will be making a huge effort to get out for at least mins at lunch every day to just enjoy and stretch my legs.
  6. Journalling – a few months ago, I started doing “Morning Pages”. It’s basically where you write first thing in the morning and just write whatever comes to mind, like a stream of consciousness. My anxiety is always worst in the morning so this really helps me to kind of unload a ton of my thoughts.

Anxiety is not only super common, but it’s also a bit of a chameleon and you may not even realise you have it or that it’s changed its tactics. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed all the time, even when you’re busy. Share how your feeling, ask for some help and take some steps to getting the rest and recuperation you need.

(The savings post is almost done, I just need to edit it, so I aim to have it up next week.)

How I Got Out of Debt

When I moved to London, I had some savings but not very much and I quickly burned through what I had.

Up to that point, I hadn’t learned very good habits with money but I had also never needed much for what I wanted to do. I travelled a lot and the cost of living was always affordable wherever I landed.

Getting into almost £10k debt was a combination of learned behaviours and a big change in living situation. I’d just spent four years in Taiwan, city with a low cost of living and great wages (for foreigners), and arrived in London which has pretty terrible pay comparatively and a sky high cost of living.

I had a number of core beliefs about money and about how I ‘should’ be living. To me l, money was never abundant and the lack of it a constant source of stress. My belief was that there would never be enough of it and making ends meet would always be a challenge.

When I arrived in London, I was about to turn 30 and wanted to to appear to be living a lifestyle of a 30 year old and not of a broke student. In Taiwan, I’d lived comfortably and still been able to afford to go on holidays and go out every weekend. In London, my first job was as a temp and I wasn’t even making enough for rent!

I had to buy winter clothes when I arrived because I didn’t have any and quickly developed a shopping habit I couldn’t afford. In hindsight, I think I believed looking the part of a 30 year old who has it all together would help me get it together!

On top of that, I didn’t have many friends and was struggling with loneliness missing my friends in Taiwan so I had to get out and about. I felt like I had very few choices; I could stay in and save money alone and depressed or I could go out and try to make friends and end up in debt and also be depressed. I opted for the latter because being depressed and lonely is worse than being depressed and broke but with some friends and fun included!

It was all an absolute shit storm for my mental health and I had worse anxiety and depression than Id ever experienced. I felt trapped in my job, trapped in my living situation and full of resentment towards anyone and everyone who appeared to be thriving in London.

Before I knew it I’d managed to get myself over £9k in debt and also needed a dental implant that was going to cost me over £2k. 😮

I had a maxed out credit card, a maxed out overdraft and two loans I’d taken out in attempts to consolidate the debt. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing!

So how was I going to get myself out of it?

I first had to admit that my relationship with money wasn’t healthy and that it needed to change. Second, I needed to get really focussed and disciplined about cutting back and living well within my means.

I had to admit that one of my main problems was that I bought too many clothes and I couldn’t blame everything on London prices or charity work being relatively lower pay.

I had to earn more money and spend less.

So I made it my business to learn as much about money as I could. As soon as I started reading, I realised how little I knew and how empowering getting my finances under control could be. I read blogs and articles, followed IG accounts and listened to podcasts. I probably became really annoying because once I’m interested in something, I get a bit obsessed!

My anxiety reduced almost immediately when I realised that I did have the power to get myself out of the situation I’d put myself in. There were lots of resources and groups out there to help me and there were 100s of things I could do to save money and make extra cash.

How I did it……

First things first- Get a full picture of your finances

Write everything down!

Calculate your total debt

It can be scary but if you are going to pay it off, you need to know what you are working with.

Calculate all your income

Salary + any additional income you have coming in

Calculate all your expenditure

Every penny. You need to know how much you spend on every single category so you can see where you can easily cut back. There may be some really easy ones to get you started like daily coffees and other little things that add up fast.

Spend less – Cut back where you can

Separate your expenditure into two categories: Essential and Discretionary

1.Essentials

Essentials are things you CANNOT avoid. Not Starbucks coffee on the way to the office 😂

Rent

Phone bill

Utility bills

Transport/car expenses

Loan payments

Medical bill or prescriptions

Groceries

Can you save on any of these?

Could you move to a smaller place and save on rent?

Could you save by selling your car and downsizing to a cheaper model?

Are you getting the best deal on your utility bills? Or phone provider? (I saved £20 a month on my bill AND got a new phone by finding a better deal through moneysavingexpert.com and switching providers).

You can save a lot on your groceries by planning ahead what you are going to cook and what you need, making a list (and sticking to it!), swapping name brands for supermarket own brands, going to the shops with a full stomach

2.Discretionary

Discretionary spending is all non-essentials. If you are in a lot of debt and struggling to make ends meet, you might have to cut most of these back for a couple of months to get yourself to a more stable place. If that sounds scary, don’t worry I will be posting lots of tips on how to look after your mental health for zero cost to get you through!

Memberships/subscriptions (Spotify, Netflix, gym)

Eating out

Shopping

Donations (help yourself first and then you can help others!)

Make your budget.

Your income – your essential expenditure = what you have left to pay off your debt/save/have fun

If this is all new to you, you won’t go far wrong with Dave Ramsey! I also use his Zero Based Budget https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-to-make-a-zero-based-budget

Earn more

Once you are cutting back and throwing as much as you can at you debt, you can start to think about ways to earn more and get it paid off even quicker.

Could you get a new job with a better salary?

Are you due for a promotion?

Do you have a spare room you can rent out?

Do you have a car?

Can you teach online?

This is a list of the things I did to make more money and pay off my debts quicker

  • Sold some clothes and other items at home that I was no longer using. I used Schpock and Facebook market place as both platforms are free and for local use. Instead of posting things, I arranged to meet with people and exchange the items. I have also used both to buy some second hand things.
  • Matched betting – I read about matched betting in a couple of blogs and decided to give it a go. Matched betting is a way of taking advantage of the free credits that online gambling websites give you. It’s totally legal and a great way to make money. It takes a bit of getting used to and you will definitely need a tool to help you in the beginning. I use Profit Accumulator www.profitaccumulator.co.uk/, which had tutorial videos, software to help you choose best and calculate your profit. I made £1,800 in two months which was a MASSIVE help! I took a break for a couple of months but went back to it recently to earn some extra money for travelling in 2019.
  • Switched bank accounts to earn a ‘bribe’ of £200 (check out moneysavingexpert.con for up to date bank bribes.)
  • Moved my credit card balance to a 0% card to reduce the interest. At the time, I was also awarded £25 cashback for switching. (moneysavingexpert.com is a great resource for keeping up to date with the best offers)
  • OhMyDosh – is a website where you can take surveys, sign up for free trail to earn money- so far, I’ve made over £100 on there doing free trials.
  • YouGov – through surveys on YouGov I earned £50. It did take about 6 months though so this is not a fast cash option! I did the surveys mostly during my commute to kill time and was delighted to learn that you can keep going to earn another £50. I have also done some YouGov focus groups which oten pay up to £60 for a two hour session

I did have a few challenges on the way – I had to move house (for the 6th time in 3.5 years….) and on top of moving costs, my rent increased as well. I also burned my leg really badly in the summer and spent over £200 on taxis to hospital and doctors appointments as well as a considerable amount ordering in food and buying medication and bandages because I had just moved in, had no food in the house and wasn’t able to walk. The combination of these two things burned through the majority of my emergency savings, which was disheartening but it was an emergency and that is exactly what I needed it for! It was a shame that it was spent almost immediately after it was saved but I was so glad it was there and for the first time, I wasn’t using credit to cover an unexpected event. I’ve since replenished my £1,000 emergency fund and now I’m working on having 2-3 months of expenses.

Living within or below your means isn’t always fun when you don’t make a lot of money but it’s honestly reduced my stress so much that’s it worth it! I would love to travel more, have nicer clothes, go out to dinner more, buy a house, go to more concerts but I can’t afford that lifestyle right now and the only way I will is by finding ways to make more money. That’s the next step!