Ah...food, meal prep and weekly shops - where would we be without it? Richer, probably. With more time on our hands. But alas, a regular excursion to Aldi and bulk making of pasta bake is pretty necessary for student survival. We can’t go without food, however time consuming and expensive it may be. Let’s take a look at managing the food side of student life, and how it coincides with tackling food waste.
Saving money, eating better and fighting food waste surprisingly go hand in hand. Yes, students can be both eco-warriors and have some extra cash for some pints on a night out. For example, watching your diet, planning meals and eating well not only makes you feel good but also reduces buying any excess food which would just be chucked in the bin. Some people like to have a special meal prep notebook, but if that’s a bit much for you then taking a few minutes before you go shopping to think about what you need to get is really helpful. This could be a quick browse on BBC Good Food to note down which ingredients you need to buy.
As we’re coming to the end of first year, you might have already gotten into your food habits. When and where you go to do your shopping, who you eat with, and if you share meals with your flatmates. Going into second year and having more choice with who you live with could be good news to make even better habits and choices with your food. A food bag shared is a burden halved! Having a quick chat with your flatmates or housemates about bulk making food and buying things collectively can save an unimaginable amount of Tesco trips and unnecessary food waste! I’m sure we’ve all seen a kitchen in uni with five full ketchup bottles and twenty boxes of coco pops - mistakes which we can all learn from.
Now, what else can you personally do to reduce food waste? Think of discounts as your best friend. If you’re lucky, you can get a whole meal for less than a pound. It can even turn into a bit of a game, dashing around the orange labels at Sainsbury’s to grab a good bargain on some roast potatoes.
To take this a little bit further, if you’re up for some late night fun, you could try dumpster diving. It may sound a little gross, but some bins can be a mini treasure trove. Many UK supermarkets throw out perfectly good food which have just gone past the expiry date and non-perishable goods without a second thought. I’d recommend doing this during the autumn and winter months when the air is more fridge temperature. Who knows what you might find: jars of unopened jam, nearly new orange juice, pristine ready meals (although it can be a bit of a pick and mix sometimes).
Around 30% of all carbon emissions are produced by food waste. Whether you’re directly stopping food going into landfill or simply just being more conscious of what you’re eating, diet can help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle- looking after yourself and the planet. It’s such a tangible change we can make as individuals, and has great potential to make a massive change. The numbers of a student population and our daily habits do create a significant impact.
If you’re interested in more, check out the Food Waste project at Young Friends of the Earth Manchester. The ingredients you use and choose not to use (such as red meat) can often correlate to how pricey your shop is. We’re lucky in the UK that some of the cheapest ingredients to cook with are often the most sustainable and least expensive. For more inspiration and food ideas, follow accounts like @theveganunistudent on TikTok and Instagram.
Anisha Minocha is studying English and Spanish at the University of St Andrews. She is a passionate writer and poet whose work has been published in anthologies, magazines, blogs and won competitions. Contributing to Sink Magazine, she is keen to utilize the voice of young people and share work through her creative writing blog. As a climate activist, she has combined her love for words and the planet in a performance of spoken word at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 'Letters to the Earth'. She also co-runs Young Friends of the Earth: Manchester and has organised workshops, participated in panels and spoken at Manchester Cathedral.
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