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A Magazine for Sheffield

Waste Not, Want Not

Zero waste shop The Bare Alternative and local food coop Regather share their top tips for reducing food waste in Sheffield.

We throw away many millions of tonnes of food and drink every year, much of which could have been consumed. Food production is increasingly costly – for the environment and for our bank balances – but with supermarkets turning out tonnes of packaging each year it's hard to know what we as individuals can do.

We can use up more of the ingredients we cook with, buy only what we need, and plan meals before we go shopping. But beyond this, there are many local groups, initiatives and traders in Sheffield who can help us save money and reduce waste, while also supporting more healthy systems of food production and consumption.

We spoke to Matthew from 'zero waste' store The Bare Alternative and Rachel from the Regather cooperative, who run a successful veg box scheme in the city, who told us more in their own words about how they are addressing these issues.

Bare alternative shop nuts

Mathew, The Bare Alternative

The concept of the Bare Alternative is to provide an affordable, package-free way of shopping for everyday groceries.

We offer a wide selection of wholefoods and cooking ingredients for making nutritious healthy meals, all available package-free, so make sure to BYOC (Bring Your Own Container).

We also sell a range of natural cleaning and personal care products, everyday sustainable alternatives and much more that will help you reduce waste and live a low waste lifestyle.

The zero waste part of the store allows anybody to bring whatever container they find most convenient, whether that is glass jars, plastic takeaway boxes, or whatever you may have handy.

Bringing your own packaging means that you can buy as much or as little as you need.

People frequently bring freezer zip lock bags as they are a lighter option; when they get home they transfer any ingredients they have bought into something more aesthetic.

Bringing your own packaging removes the need for single-use non-recyclable packaging waste that is hard to deal with, especially when [like in Sheffield] local authorities do not provide facilities to collect and meaningfully recycle these materials.

This goes a long way to reducing food packaging and waste, and keeping goods in airtight containers keeps things fresher for longer.

The Bare Alternative

332 Abbeydale Road, Nether Edge, S7 1FN.

Regather veg

Rachel, Regather

Regather are working to help make Sheffield food systems more sustainable and accessible.

We have around 550 weekly fruit and veg box customers at the moment. Instead of guessing what our customers might want to eat next week and ordering it to fill shop shelves, we plan in advance and order exactly what we need to fill our fruit and veg boxes. This means the amount of food waste is drastically reduced compared to a supermarket.

Any food that is wasted has two routes – it’s either donated to a local charity to be cooked into meals (think wonky bits of carrots or apples with too many bruises), or it's composted on the Regather farm, if the produce has arrived in an unfit state (e.g. mouldy fruit).

We use significantly less packaging than supermarkets.

We only sell organic fruit and vegetables which don’t have packaging, whereas in the supermarket you’ll find all organic produce pre-packaged, often in plastic bags.

We also reuse 90% of the cardboard boxes that the produce is delivered in. You can read my blog, about a supermarket trip to compare packaging for our veg boxes, if you want to know more.

Storing food is a big thing and doing it better will help reduce food waste.

Firstly, whether you’ve received your veg box or brought home produce from the shop, check what is the most ripe or the most likely to go bad first.

Prioritise using these items. Next, think about how you store your produce. For example, onions and bananas give off a gas that ripens other produce. If that’s not your aim, keep these away from other items.

Leaves that are dry when they are stored will last much longer than wet leaves, so think about when you wash your produce. (Eating Well has more tips on this.)

If you want to change your eating habits to protect the planet and your pocket, try to eat more vegetarian or vegan dishes each week. Regather volunteer Lisa loves Nigel Slater's recipe book Greenfeast - Autumn, Winter for recipes that are perfect for this time of year, heavy on the veggies and simple too.


57-59 Club Garden Road, Highfield, S11 8BU.

Other food waste reduction ideas

  1. Leftover beans or pulses can be turned into hummus and dips. Just add your favourite spices, garlic, oil and lemon juice.
  2. Adding parmesan rinds to risottos, pasta sauces and soups will give extra flavour. You can use chopped broccoli stalks in stir fries or cauliflower stalks in a curry.
  3. Bread is one of the most common items thrown away and stale bread can be used for some delicious recipes. Croutons are easy to make and add texture and flavour to salads and soups. (Cut leftover bread into bite sized chunks, toss in oil and any herbs or spices of your choice. Then bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for around 8 minutes, or until evenly browned.)
  4. If you have any sad looking vegetables in your fridge, don’t throw them away. Most veg is great for soup.
  5. Go to your local greengrocers and enjoy fresh produce when it’s at its best. You’ll find there’s less plastic and pre-packed fruit and veg too.
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