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Sustainability for the Student Budget: How to Counter Food Waste at University

The Food and Drink team delve into the issue of food waste at university to offer their top tips for becoming a sustainable student.

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Image Credit: Seniatram1, Pixabay.

As students, the term ‘sustainability’ permeates our routine daily. Seminars are often filled gleefully with a sea of reusable cups and the issue of non-recyclable PPE is countered by cotton masks. Speaking more broadly on behalf of the student community, a shift towards plant-based diets is prevalent, as supported University-wide through vegetarian/vegan outlets and menu alternatives.

However, in spite of our collective consciousness, there are still some areas where sustainability still presents a challenge – namely, sustainable eating in the student home. Fresh food and vegetables at supermarkets are still shrouded in plastic. In particular, options most suitable for a student budget and convenience amidst an inevitably busy schedule.

In response to this, the Food and Drink editors have curated a list of tips and tricks on how to start making small incremental changes to your food consumption. From home planning to your own sustainable shopping guide, food waste in your student houses will soon become a thing of the past.

Sustainable Shopping

Scoop: The Student Co-operative (‘Scoop’) is a fantastic student-led initiative which aims to reduce waste and squander plastic on a student budget. Based in the heart of Wentworth, Scoop opens every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to offer York staff and students a plethora of sustainable options. Main products include the essential pasta and grains, as well as beans, spices, nuts, dried fruit and non-dairy milks. However, Scoop has expanded their scope over the years to offer a more diverse selection, including organic fruit and vegetable boxes which can be collected weekly.

For those who are not familiar with York’s postgraduate college, the Scoop committee curated this helpful video guide to show you the way to the store. Be sure to follow their social media pages for updates on opening hours and organic boxes! You can access the video here:
Find Scoop on the YUSU website:

The Bishy Weigh, Bishopthorpe: In addition to the University co-operative, the Bishy Weigh at Bishopthorpe offers a similar option with the advantage of being a larger enterprise. Located near the train station, the Bishy Weigh offers all the goodness of the Scoop with the added bonus of sustainable homeware products. Most exciting is their range of sanitisers and cleansers, ranging from toilet cleaner to de-greasers and disinfectants. The cleaning utensils themselves? The Bishy Weigh stock a number of different options made from materials such as bamboo and coconut husk. This also extends to certain toiletries, so why not treat yourself to some plastic-free conditioning bars or bath fizzers next time you need to restock?

For more information on independent outlets such as The Bishy Weigh, ‘Indie York’ is a helpful and frequently updated source which includes a user-friendly map and information on opening times. You can search the Indie York directory here:

Sustainability at Home

Though all of these initiatives are amazing, it’s important to remember sustainability starts at home. It’s brilliant to shop sustainably, but if half that food goes to waste anyway- things aren’t going as great as you’d like! There are many ways you can make small changes in your household that help the environment and get you more for your money.

Meal planning: One of the simplest changes you can make happens before you’ve even stepped foot in the supermarket.  As students, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of aimlessly wandering around a supermarket picking up random items, or even putting off the dreaded ‘big’ shop and ‘grabbing a few bits’ from the corner shop every couple of days to keep you going. Though sometimes the comfortable grasp of convenience feels like it’s easier, there’s more benefits than you might think to sitting down and making a proper meal plan before visiting the shops. Planning means that you can think in advance about which ingredients might appear in more than one meal, to reduce food waste and also save money. If you know you’re buying an item for a specific meal, think about what other meal you can make that week to incorporate that ingredient too.

Reinvent your leftovers: Don’t forget, leftovers do not have to be boring! Get creative with the remaining ingredients you have. Whether you cook them off and make into a hearty soup, freeze them to use another day, or even turn them into a whole new meal - there are more possibilities than you think for you to make the most of every part of your ingredients.

Your freezer is your best friend: If you’re anything like me, you might randomly get a craving for toast one day but won’t use the rest of the loaf - you can freeze the whole loaf and defrost what you need as and when. The same goes for reduced items in the shops, there’s so many occasions when items are reduced because they have reached their sell-by date and you can pick up a bargain that can live in the freezer until you need to use it . It’s also important to know the difference between your dates, whilst you should pay attention to use buy dates, particularly on high risk foods, best before dates have a lot more flexibility - especially with fresh vegetables! When you’re planning your meals make sure you're using ingredients in the order in which they go out of date. One show I found really useful in challenging my mindsets surrounding shopping and meal planning was the BBC’s Eat Well For Less, there’s tons of recipe inspiration and it amazes you how easy some simple lifestyle swaps can make a massive difference, not only to the planet but also to your health and your bank balance!

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