Gary Maclean: Chucking good food in the bin is a wasted opportunity

Scotland's national chef, Gary Maclean, serves up  top tips to help Scotland fight climate change. Picture: Stewart Attwood.
Scotland's national chef, Gary Maclean, serves up top tips to help Scotland fight climate change. Picture: Stewart Attwood.
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Scottish Government research shows that more than half of Scots think climate change is an immediate and urgent problem. As Scotland’s national chef, I’m urging those ­people to take action in their own homes to help tackle the issue.

Everyday changes can be anything from leaving the car and walking to work, to buying loose fruit and veg to reduce your plastic and food waste by only buying what we need.

The fight against climate change seems daunting because of the scale of the problem, so it’s important to show people that simple changes in our day to day lives can make a big difference.

More than half of food waste – a whopping 60 per cent – is avoidable, which means we’re throwing out food along with millions of tons of other rubbish that could easily be recycled or put to better use.

We can prevent excessive food waste by ­making small changes to the way we plan our meals, shop, cook and store our food. I recently joined forces with the Scottish Government’s Greener Scotland campaign to help people across the country do just that.

As a country, we’re getting better at recycling food waste – eight out of ten Scottish households are now able to dispose of their food waste in caddies provided by their local authorities. The next step is to reduce that food waste from the outset.

As a chef, keeping food waste to a minimum is a priority not only for the environment but for keeping costs down. The head chef at a restaurant can’t chuck out valuable food – that’s something we’re taught ­during ­training and it’s one of the ­lessons that I’ve taken home to my own ­family kitchen.

Zero Waste Scotland estimates that Scottish households bin 600,000 tons of food each year, most of which could have been eaten. That’s about £460 per household per year of good food that could otherwise be saved.

As a country, we waste 62,000 tonnes of vegetables every year, which is the equivalent of a whole weekly shop for every Scottish household.

The most commonly wasted foods include bread, fresh fruit and veg, but all those foods can be easily turned into tasty, nutritious meals. Household favourites like curry, stews and omelettes are great for using up ­leftovers but quick to ­prepare and you can throw almost anything into the pot.

My wife and I have five kids, which is a lot of mouths to feed. We plan our meals for the week ahead and try to make life as easy as possible. It takes less than 10 minutes to think through what you’re going to cook that week and write out a shopping list, but it means you only buy the things you need.

We can all do our bit to help make Scotland a cleaner and greener place to live. Planning our meals and food shop, storing food properly and reducing our own food waste is a great place to begin. It’s really that simple and you’ll save money as well as help the environment.

For more tips and information on making greener choices visit

Gary Maclean, Scotland’s national chef.