Did you know that Australians threw away $8 billion worth of food in 2012?
While a lot of that waste is linked to farms and food outlets, the average kitchen household still wastes over $1000 in food every year! Can you imagine the things we could put that money towards? I’m thinking a whole new LJ wardrobe!
This not only occurs in Australia – it has been reported that a whopping 40% of food produced globally will never be eaten.
Food wastage has deeper consequences than the monetary value. There are also many underlying environmental impacts that we need to consider, such as the amount of space the waste occupies, its enormous contribution to pollution and climate change (through the production of methane) as well as the waste of water, fuel and resources used to grow, feed and transport the food.
And what about the moral significance? Imagine how many hungry mouths $8 billion worth of food could nourish.
In our society, like many first world countries, everything is obtainable and disposable. If the microwave breaks, we replace it. If our car gets too old, we buy a new one. If our tomato has spots on it, we throw it in the bin. But we need to change our mind-set. We need to end the cycle of buy, discard and rebuy. We need to be smarter.
So what are some tips that we can use to reduce our food waste in the kitchen? To really consider how to reduce waste…
1.Learn how to store food properly to prevent food waste
- Store nuts, seeds, grains, and flours in your freezer
- Store dried herbs in your fridge
- Wrap leaves and fresh herbs in a clean, damp tea towel or chux cloth
- Store loaves of bread in the freezer
- Store oils and fats in your fridge (preferably in dark glass)
- Portion meat and store it in the freezer
- Rotate your fridge, freezer and pantry, pulling older food to the front, and placing newer food behind.
2. Be organised and plan meals to prevent food waste
- Have a weekly meal plan so you know exactly what to buy.
- Plan a meal at the end of the week (or before your grocery shopping day) where you can use up all leftover fruit and vegetables from the week. For example, a vegetable soup.
3. Utilise your garden/outdoor space to re-use food scraps
- Set up a compost bin or worm farm.
- Raise chickens (Think about all those beautiful fresh eggs!)
- Have your own veggie and herb patch where you can pick only what you need every time.
4. Be smart at the grocery store
- Buy only the amount you need, don’t be sucked into buying bulk if you won’t be able to use it all.
- Only buy small amounts of dried herbs and spices, and limit it to those herbs that you use often and love.
- Buy unpackaged foods, and reduce the use of plastic bags (i.e. don’t put two apples in a plastic bag, it may be better to leave them loose in the trolley).
- Buy ‘seconds’ of produce (which are often discarded as they are not ‘perfect’ in appearance, but still completely fine to eat).
5. Be smart at dinner time
- Manage portion sizes, only put on a plate what can be eaten.
- Excess food on plates can be scraped off and given to your pet dog (if dog-friendly).
- Freeze any meal leftovers or eat it for lunch the next day
6. Be smart around Christmas and Easter (the times when the most amount of food is wasted)
- Freeze any leftover food that can be frozen.
- Share the leftover food among family, friends and neighbours.
- Leave everyone to dish up his or her own plate during celebrations to reduce the amount of food waste..
7. Be smart when eating out
- Buy entrees or ask for a smaller serving size if you often cannot eat your entire meal otherwise, ask for a ‘doggy bag’ if you cannot eat all of your meal.
- Share a meal with your partner or a friend.
8. Learn what to do with food that’s getting ‘older’
- Grind up stale bread and crusts in a food processer to make breadcrumbs
- Make croutons by chopping up stale bread and crusts and baking them in the oven.
- Make a tomato sauce for pasta, lasagne, gravy etc. with old softening tomatoes.
- Older berries can be turned into berry coulis, pie or jam.
- Old fruit can be prepped and chopped into small chunks and frozen for a quick snack or to use in smoothies.
- Excess kale and silverbeet can be blanched, dried and frozen in portions to easily add to dishes.
- Ferment or pickle excess fruit and veggies.
- Collect and store cooked roast and chop bones in the freezer, until you have enough to make a bone stock out of.
9. Donate, don’t discard
- Any cans of food that you will not ever use (you know, that old can of corn that’s been lurking in the back of the pantry for what feels like a decade), and are still within its expiry date/safe to consume, give to a charity.
10. Learn to know when food really has gone bad
- Use your senses. If you are unsure whether a food has gone bad or not, look at it to see if you can see any noticeable mould etc., smell it, and as a last resort, if you have not noticed any changes, taste a tiny amount to see if it still tastes ok.
- Know the difference between best before and use by.
- Best before: the date before the quality of the food deteriorates. The food can generally be eaten after this date (if it has passed the sensory tests).
- Use by: the date that the food is recommended to be consumed by. Caution should be taken after this date. See here for more information.
Although it is not realistic to prevent all food waste, we have the power to reduce it.
How do you prevent food waste in your kitchen?