Food should be viewed as a valuable commodity, and reducing food waste must be a high priority for all of us. Our lives revolve around food. We use food to socialise, to show love or appreciation as well as just nourishing our bodies. Food is central to our everyday lives but in the western world we take its easy availability for granted. The amount of food waste in the western world is staggering.
Many of us know we waste too much food, but our habits are quite ingrained. Often, I buy too much fresh produce and then don’t get around to actually making anything with it. I then find my vegetables or other produce is no longer edible.
I have been dealing with this by composting my green waste which is a great way to recycle it. The worms love this! However, there is a carbon footprint attached to the food we buy. By wasting it, we are contributing to carbon emissions unnecessarily. Not to mention the money we could be saving if we wasted less food.
According to OzHarvest Australians waste over 7.3 million tons of food each year with a cost to the economy of $20 billion. That equates to about 298 kgs of foodwaste per person!
Foodwaste accounts for 8% of greenhouse gasses globally. Reducing food waste is the 3rd most effective way of addressing climate change.
Given the impacts of food waste, it needs to be urgently addressed
I am currently working to minimize my own food waste. It is very achievable with a little bit of organisation and planning. As a child, I often had meals made up of left overs. Mum used leftovers to make patties served with mash potatoes and baked beans. So delicious! It was normal to be frugal in the 1960’s and 70’s as people did not have the high standard of living many of us have today, and many still remembered food rationing during World War 2.
Food security is taken for granted, but in the coming years with global warming and the possibility of pandemics affecting livestock there may be shortages. The current farming systems are not sustainable, but if we all reduced our food waste, the need for farms to produce so much would also be reduced.
So, Let’s Get Started!
The first thing to do is to clean out and organise your fridge, freezer and pantry. You may be surprised to see what is lurking in the depths!
Organising the pantry can be done cheaply
Set up the pantry into sections of the same or similar things. I like to have all my dried ingredients such as beans, pasta, cereals, grains, nuts, sultanas etc on one shelf, and another section for canned items. Herbs, spices, oils and my baking ingredients are on another shelf.
Clean everything out of the pantry and fridge. Get rid of anything that is past its use by date or spoiled. This shouldn’t be an issue if you are using your pantry items within a few months. Its a good idea to shop more regularly and buy less ingredients than to have too much stuff in the fridge or pantry that you may never use or even forget is there!
Shop locally at farmers markets for fruit and vegetables and only buy enough for a few days. This ensures freshness as it is produced locally and hasn’t been in cold storage for months. Getting small amounts of food shopping 2-3 times weekly means perishables don’t have time to spoil before you use them. You are eating more nutritious meals as you are using the produce quickly after buying it.
Remember, frozen food doesn’t keep well indefinitely
Check the freezer to find out how long items have been stored. Most food only stores well for 3-6 months, although fruit and vegetables may be fine for up to 12 months. Its wise to date items and put them in the freezer with the most recent foods at the back.
Organisation in the fridge is crucial as I have found out from experience! Store meat or fish on the lowest shelf so it doesn’t contaminate other food if any liquid drains out. As with the pantry, group similar foods on the same shelf. This will make it easier to find what you need and also to see if you need to buy more.
There are storage containers available for the fridge to make stacking and finding food easier. Clear sided containers work well. Try looking in charity shops for glass or used plastic containers which you can use instead of buying new ones.
If you do buy new ones, try to find containers which are recyclable.
How not to buy too much food!
I have a habit of going to the supermarket for one or two things and coming out with a lot more as I usually only have a list in my head!
So I have decided to reform and get into reducing my food waste by completing my Weekly Meal Planner. I can then make a shopping list to ensure I only buy what I need to make those meals.
Download this free meal planner with shopping list
Check what ingredients you already have before deciding on your menu
Prior to deciding what meals you are going to prepare for the week, check the ingredients you already have. Try to find suitable recipes to use them which will reduce your shopping bill and ensure you are not stockpiling food. You will only be buying ingredients if additional are needed for recipes you have planned.
Also if you are regularly checking what food you have, you will notice when items are getting near to their use by date. If you do notice and realize you wont be using that particular item, you could donate it to a food bank or homeless charity rather than letting it go to waste.
You may find it hard to figure out a menu for a week
There is nothing wrong with having favourite recipes and repeating meals week to week. This is often easier than trying to come up with a brand new menu. Perhaps just add a few new meals each week. This will also make shopping quicker and easier if you are using similar ingredients each week. If you are time poor, plan to cook in bulk regularly and freeze meals so reducing the need to prepare so many meals during the working week.
Put aside a few hours on the same day each week, (the weekend is a good time for this) to go through your recipe books or magazines to plan the menu and shopping list for the coming week.
As you get used to doing this, you might feel confident to branch out a bit and try more new recipes. The goal is to keep food waste to a minimum, so also experiment with making meals with any leftovers at least once a week.
Check out another blog for tips when shopping to keep waste to a minimum at the supermarket
Enjoy the process and the savings from buying less food!