When it comes down to it, the food you waste is food that you paid for, or that you or someone else worked hard to grow. Throwing out odds and ends or forgetting about the food in your fridge until it is too far gone to eat means throwing money in the bin. It also means more food waste in our landfills and methane in the atmosphere. Here are 10 ways to cut food waste. In turn you could save a lot of money on your food bill and other household items by taking these measures.
- Make a weekly menu plan and shop accordingly
When we shop without a plan or a list, we tend to get too much, which leads to waste, or not enough, which leads to another shopping trip in which we can over-spend. If you know what meals you’re preparing for the week, then you know what you need and you are far less likely to over-buy. Plan your meals according to what happens during the week, the weather, whatever you need to do.
- Pick your produce carefully
Even I am guilty of picking fruit and vegetables haphazardly, not even pausing to inspect them as I try to juggle baby, bags and a trolley. But buying produce in good condition is essential to ensure that they last the week or until the next shop, that they are good to eat and so they don’t get wasted. I’ve had a lot of slightly too ripe stone fruit that has gone mouldy within 24 hours of purchase and had to be immediately binned. Buy carefully, picking meat, fish, vegetables and fruit for their apparent quality. Check out our A to Z guide to selecting fruit.
- Store your groceries more effectively
Just like careful selection, the storage of your produce is important. Refer to MamaBake’s A-Z guide to storing fruit and vegetables. As for meat, store it on the bottom shelf of your fridge, preferably on a plate and within only one plastic bag so that air circulation is still possible. The reason for storing it on the bottom is because if on a higher shelf, if an accident happens and meat juices start dripping off the shelf, it will cross contaminate everything underneath. Often the bottom shelf is the widest and most secure of all fridge shelves with less possibility of drips going under. This is also why you should employ a plate. For fish, remove from the paper wrappings, keep in plastic and also put on a plate. Small goods should also be removed from the paper and are better stored in a sealed container.
- Portion carefully
Cooking too much leads to leftovers, which occasionally leads to waste if you’re not in the habit of quickly consuming leftovers or re-using them. I hate eating leftovers when pregnant; I was actually physically revulsed by the idea. If you’re not going to use leftovers for lunches and you’re in the habit of throwing out mouldy plates of food, consider thinking carefully about the amount of food each person in your family needs to eat and cook accordingly. I admit, I portion our meals for each person’s required meal size (partner, 5 year old boy, 1 year old boy, my own meal) as well as a child sized school lunch and a man sized work lunch.
- Use those leftovers ASAP
The sooner those leftovers get eaten or re-used the better! The longer they sit there, the more unappetising they look and less-usable or safe to eat they are. Eat dinner leftovers for lunch the next day or find a creative way to reuse it. I take the bachelor’s approach to leftovers quite often: fry it.
- Don’t forget it, freeze it!
If you’re unlikely to eat the leftovers in a hurry, chuck it all in the container and throw it in the freezer. I’m often grateful for these freezer meals, especially on days when I can’t get out of the house for one reason or other. Bits of soup, stock and meats are perfect add-ins for future meals. I also freeze leftover cake; one could always use it for a trifle
- Learn to pickle and preserve
Making pickles, jams, jellies and preserves is good fun, a delicious way to use up vegetable and fruit scraps or excess and is a good habit to get into so that you don’t spend money on expensive store bought products that you could easily make yourself. Check out our quick-pickle recipe that can be used for any vegetable and be ready to eat within hours or a day, and all our jam and preserve recipes. A single jar fridge jam can be made with less sugar and all the odds ends of fruit you may have. Even easier, chia jam sets fruit with hardly any extra sugar and is healthy and delicious.
- By-products are bonuses
Some cooking processes result in by-products, carcasses or scraps that can be used rather than thrown out. The poaching syrup from cooking fruit can be used in other fruit desserts or mixed with soda water a sweet fizzy drink. Meat bones and carcasses can be made into stocks for soups, stews etc. Fruit pulp from a juicer can be incorporated into cakes and cookies. Karen also has an amazing cake recipe for using the leftover pulp from making nut milk.
- Re-grow from food scraps and seeds
Save seeds such as easily grown tomatoes, pumpkin, peas and beans to grow next season. They just need to be cleaned and dried and stored in an airtight container until planted next year. Other food can be grown from root scraps, such as spring onion, celery, bok choy and basil. Cut basil stems sitting in water will eventually sprout roots. The base of bok choy and celery can be placed in a shallow dish of water and they too will eventually form roots and can be planted. I never throw out spring onion roots, instead placing them in a glass with water reaching just under their tops. Within a few days you have new spring onions to use again. Old sprouting potatoes and sweet potatoes can be planted and yield at least 10 new potatoes each.
Composting is basically making nutrient rich soil from your kitchen scraps. If you live in an urban area, having a sealed compost bin is good for preventing pests like rats, possums and mice having a nosh on your future soil. We live in the mountains, so we have several open compost heaps going at the back of our property that quickly degenerate. Even the stuff that hasn’t broken down to fine grain gets buried at the bottom of a new vegetable patch or garden bed and it releases nutrients slowly to feed the plants above. There are also indoor composting systems if you live in a small apartment or unit that include sachets of bacteria that break down the waste quickly. There’s no point buying bags of soil when with a big of effort and patience you can make really nutrient rich stuff yourself. It’s also lovely seeing how much less you put into your rubbish bin, knowing less goes into landfill. There is a lot of debate as to what you can break down in compost. All fruit and vegetable scraps are fine, though many people say that worms hate onion skin, garlic skin and citrus peel, while other people say that this has never affected their composting success. In very active permaculture practicing households, even meat scraps can be composted so long as the bins are sealed until breakdown has finished.