Are you sneaking a bag of unused groceries into your garbage bin? Dressed in black, ninja style, so the neighbours don’t see?
Sure, you had good intentions to cook a 3-hour beef brisket on a Tuesday but then you got into your jammies and watched The Bachelor instead.
Or perhaps you bought a bunch of exotic herbs when the recipe needed a teaspoon and have no idea what to do with the rest.
If so, you’re not alone and it’s likely your neighbours are doing the same. In fact, the average Aussie household throws out one in five bags of groceries they buy and an average American family throws out up to $2,200 of groceries every year.
So how can you reduce food waste and save money?
Why not choose one area of waste to tackle each month? Life can be super busy and changing one habit at a time can help to make it stick for the long run.
Plan your meals:
Plan your meals weekly and only buy ingredients on your list. Eating before you shop helps.
Look at what you’ve left from the week before or what’s close to expiry when choosing recipes.
If you shop often and in small batches, a list sharing app like Google Keep can limit doubling up on buying ingredients when you share what’s needed with your household.
Make meals that work together
Save time by using surplus items from the previous night. Cook roast chicken one night and add leftover chicken to a salad or make chicken pasties the following night.
Soup, pizza, omelette, juices or stock can often allow you to use leftover fruit, veg or meat.
Better storage for longer life
Get familiar with how to store different items to keep fresher for longer. The American Heart Association info graphic shows what’s best suited to the fridge or counter top.
Bees wax wraps provide an alternative to throw away plastic wrap. The wrap moulds around your food with the warmth of your hands. You can also use reusable storage containers designed specifically for the freezer or fruit and veg.
Plan to be lazy
Know there will be one night a week where you need something quick and easy.
Try making extra portions of one meal a week and pop it in the freezer. That way you’ll have food for the nights you can’t be bothered to cook. If it stops you buying take away it’ll save money too.
Lots of dishes can be frozen from lasagne to Thai green curry. Or try making a big batch of a master sauce that can be used across lots of dishes. A Bolognese sauce with veg works in pasta (lasagne, cannelloni, Bolognese spaghetti), burritos or for a gluten free meal add zucchini spirals.
More stores are now offering fruit and veg that are unusual shapes and sizes or have small blemishes on them. Up to 25% of Aussie crops never leave the farm as they don’t fit the industries view of what’s pretty. Choosing ugly produce can not only help reduce waste for farmers, but you’ll often save money.
Swap it or preserve it
Are you a gun at growing one veg but nothing else grows? Take a few bunches to your local food swap to trade with other gardeners for items you need. If you don’t have one nearby, share it with family or friends.
If the idea of pickling leaves you feeling sour, then some types of fruit and veg can be frozen. Juice them straight up or add yoghurt and freeze for home-made ice blocks/popsicles. Make ice cubes from other juiced items such as lemons and add to tea for an extra kick.
Combine hard herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, or oregano) with olive oil and garlic and freeze in cubes. Add them to dishes later and save buying a new bunch.
Eat the whole thing
You can roast potatoes, sweet potatoes or pumpkin with skin on and eat broccoli stalks too. Try eating a Kiwi fruit with the skin on. It’s a little fuzzy but novel.
If your beetroot comes with the leaves attached, pop it in a salad. Parsley, coriander/cilantro and kale stalks can also be eaten.
The average Aussie household bin contains around 40% food waste. If added to general waste rather than composting, the scraps produce methane gas. This nasty gas has 25 times the impact on our environment than carbon dioxide.
Keep a small bin handy for food scraps and add them to a compost bin. The worms break the food scraps down and release nutrients back into the soil, enriching it. Win/win!
Don’t over serve
Try starting with smaller portions to avoid having leftovers on the plate. If need be you can always go back for seconds. Get excited about eating leftovers or if suitable, pop them in the freezer.
When out consider sharing food with others to reduce leftovers or take a reusable container and ask for a doggy bag.
After shopping put new groceries at the back of the fridge, freezer or cupboard for rotation or have a spot for the items that need to be used quickly. Labelling frozen items can also help you avoid finding an unidentified clump of icy food.
If you’re super organised, you can assign fridge tubs for each day of the week. Add daily snacks and ingredients for dinner. This can help if you have multiple chefs, so everyone knows what needs to be cooked that night.
Lastly, track your waste. If you normally buy something in bulk but realise you never finish it, then buy a smaller quantity or if suitable, freeze some as soon as it’s opened.
… So, fancy tackling one area of waste each month? What’s first for you?