Saturday, 2 January 2016

Tips For Avoiding Food Waste


I've been asked to write a post by one of my delightful Instagram followers about how to avoid food waste, which is something I am very passionate about. My family often hear me getting my rant on about not eating leftovers and how much food is thrown into landfill every year -4,000,000 tonnes!

Food waste has so many impacts. Not only is it costing Australian families thousands of dollars per year- $1036 according to statistics, but the environmental impact is awful. All of that time, energy and resources which go into growing food is just wasted effort, when it goes in the bin without a second thought. 

I'm not going to spend too much time delving into that abyss, but if you are interested, here's a great website with the Australian  food waste statistics

Here are some of the things I have done at some point in our in our household to avoid food waste:

Meal plan- do a fridge/freezer/cupboard audit to see what you have on hand and build a meal plan from there.Then when you do go grocery shopping only buy what you need.

Buy only what you need or buy in bulk- This varies according to your families needs. If you work or study and have limited time, don't buy 5kg of carrots or any fresh items in bulk unless you make time to chop, blanch and freeze said items. Just buy smaller quantities, even if it means paying a bit more because your free time is precious. But if, like me, you have spare time then by all means buying like this can work out cheaper in the long run. I recently bought 8 kg of onions for a couple of dollars and diced them all for the freezer. I'm not sure if I would recommend this as my chest freezer now smells like onions, but it has saved me some money. I also buy carrots in bulk and will keep 1kg in the fridge to use in salads etc and peel, chop, blanch and snap freeze the rest then store in medium sized ziplock bags in the freezer. I also do this with broccoli and cauliflower.

Invest in a freezer- This will allow you extra space to freeze all those extra prepped fruit and vegies and also take advantage of other items on sale. Currently we have 2 fridge/freezers and 2 deep freezers. The amount of money I save in food far outweighs the amount it costs to run these items.

Use those leftovers- Use leftovers for lunch or to create a new meal. Think outside the box. Leftover gravy can be frozen and added to the next slow cooker meal for added flavour. Roast meat can be shredded and used in a shepherd's pie, along with some leftover veg. Mashed potato can be transformed into tuna patties or croquettes, or just freeze it and use in the next batch of soup for thickening. 

Keep the fridge tidy- Regularly tidy up the fridge so you can see what is in there. I've found that making food visually pretty helps. My kids are more likely to grab a healthy snack, if its prepared for them. I will take grapes off the bunch and place in a container, the same goes for cherry tomatoes and I'll chop carrot sticks. Storing salad in layered jars is also a great idea.

Freeze bits and pieces- Half a tomato, half a capsicum in the bottom of your fridge? Both of these items can be diced and frozen then added to recipes. I have a container in my freezer that over time gets filled up with random capsicum off cuts. I just keep adding until the container is full, then add that to the next batch of chilli con carne. 

Ignore the best before dates- Now that I've got your attention, let me explain. Most best before dates are merely a suggestion. I've found most chips, biscuits etc simply taste even after items have "expired" truth be told I've found the same for most dairy, like yoghurt. But just use your sound judgement on this one. Try the food, if it doesn't taste good, toss it. A great way to use up yoghurt is to put it in smoothies or freeze and make into icy poles. Biscuits and crackers can be refreshed by putting them on a plate in the microwave for 40 seconds, then let cool. 

No need to throw this melon out! Just cut off a thick slice on the exposed side, the rest is fine!

Salvage that fruit and veg- Most fruit and veggies are still fine to eat, even if they don't look as perfect as the day they were bought. Cauliflower often gets brown or black spots, just cut those off, same applies to carrots, fruit too squishy? Just cut the bruise out and eat the rest, or put the fruit in a blender and make a smoothie. No waste!

If all else fails, compost!- Sometimes life gets too busy and I forget about the bag of nectarines lying neglected in the fridge. They are to far gone to make into compote, so they go into my compost bin. Which in a few months will provide me with beautiful rich soil for free! All of my veggie scraps go in the compost bin. This year we were rewarded with an abundant crop of cherry tomatoes, chillies and pumpkin, which were all volunteer seeds. 

I will be doing a second post on food waste, with a list of fruits and vegetables and some ideas on how to use them. 

Lovely rich soil from our vegie scraps.

Loads of volunteer seedlings ready for transplanting. We also gave some to friends.