14 Small Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Food Waste
Today on the blog I am asking the gorgeous Laura Trotta from Sustainababy to share with us her tips on helping to reduce food waste. It’s going to save you money and help out the environment at the same time!
Like many children of the 1980s I was made to eat everything on my dinner plate. A typical evening meal in our household was accompanied by TV images of the terrible famine gripping Africa and my father reminding us of how we lived in the “lucky country”.
It’s not surprising then, 30 years on, I’m continually looking for ways to reduce my family’s food waste and feel guilty on the occasions when I do throw out food. Food waste is a significant by-product of our affluent and time-poor society. In Australia, food is the single largest component of household waste. Australians reportedly toss-up to 30 percent of the food they purchase; a staggering 315 kilograms of food per household each year at a cost of just over $1,000! (source)
Every time we throw food in the bin we’re discarding the vast amounts of resources, energy and water that it took to produce, process, store, refrigerate, transport and cook the food. Rotting food in landfill gives off methane, a greenhouse gas that is particularly damaging to our environment.
The good news is that you can become more mindful of your food waste. Summarised below are 14 “small things” you can do today to actively reduce the food waste produced by your household.
1. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning is the critical ingredient in reducing your food waste. I find that by planning each meal for the week ahead I’m less likely to buy too much food in the first place. Meals out and leftover meals are also included in my meal plan to further keep my food purchasing in check. To help get you started download your FREE Weekly Meal Planner here.
2. Plan to Shop
Once you have your meal plan sorted, you’ll need to create your shopping list directly from your plan. Download your FREE Shopping List here.
3. Check your pantry, fridge and freezer contents
Too often we make spontaneous purchases when shopping only to bring the produce home and discover that we already had adequate supplies. To avoid doubling up, check stocks of food in your pantry, fridge and freezer BEFORE you shop and remove any item from your shopping list that you already have.
4. Shop to Plan
Of course, a plan is only as good as the execution so when shopping, you’ll need to stick to your list. If your meal plan tells you that you need 3 potatoes, don’t buy a whole bag of them. Of course it makes financial sense to stock up on specials of pantry staples you use often, but be extra careful where fresh produce and perishables are concerned. You won’t have saved anything if you end up tossing the produce a few days later. If you’re particularly swayed by specials and marketing tactics, shop for produce online or submit your order in advance. Many independent grocers, organic stores and butchers are only too happy to provide this service.
5. Keep stock of your stock
When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of your pantry, fridge and freezer and place new products towards the back to help you use up food before it expires. If you have trouble keeping track of your food stocks, develop a labelling system or place a list of contents and date to consume by on the door.
6. Storage is vital
Living for several years in North Queensland taught me everything I know about food storage. I learnt the hard way if I didn’t store my food correctly, weevils would hatch in my flour and ants would invade anything that wasn’t correctly sealed. If you’re regularly dealing with pest problems or throwing away stale biscuits and cereals, I highly recommend investing in quality, air tight containers to store your food. Recycled glass jars are an inexpensive way to achieve this if the designer pantry storage system isn’t within your budget.
7. Check your fridge and freezer settings
Fridges and freezers not running at maximum efficiency cost higher to run and can spoil your food. Ensure the temperature of your fridge is set between 3 and 4 °C and between -15 and -18°C for the freezer. You can easily check your seals by closing a money note in the door. If it falls or slips out too easily you could be losing valuable cool air.
8. Don’t be overzealous with the vegie peeler
Do you really need to peel your carrots, spuds and cucumbers? More often than not the skin on our fruit and veg is nutrient rich and full of fibre. I’m not expecting everyone to enjoy eating furry kiwi fruit, but just be mindful of the quantity of fruit and vegetables you discard before you even start cooking.
9. Think before you throw
Too often we tend to throw food that, while not in our ideal form, could easily be transformed into something more appealing. Broccoli stalks are a perfect example. They add bulk to stirfrys and soups and are great at absorbing the flavour of dishes. They can also easily be frozen for when you get around to making some vegetable stock. Overripe bananas make the best banana bread, cakes and smoothies. Wilted vegies are perfect for stock or vegetable soup, and stale bread and lonely crusts make the best breadcrumbs for rissoles or schnitzels. Simply whiz them in your food processor, dry in low oven and store in an air tight container when cool.
10. Learn the art of preserving
Before the days of refrigeration, preserving food was a common occurrence throughout the world to ensure adequate food supplies year round. Preserving food is still a fantastic way to stretch your budget, help the environment and live a healthier life all at the same time. If you are lucky enough to receive a box of fresh produce such as apricots or tomatoes from a friend’s garden, preserve them and enjoy them for months to come.
11. Portion Control
To avoid situations where your eyes are bigger than your belly, dish up servings on a smaller plate. When eating out, split dishes with a friend or your partner to avoid tossing half of the giant portion found in many restaurants. As for smorgasbords ….. Don’t. Even. Go. There.
12. Love Your Leftovers
Leftovers are not only great for meals where you’re short of time but they can also become the base for an entirely new dish. Boiled rice can easily be turned into fried rice or rice puddings and excess pasta is great in mornays or bakes.
13. Use Your Senses
I’m sure my household isn’t the only one where milkshakes are on the menu the day the milk expires. Of course it’s great to exercise caution when it comes to food safety, but in many cases, expiration dates on foods are just as much about manufacturer’s recommendations for peak quality as they are for food safety. If stored correctly, most foods (including meat and dairy) will stay fresh several days past their “Use By” date. If the food looks, smells and tastes okay, chances are it is fine.
14. Give Waste Another Life
Some of the foods we throw can easily be used again. For example, I always reuse chicken carcasses from a steamed or roasted chook to make stock by slowly steaming in a few litres of water. Despite your best efforts, there will be occasions where you need to throw out food and for this I recommend chickens, composting or even a worm farm. Our three chickens thrive on the cast offs from my boy’s meals and in return keep us in good supply of eggs.
Reducing food waste is as much about mindset as it is planning. By implementing the 14 “small things” outlined above you’ll go a long way towards cutting your food bill and household waste, and that’s a great thing for your wallet and our environment.
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Subscribe to Sustainababy today to receive your FREE first chapter of “Think Global Act Local”. In this comprehensive eGuide, Laura Trotta outlines 101 small things you can do to help our environment. The FREE first chapter includes nine “small things” you can do to address overpopulation, the greatest environmental challenge facing our planet.
Keen to learn more?
Register for the FREE LIVE “Think Global Act Local” webinar at 8:30pm AEST on Monday 12 May 2014. In this webinar Laura will discuss the seven greatest environmental challenges facing our planet and detail a number of “small things” you can do to address each issue. To register for the FREE Think Global Act Local webinar click here.
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About Laura: Laura Trotta is an ecoceptionalTM mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She holds a Bachelor of Environmental Engineer, Masters of Science degree in Environmental Chemistry and worked as an environmental professional for 11 years prior to starting Sustainababy in 2009. Laura is passionate about helping parents lead a more sustainable lifestyle and is the eco-parenting columnist for My Child magazine. Laura lives in regional South Australia with her husband and two young sons.