In Australia, it’s estimated that we waste, on average, a staggering 20% of all food purchased. That means that for every five grocery bags brought into the home, one is thrown out. This wastage equates to a loss of around $8 billion per year in Australia alone.
We’re not the only one’s wasting food – 100 million tonnes of food is wasted in the EU each year.
Luckily, the issue has come to the fore, and earlier this year France became the first country to pass a law that forces supermarkets to donate food that would otherwise be wasted. Just this month, Italy also passed legislation that encourages supermarkets to redirect food to the needy.
This revolution is encouraging us to be mindful of food use and reuse, and to think again about throwing away leftover or excess food.
So what can you do?
There are a lot of small changes that you can make to reduce your food wastage. Here are our tips on how you can help make a difference (and maybe even save some money in the process!).
By making a few small changes to your shopping habits you can save a lot of food. Plan meals and make a simple list on the door of your fridge for the ingredients you will need for the next shop, so you can make sure you actually use up what you buy. You may even like to try buying your groceries online, which can help prevent impulse buying.
If after all your planning you still have some ingredients left over in your fridge, there’s still no reason to throw your food away. Recipes are so easy to find, just Google the names of your leftover ingredients plus ‘recipe’ and you are sure to find something that you can readily make. Soups or fritatas are super easy ways to use up excess veggies.
Learn to love your leftovers! Take them to work, or have them for dinner the next night. Sometimes it’s actually a great idea to cook far more food than you will eat in one night, because this way you’ll have an army of ready-made meals in reserve. Pop portion-size leftovers in the freezer, and then when you really don’t feel like cooking, all you need to do is heat up the dinners! Think of leftovers as one less meal you have to make and you’ll learn to love them.
An idea borrowed from restaurants and food outlets, FIFO simply means to use up the product that you have held for the longest amount of time. If it arrived in your fridge first, use it up first. Following this principle means that you are less likely to have fresh ingredients go off or out of date. It’s a great way to rotate any produce that you have, ensuring your fridge is always stocked with the freshest goods possible.
As a tie-in with the FIFO principle, a quick audit of expiration dates of pantry items can potentially save you throwing away items. We all have those non-perishables that we tuck away in the back of the pantry and forget about, so checking in for a date scan once in awhile can prevent you from not only wasting produce, but also wasting the money you spent on buy the item in the first place. It’s a double win – one for the earth, and one for your pocket!
Keep track of what you do waste. Not to make yourself feel guilty, but just as a way of getting a better feel for how you are progressing. Should you adjust your shopping habits? Did you do well using up ingredients? Answers to these questions will help you to improve next time round.
It’s not necessarily the first thing you should think of when reducing food waste, however compost is a great way to repurpose food that would otherwise go to landfill. Compost is great organic material for your garden and can also absorb waste that you wouldn’t consume anyway (think corn cobs, peels, seeds). And every garden, from a small urban patio to a large rural acreage, will thank you for some beautiful, homemade compost.
You’ve already paid for your food, so why let it go to waste? Ask for a container so that you can take home any excess food leftover from eating out. With the food wastage movement becoming more and more common, your doggy bag lets the world know you’re at the forefront of this planet-friendly revolution.
This is something that you may not normally consider, but over-serving can create unnecessary waste. No one wants to hold back when serving up dinner for others, but this doesn’t mean you aren’t able to offer seconds! It’s just that once food is on a plate, if it isn’t eaten it will almost invariably end up in the bin.
Have more than you can get through? Consider donating the food to a charity, or to someone in more need of it than you.
This is especially useful if you have your own garden, as canning and pickling food allows you to capture and preserve larger quantities of food than you otherwise would. If tomatoes are in season and your garden is in full swing, it allows you to save them for later. Likewise, if you over-shopped or are just wishing to take advantage of seasonal produce, preserving food can be a great option.
There are apps for just about everything these days. The Yume app lists food outlets, from food trucks to health food shops, that are selling their surplus or unsold food for half the original price instead of throwing it out. The NSW government’s Love Your Leftovers app lets you plan your meals, organise your shopping list, and find recipes for your leftovers.
Consumer preference for ‘perfect’ vegetables means that many imperfect looking vegetables go unsold, and in some cases wasted. Some supermarkets offer discounts for this type of produce, but even if they don’t, by buying them you are helping to reduce waste.