Thursday 20 February 2014

Eight ways to reduce food wastage

Thursdays are bin day around our area. Every week, I'm actually amazed at how little rubbish is in our bin. I suppose it makes sense, what with the composting, meal planning and cloth nappy usage. However, talking to other people, I understand that this isn't the norm and sometimes there is a struggle to fit everything in for collection.

Apparently, a huge source of garbage is food wastage - a third of food produced globally is lost or wasted, amounting to 1.3 billion tonnes. That's a lot of food. I'm sure it's not on purpose, but we all have those unidentifiable bags of goo in the fridge sometimes. Well, that costs both money and space in the dump, and no one likes to throw money away, which is essentially what's happening. So, here are 8 fairly simple things I do to reduce food wastage:

1. Meal plan. I've talked about it before. Not only does it save money, but it means you know what you're making and the ingredients required before you go shopping, so you only buy what you need for the week.

2. Portion control. Did you know that the recommended serving size of protein (meat, tofu etc) is a piece the size of a deck of cards? Suddenly you can stretch ingredients even further! And if you buy in bulk, no big deal because...

3. Freeze what you don't need. This applies to heaps of things. Got a great deal somewhere? Fabulous! Portion things out and freeze what you won't use right away. You can still take advantage of specials if they don't fit the meal plan, just store them so they last longer and don't turn unidentifiable in the back of the fridge.

4. Sniff test. Lots of items have a 'best before' date on them, but they're still perfectly edible after then, maybe just not aesthetically pleasing. That's ok. You can cut those bits off (and compost them too). So don't just blindly throw out food, give it a bit of a sniff test to see if it's still good. Obviously don't eat it if it smells gross.

5. Get creative with leftovers. Mr Fork and I regularly schedule a hunt and gather night into our meal planning, to use up all the little bits randomly left in the fridge. First in gets to eat them. But you can still "tszuj" up leftovers. Got some mash left? Make shepherds pie? Leftover roast or steak? Chop and add some gravy and pastry and make pot pies. Leftover rice? Make fried rice.

6. Learn to love the less attractive. So your carrots have wilted and you forgot about the broccoli you bought last week. They're still good, just hide them. Make soup. Put them into a casserole. Mix them with mash and make fritters! You are only limited by your imagination. My personal tip? Cheese sauce makes everything taste good and Mr Fork and Ellie lap up anything it covers!

7. Do you garden? Plant things in waves so that they don't ripen in one big glut and you can spread out the supply. If that doesn't work for you, barter. I have a friend who swaps my tomatoes and eggplants for her beans and corn. We both get variety and no wastage because we have an oversupply. I've also got the added benefit of swapping seeds with her to expand my urban gardening empire.

Passionfruit flowers in my garden
8. Store things properly. Invest a bit of time learning how to store food to get maximum shelf life from it. For example, onions and potatoes like to be stored in a cool dark place with plenty of air circulating. Just not right next to each other as that seems to speed up the rot. You can freeze some things as is, others need to be blanched. Lettuce and herbs hate plastic bags but will last longer in paper. Always reach for the cans and bottles with the longest shelf life (these are often toward the back of the shelf). When you put those away, put them at the back of the pantry so you use the oldest stock first.

How do you reduce food wastage? Any tips for storing food?

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