Farewell to food waste!

Friday 15th of May 2015

Posted by Gabrielle Grime, Earth Carers Coordinator

Food waste is an area that gets out of hand quickly in our home when our lives get busy.  I’ve always tended to be a spur of the moment cook, and so although I make shopping lists, they’ve been based on what we’ve run out of and what ‘might’ be useful to have in the house when cooking inspiration comes a-calling.

However, around six weeks ago, I had a huge clean out of my fridge and I felt sick. I had 8 bottles of condiments past their use-by date, about 6 containers of mysterious leftovers growing some new antibiotic bacteria and worst of all, my fruit and vegie tray was overflowing with a lot of sad looking rubbery vegetables. (I haven’t taken a photo because I am too ashamed.) Things were out of control.

So, as a family, we’ve taken a stand. And so far, it’s working really well. This is what I’ve done.

1.       Completely cleaned and cleared out the fridge and repacked it. There are designated places for leftovers and items which will go off quickly. Note too that everything is in containers so that it lasts much longer.

2.       Prepared a structured menu plan and keep it at eye level on the fridge. I’ve tried to coordinate my menus according to the reality of our life. Eg I know on Thursdays we all come home late and very tired, so I have a big cook up (such as a casserole) on Wednesday so we can just have that again. Fridays are left fairly open to mop up any leftovers from the week – and toasties, homemade pizzas, omelettes, and fried rice are easy meals to use up ageing vegies.

3.       Set aside a few hours to cook at the start of each week. That way a lot of meals and snacks can be prepared, ready for when we’re busy.  Once I’m in cooking mode it’s amazing how much can be whipped up in a few hours. Especially soups and other snacks/lunches.

4.       Be very strict on how many fruit and vegetables I buy at one time – particularly green salad vegies. I buy far less than previously, and eat most of our leafy greens in the first couple of days in the week. I keep the longer lasting vegies for meals later in the week. Top up mid-week only if I have to (generally fruit). This has reduced vegetable waste hugely. I’m also growing a lot of vegies in the garden.

5.       Put leftovers which take a few days to use up in ever smaller containers and keep these in a specific spot in the fridge. Previously I was finding it hard to fit in everything, and often plates were balanced precariously on top of each other. We were even thinking about getting a bigger fridge!

6.       Only buy what I need to cook with that week and check the cupboard and fridge first! This means no spontaneous purchases of interesting looking condiments allowed (sometimes this is hard).

7.       For recipes with unusual ingredients, consider whether I can use a substitute I already have. E.g “sherry vinegar?” – I’ll use my trusty white or red wine vinegar instead. Or a random chutney in the recipe? Generally they taste fairly similar and no need to buy lots of different types.

The difference this has made to our food waste has been dramatic. Very little apart from peelings are going to my compost now. We are using everything up and have lots of space in our fridge…definitely no need for a larger one! We are eating well and with good variety. Best of all, my partner is doing a lot more cooking because we have our list up and he knows ahead of time what to prepare if he’s home before me. I’m only cross that I didn’t take this stand sooner!!!!

Do you have any other good tips for reducing food waste? We’d love to hear them!

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