Australians throw away approximately $8 billion worth of edible food (up to 20 percent of our groceries) every year. That’s a huge amount of food waste! Not only is it burning a hole in our pockets, it is causing harm to our natural environment.
Food waste that ends up in landfills produces a large amount of methane — a powerful and destructive greenhouse gas that is 25 percent more potent than C02. For the uninitiated, excess amounts of greenhouse gasses such as methane absorb infrared radiation and heat up the earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change.
But it doesn’t stop there. If we consider the land, energy and resources used in growing, processing, transporting, storing and cooking wasted food, the numbers are much greater! With agriculture and farming accounting for 70 percent of the water used throughout the world, food waste represents an enormous waste of water. To put things into perspective, nearly 1000 litres of water is wasted when you pour a single glass of milk down the drain.
So what can be done to tackle this growing problem? We’ve composed a list of 10 easy ways you can reduce food waste and save money in the process!
1. Write a Shopping List
It seems like a no-brainer, but planning meals in advance is the easiest way to tackle food waste and avoid buying items you don’t need and won’t use. Before heading to the supermarket, take a look in your fridge and pantry and write a shopping list to ensure you don’t end up with three cabbages in your crisper. A shopping list is also a great way to save on your grocery bill and avoid impulse purchases!
2. Buy Less More Frequently
Try to replenish fresh produce every few days rather than buying a week’s worth in the hope that you’ll use everything. A weekly visit to the supermarket might save you time, but if you’re committed to reducing food waste, buying less more frequently is a great way to start! Your fruit and veggies will be fresher, tastier and you won’t be tempted to make enormous portions that will later go to waste. Choose quality (fresh, organic, unprocessed) over quantity to minimise waste and create delicious, healthy meals!
3. Store Food Correctly
By correctly storing food, you can add days, weeks and even months to its lifespan. Store dry goods and fresh produce in air-tight containers or sealable storage bags and freeze leftovers to keep food fresher for longer! Remember that not all fruit and vegetables should be stored in the fridge — sometimes it can make them go off quicker. For example tropical fruits such as cucumbers and eggplants don’t love the cold. Their tropical little bodies are best kept at room temperature to avoid going soft.
It is also important to note that certain varieties of fruit and vegetables release ethylene gas which can cause a ripening effect in other food items. Keep fruits such as bananas and peaches away from ethylene-sensitive produce like potatoes and apples. Conversely, if you have some raw fruit at home that could do with some ripening, store them with a bunch of bananas to speed up the ripening process.
4. Cook Only What You Need
An effective way to reduce food waste (and watch your waistline) is to reduce portion sizes and cook only what is required. Sometimes, we can find ourselves cooking enough rice to feed an army when in fact, we need only a fraction of the amount to feed ourselves. After eating a meal, wait 15 minutes to see if you’re still hungry before rushing back to the kitchen — you might be surprised at how full you actually feel!
5. Understand Expiration Dates
Understanding what is meant by ‘best-before’ and ‘use-by’ dates could mean the difference between using the ingredients in your fridge to make a delicious dinner and throwing them out to waste. Use-by dates indicate when a product may no longer be safe to consume whereas ‘best-before’ dates are an indication of quality rather than safety.
Check whether food looks, smells and tastes ok — if it does, then it’s usually fine to eat. Adopting the FIFO (first in, first out) method by rotating older ingredients to the front of your fridge will ensure these items are consumed first and reduces the chances of them ending up in landfill.
6. Make The Most Out of Your Leftovers
In Australia, leftovers contribute to over a quarter of food waste yet there are so many creative ways to use them. Freezing vegetable trimmings such as leek, carrot, tomato or parsley stalks and using them to make a delicious vegetable stock is a fantastic way to utilise leftovers and reduce food waste.
Deboning a chicken or filleting a fish? How about freezing the carcass or bones to create a stock for them later on. What about that stale loaf of bread sitting in your kitchen? Tear the bread into smaller pieces, stick them in the oven to dry out and then pop them into the food processor to make crunchy breadcrumbs for a delicious coating!
7. Perk Up Your Water
Many Australians don’t drink enough water simply because they don’t like the taste of it. In fact, 80% of the population suffer from chronic dehydration on a daily basis and most don’t even know about it!
Adding peels from citrus fruits or wilted herbs and berry tops to your glass of water or drink bottle is one of the easiest ways to improve the taste of water and reduce food waste in the process. After finishing your water, toss the leftover fruit or herbs into a smoothie for a zero-waste nutritional kick!
8. Grow Your Own Herbs
Fresh herbs can enhance the taste of almost any dish, but a lot of the time we only use half of what we buy while the rest goes limp. Starting a simple herb garden in the backyard or on your kitchen windowsill will enable you to pick the perfect amount for any dish and ensure you always have a fresh supply available.
Herbs such as coriander, rosemary, parsley, basil, mint and thyme are super easy to grow and require very little maintenance. Not only will you be tackling food waste, your little herb garden will help you save money on your grocery bill too!
9. Learn to Compost
Composting is an easy way to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfill. Put potato peels and wilted veggies to good use by creating a nutrient-rich fertiliser for your garden.
Keep a small bin in your kitchen for food scraps and empty it every few days into a compost bin outside. If possible, keep the compost bin in direct sunlight to help waste break down faster. When the compost is ready, distribute it around your garden and watch your plants thrive!
For city dwellers with houseplants, herb gardens and limited space, a countertop composter is a convenient way to start composting without even needing a backyard.
10. Preserve Seasonal Produce
Preserving is a great way to enhance the flavour of fruit and vegetables by adding salt, vinegar and spices, making it possible to enjoy your favourite seasonal produce all-year-round. While you might think fermenting and pickling are new fads, food preservation techniques like these have been around for centuries.
Pickling, drying, canning, fermenting, freezing and curing are popular methods used to increase the lifespan of food and reduce unnecessary food waste. Canning ripe apples and turning them into applesauce or pickling fresh carrots from the supermarket are both fantastic ways to create delicious, long-lasting treats.
The Bottom Line
Reducing food waste doesn’t have to be difficult. With so many easy ways to reduce, reuse and recycle food waste, everyone can play a role in tackling this global issue. Even the smallest acts can bring about positive change. Try implementing these 10 easy steps and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Together, let’s lead the way towards a sustainable future.
If you have any questions or know of any other clever ways to reduce food waste at home, leave us a comment or follow Lapanda on Instagram for more easy sustainable living tips!