In Australia, 7 million tonnes of food is wasted each year and this is what it would look like if it was dumped into Sydney Harbour.

📷 Image credit: OzHarvest

This fantastic visual was presented at the Victorian Waste Education Conference by Amelia Berner, FEAST Education Manager from OzHarvest, which I attended in October last year. It’s estimated that this food waste costs the economy $20 billion. Isn’t that crazy? What’s more is that households are responsible for 50% of this food waste! This obviously means many of us could be doing more to reduce our food waste at home; especially when we consider that over 710,000 of our fellow Australians rely on food relief each month.

So, here are 6 easy tips we can implement at home to help reduce food waste and save money in the process!

1. Plan your meals

Save yourself time at the supermarket by spending a couple of minutes planning meals for the week and creating a shopping list. Planning ahead means you are more aware of what may spoil in the near future, and writing your shopping list before you leave the house (or order online) avoids doubling up on items you already have in the pantry or fridge.

It’s also a good idea to keep track of what you regularly throw away and keep this in mind before your next trip. See if you can purchase these items in smaller quantities or avoid buying them altogether. I know it can be hard though, because who hasn’t experienced this as a parent.

2. Keep your fridge and pantry organised

Have you ever purchased something at the shop only to return home and realise you already had it? Keeping your fridge and pantry organised helps you to be aware of what’s in your cooking arsenal. Being able to see what’s in your fridge and pantry can also help you plan meals that use up anything that’s about to spoil.

Storing your produce appropriately goes a long way in helping your food last longer. For example, keeping mushrooms in plastic will make them go slimy, and putting bread in the fridge can quickly turn it stale.

I recently resolved a storage issue with a Swag bag. When we moved to this house we couldn’t find a place to fit our largish fridge. To cut a long story short, my husband gave our newish fridge away to a relative and we received an older smaller fridge that fits in the kitchen space. All good, except I miss everything about my previous fridge (I’d spent hours researching what would meet our needs before I bought it) :-(. Mostly I have an issue with the crisper draw of our current fridge not keeping the food crisp. I used to be able to keep fruit and veg unwrapped/unpackaged in the crisper drawers but now my husband says our crisper drawer should be called ‘the rotter’ because food spoils really fast.

Inside my refrigerator.
Inside the refrigerator we gave away.

I had heard of The Swag Australia several years ago when they first came on the market but I didn’t need one so I didn’t get one. Fast forward to a couple of months ago and I have my first reusable swag bag in the crisper drawer to try and solve this food spoilage issue. The Swag bags are specially constructed sustainable cotton bags that can be kept in the fridge and increase shelf-life by up to 2 weeks. I’m happy to report that my bag works! My vegetables most certainly last 2 weeks longer than they were before. I think I’m going to get another bag to help with organising things. You can use the different colour trims on the bags to indicate which fruit and veg are ‘use first’ fruit and veg and which are the freshest and therefore don’t need to be used straight away. It also helps to be able to use one while the other is being washed and dried.

3. Get creative with what you have

Sometimes the best meals come from those made up on the spot, or varied with a little thoughtful substitution. Substituting can add a new spin on an old or repetitive dish – kale that’s about to spoil could be a fantastic substitute for wilted spinach in a pasta dish. It can also help you learn new ways of treating old food. Apples on the way out? Peel them and throw them in a pot with some cinnamon sugar and you’ve got a fresh porridge topping to look forward to in the mornings. Ingredient substitutions is something I’m personally trying to get better at. I used to think I couldn’t make a dish because I didn’t have the obscure spice that was in the recipe but now I will leave it out or look up which other things might work instead.

4. Put scraps to use

Scraps are your friend, especially when they help stretch your meals a little further! Next time you’re about to discard the broccoli trunk, see if you can incorporate it in some way; saute or steam cubes with other veggies or even blend it into a soup. Chances are, you won’t even notice it! Check out all the suggestions that came up on my Facebook post – they will have you salivating.

If you REALLY can’t find a use for your scraps, worm farms and compost bins are fantastic outlets to minimise the amount of food waste that ends up in landfill. There are models to suit all kinds of yards – even balconies and apartment windows! Worms will eat almost anything and you’ll be surprised about how fast these critters can reduce your waste to a rich additive for your garden.

5. Give some attention to the wonky fruit and veg

Consider the misfortunate fruit and veg often left to go bad in-store. Wonky zucchini, pockmarked lemons and snapped sweet potato may not look as perfect, but once you’ve chopped them up they all taste the same! Bruised fruit works well in smoothies and stewed desserts, and imperfect veggies can be added to soups, stews and sauces. An added benefit is that many stores offer this produce at a discounted price, so whilst you’re saving food from waste, you’re also saving yourself some hard-earned cash in the long run.

6. Freeze leftovers

If you’ve made too much, don’t put leftovers in a container to wait out their days in the fridge only to see the inside of your bin. Instead, freeze them in single-size portions to grab and reheat for a low-effort meal. If your freezer is packed, try and use up anything that’s been sitting in there for a while to free up some space, or invest in a chest freezer if you’re fond of the idea of freezing in bulk.

Bonus tip

For anyone looking for more help on how to be more sustainable and reduce waste in the kitchen then this book is for you. Seriously. I really think Lindsay Miles has managed to capture all the facets of reducing food waste and present it in an easily digestible form (pun intended) in The Less Waste No Fuss Kitchen. As well as being easy to read and comprehensive, it’s also realistic, practical and filled with choices based on where you’re at and your circumstances. There’s no guilt tripping here, just cheers to do your best. 

Please note, there are a couple of affiliate links in this post.

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