from one generation to the next
I know these garbage bins are not a pretty sight, but their contents are adding to the mountains of perfectly good food that’s sent to landfill each week in Australia. (Read more here) Charities such as Second Bite and Oz Harvest collect fruit and veg, meat, dairy products and groceries past their sell by date from commercial outlets which they then distribute to kitchens where meals are made to feed the homeless and others in need.
How can you address this environmental and budget busting disaster on a domestic level? Here are a few tips which help me avoid wastage, and keep my food budget to a minimum.
1.Plan a menu
I sit down over a cup of coffee and work out a rough menu for the week. In planning, I ensure that perishables in the fridge that I bought last week are used first. I plan to cook dinner at home 4 nights out of the seven. This allows for an impulsive restaurant dinner, take away if I’m tired or running late, the chance to use up leftovers or create a meal made with pantry staples.
2.Write a Shopping List and stick to it
I use an app called “ShopShop”
3. Use up your leftovers
Develop a list of recipes to useupleftovers, both leftover cooked food as well as the fruit and veg left languishing at the end of the week. Scraps of cheese, wilted herbs, stale crackers and bread can all be put to use. You’ll find a few ideas here, here and here
4. Resist upsizing your needs for a bargain
Supermarkets are notorious for offering discounts if you buying in multiples, or large “bulk buy” packs. Stock up on non perishables when on offer but don’t be sucked into buying bargains if you can’t realistically consume them before they deteriorate. You may pay a slightly higher price per item but the waste will be eliminated so the end cost will probably be cheaper.
Resist clearance items unless you can confidently use them immediately.
5. Shop more frequently, buy less
Before the age of the refrigerator our Mum’s and Grandma’s bought what they needed on a daily basis, rationing meant they learnt to be frugal. Buy only what you need. Choose to shop where you can buy loose produce, if you need one carrot, only buy one carrot rather than a 1kg prepackaged bag.
6. Trust your eyes and nose
When perishable food deteriorates, it grows mould, or ferments and gets smelly. That’s when it’s time to discard it, not when a date printed on the package says so. Those dates are a guide for retailers.
7. Use your freezer wisely
Freeze meat, fish and poultry in single serve portions. Freeze meal sized portions of leftovers in plastic containers to reheat and serve later. Freeze leftover cream, coconut milk and fresh herbs to use in cooking later. Collect eggwhites then make meringues. Zest and juice lemons when they start to get old, freeze peeled chopped up fruit to add to smoothies. Ice cube trays are useful for freezing small portions. Make sure you label the packages in the freezer and keep an inventory book so you know what’s lurking in the bottom.
8. Store Greengroceries with care
I keep old thin tea towels for wrapping greens such as lettuce, bok choy, spring onions, cabbage and celery, before I put them into a breathable Fresh & Crisp storage bags in the crisper of my fridge. Also in the crisper drawer I store mushrooms in a paper bag, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, capsicums, parsnips and cut pumpkin I store loose. I use handy mesh greensacks for keeping small items like peas and beans together while allowing air to circulate. I have a spot in a cool dark cupboard where I store potatoes, sweet potato, onions, garlic and uncut pumpkin loose in open plastic bins.
I refrigerate fresh herbs between layers of kitchen towel in lidded plastic containers. I leave one corner of the lid open to prevent condensation build up. Fresh basil will keep up to 2 weeks this way. If you can afford it, Tupperware make storage containers with vents to contol condensation.
I wash and reuse “Fresh & Crisp” storage bags over and over.