Food going into landfill is a big problem in Australia. Food waste impacts on our environment, farmers, and economy. The Federal Government estimates that we are throwing away 20% of our weekly groceries, or one in every five bags of perfectly edible food. Essentially, we are throwing money down the drain and putting pressure on Australia’s environmental health.
But this issue doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Even the smallest of changes in our home kitchens can help us to positively help our food systems. Having a busy home life, running your own business, or being tight on funds are things to which I realise many people can relate. So with this in mind, I’ve put together my own top tips for reducing food waste and saving money.
Follow these tips to dramatically decrease the amount of food you throw away, make weekly mealtimes more delicious, and save on your grocery bill.
Stock up on essentials
Although it feels counter intuitive, the first week of my food waste reduction journey saw me buy up on spices, salt for preserving, white vinegar for pickling, good quality olive oil, and (gasp) sugar (you can opt for honey or other alternatives if you prefer unrefined sweetness). These items will help you preserve, pickle, infuse, and keep your leftover vegetables, especially the soft greens and herbs that don’t always see the light of day in cooking.
Set up your kitchen right
This step was fundamental for me, I only really started reducing food waste once I had an effective system in place. Label jars that will hold your various “scraps”; I have a container for vegetable peelings combined with onion skin (which lives in my freezer until I get around to making stock), olive oil, vinegar, and one for salt.
I will drop my herbs into any of these to add flavour:
- Vinegar jar – I prefer to add dill, coriander, rosemary, and mint
- For olive oil – add parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, and garlic skins
- Salt – add citrus peelings to create preserved citrus mixes.
Like many people, I am guilty of going to the farmer’s market and jumping straight onto the bulk special punnets of berries and other scrumptious deals. Sometimes, the sales are almost too good to resist! Despite the appeal, this is a massive area in which people buy more than they need, and end up feeding their bin instead of their stomachs. Another idea if you’re not into the habit of going to your local farmer’s market is to grocery shop online. It’s a great way to not only get what you need, but also give yourself time to really think about what you will use. The more you get into the habit of following a grocery list, the less you will have food waste.
Make simple but creative meals
I grew up in white bread suburbia, and there was something about my mother’s neat plating of the typical meat and three veg that for years plagued my approach to the dinner mealtime. But then I discovered meze plating, or known as tapas in Spain, which is a forgiving way of plating the night’s meal, and will make for rich family mealtimes.
I usually have rice, quinoa, or pita bread as a base, and build from there with a fresh salad, quickly cooked and tossed main, and a simple sauce. Lemon zest, chilli flakes, and garlic olive oil can go a long way in flavouring a pan. Each dish is composed of multiple dishes that can be as diverse from one to the next.
All in all, be forgiving to yourself! Start by being more aware of what you are throwing in the bin, what goes bad before you can eat it, and what you chop off and discard. Once you then start to implement preserving techniques and really question how much of the vegetable or fruit is edible, you will be impressed with what you can achieve!
If you are keen to learn more, join The Thrifty Kitchen: Root-To-Stem Cooking with Leftover Lovers workshop.