Simple, sustainable tips while at home to reduce food waste
With the majority of us at home in isolation our consumer habits have shifted. Home cooked meals and learning new skills in the kitchen has helped ease the downtime for many. With this has seen an unsurprising increase in waste, particularly that of food.
On average our landfill bins are made up of up to 40% food waste. Minimising our food waste is one of the most sustainable actions we can make collectively. Project Drawdown claims reducing food waste could make the biggest impact towards cutting carbon emissions. The added bonus is these simple sustainable tips to fight food waste will also help you save time and money.
Planning your meals
Planning meals for the week is a great place to start when it comes to avoiding food waste as it’s going to help you create a shopping list. While making a meal plan, look in the fridge, fruit bowl, pantry and freezer to see if there is any food needing to be eaten before spoiling. Throwing away food not only means throwing away money but also the farmers hard work too.
There are many recipes perfect for hiding slightly limp vegetables and fruit like stir fries, pasta sauces, frittatas, veggie pies, muffins, cakes and smoothies. Get creative with your leftovers and you might create a new family classic.
Write a shopping list
With the meals planned out and an idea of what is in the kitchen it’s time to write a shopping list. Consider writing on your shopping list any produce you have left at home. For instance if there are three potatoes or a bag of mushrooms I find writing them onto my shopping list will help jog my memory while shopping so I don’t buy more of that item out of habit. The key is sticking to the list and not buying more than needed.
Store food correctly
Taking the time to store produce properly can help extend its shelf life. Some foods produce ethylene which ripens food faster, while other foods are sensitive to gas. For example kiwis are ethylene sensitive and apples produce it naturally, keeping the two in separate bowls will extend the life of your kiwi fruit.
Certain produce spoil faster like lettuce while a cauliflower can roll around in the bottom of the fridge for a week. To help extend greens like lettuce, I cut and wash it when I get home then dry it by wrapping in a tea towel and popping into a container for the week.
Remove leaves from celery (keep the young leaves for salads and soups) and chop the stalks in half, place into a container with a small amount of water at the bottom to keep them crispy for longer. Carrot can also be kept in a container with water without cutting or standing up in a glass jar with water too to avoid limp carrots.
Reimagine food scraps
There is a use for most food scraps in our kitchens. Before throwing them into the compost try these recipes out:
Scrap veggie stock:
Save up the peelings, stalks, tops, tails and leaves of celery, onion, carrots and mushrooms in a container, jar or plastic bag in the freezer until you have enough saved to fill 4-5 cups. Add to a pot along with 1 bay leaf, 3-4 sprigs of thyme, cup of fresh parsley and a dozen peppercorns. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour, strain and store in clean glass jars. If you plan to use within the week the stock can be stored in the fridge. Otherwise keep stock in the freezer. Avoid using Brussels sprouts, cabbage or broccoli in your stock as it will give a bitter taste. Storing stock in the freezer tip: make sure to leave 3cm at the top for the liquid to expand when freezing and only put away once cooled completely to reduce cracking.
Apple scraps vinegar:
Take 6 large apple cores (these can be kept in the fridge or frozen until enough have been collected), 1 tablespoon of sugar and around 6-7 cups of water, preferably filtered. Cover everything in a sterilised jar securing cheesecloth over the top with a rubber band. Stir every few hours until bubbles begin to appear on the top. You will need to continue stirring once a day for two weeks. After two weeks, strain (compost the leftover apple peels) and bottle, remembering to burp the bottle (open the lid to release air) every so often. The vinegar is perfect for homemade salad dressings and other meals.
Red wine vinegar:
Should there be any leftover red wine don’t throw it away. Instead pour the wine into a clean glass jar covered with a cheesecloth secured by a rubber band. Let sit in a warm place for two months then use.
Scrappy citrus vinegar cleaner:
Keep the citrus skins to make a vinegar cleaner with extra power. The oils from the citrus skins contain D-limonene giving a boost to the vinegar to really cut through stove-top grease. Half-fill an empty jar with citrus peel scraps. Top up the jar with white vinegar, put the lid on and let it sit in a dark place for 6 weeks. Strain and use.
Our food is designed to decompose with the help of insects, bugs and worms. In landfill our food is not exposed to the beneficial organisms or enough oxygen to help break it down as nature intended. All the food trucked to landfill is a waste because it just sits there becoming a soggy mess creating methane, a potent greenhouse gas. But when our food scraps and other organics are put into a compost bin or worm farm and later spread onto our gardens, it puts much needed nutrients into the soil improving the health and quality. There are many resources available on how to set up a compost and worm farms but should you be restricted by space visit sharewaste.com to connect with members in your community that want to take your food scraps for their own compost, worm farm or chickens.