Food waste is a massive problem worldwide, particularly in the industrialised world. This happens in all steps of the food chain, so to speak, from production to consumption. While there is little you can do about agriculture and manufacture you can learn how to reduce food waste in your household.
Food waste in Australia
According to the Department of the Environment and Energy, “In 2016-17… Australia produced 7.3 million tonnes of food waste across the supply and consumption chain. Of this, 2.5 million (34 per cent) was created in our homes, 2.3 million tonnes (31 per cent) in primary production and 1.8 million tonnes (25 per cent) in the manufacturing sector.” (1)
Fate of food waste
Food waste can be recycled, recovered or disposed of (as landfill). According to the latest statistics, “Australians recycled 1.2 million of food waste, recovered 2.9 million tonnes through alternative uses for the food waste and disposed of 3.2 million tonnes.” (1)
How to reduce food waste
By far, the best way of reducing food waste is not to generating it in the first place. Keep the strategies below in mind to waste less.
- Plan the recipes you will cook the following days or week so that you know what you need to buy and how much.
- Plan recipes that use ingredients you already have in the fridge, freezer or pantry.
- Plan recipes that use the same ingredients. For example, include a curry and a taco salad in your menu to make sure you go through a whole bunch of coriander.
- Don’t over-cater. A lot of food waste is generated at business meetings, functions and family events. Don’t assume everyone will eat one of every item on offer.
- Don’t buy stuff in quantities you are unlikely to go through before the food goes off. For example, don’t buy a 3 litre bottle of milk if you won’t drink all of it before the best before date.
- Don’t buy something just because it’s on special, unless you know you will be using it in the future and/or it keeps well in the freezer or pantry.
- Buy “imperfect produce” on offer in several supermarkets to help use up those “ugly” vegetables and fruits some people don’t want to buy. It’s cheaper, too.
- Cook “nose-to-tail”. If you roast whole chicken, eat the meat and then use the bones for stock. Use vegetable stalks and peels in soups, give them to your dog or compost them.
- Not-so-fresh vegetables and herbs can be used for soups, stews, casseroles and curries. Fruit can be used in preserves and baked goods (such as banana bread).
- Some leftover ingredients can be frozen for later use.
- Think of alternative uses for leftover food or drinks. Leftover wine can be used in sauces and stews, leftover coconut milk can be used in curries or in coffee/tea. You can make body scrubs from coffee grounds.
- When eating out, resist the temptation of ordering too much food. Have a look around you to give you an idea of the portion sizes. You can always order more if you are still hungry.
- Don’t discard leftovers, have them for lunch or dinner the next day. If you don’t want to eat the same thing twice in a row, think of ways to change the meal slightly by adding herbs and sauces, or using the leftovers as filling for a sandwich or wrap.
- This is not directly about food but related and important. Buy less keep cups, water bottles and takeaway containers. These items are great until you start buying one each week or month just because. Try not to lose them, don’t collect them and carry them around so that they are truly reusable.
- Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy. Tackling Australia’s food waste [Available from: https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/food-waste].
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