Waste Not, Want Not

Last year when I was away for six weeks, some unwanted guests moved in. They invited all their friends and took up residence in my pantry. There were no apologies for gate crashing and every time I opened up the door I was assailed by a flock of moths, if there is such a thing. So began my hand to hand combat with these devious winged creatures which continued for 6 months . I would tally up the body count each day with glee, but they are very stealthy and I knew they were hiding in all the dark recesses of the cupboard and burrowing into the food.  I have since discovered the secret weapon, Hovex Pantry Moth Trap, which for now has solved the problem.

The amount of food that I have had to dispose of makes me really cross because these moths are already in our food when we buy it.  I admit they are very clever but not so clever that they can burrow through sealed Tupperware containers. It has really got me thinking about the growing issue of food wastage in Australia and globally.

In Australia alone we kick 4 million tonnes of wasted food to the kerb every year, which equates to 178kg per person every 12 months. Or put another way we waste $7.8 million in food each year. Of course on top of that there is the greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions during manufacture and in landfill.  There  is also huge water and other resource wastage in producing food that is not eaten.

When I was growing up I remember my parents encouraging myself and my siblings to eat all of our food as there were many people in the people in the world who were not quite as lucky as we were.  I know now as an adult that although that is very true, the solution to the global hunger crisis is not quite as simplistic as donating food to those who need it. But I do know that the impact of wasting food is far reaching and so much bigger than physically throwing food in the bin.

I don’t usually do New Years resolutions but this year I decided to start the year with a different food challenge. I am not an impulse buyer but I often buy extra food when doing my grocery shopping ‘just in case’ I might need it. Sound familiar? Most of this food is tinned or of the long life variety but the end result is an overflowing pantry and freezer. So…. In the first week of January I started the challenge of only preparing meals based on the staple items that I already had, just like the Country Women’s Association tells you to.   Taste.com has been a good friend to me too and with thousands of recipes to choose from, all you need is what is already in your cupboard. Of course I still need to buy fresh fruit and vegetables and dairy but six weeks later I am still going strong. Plus we invested in a worm farm to recycle our fruit and vegetable scraps, paper and teabags and our food wastage has dramatically reduced. Have you considered how to reduce your own or your households food wastage? Maybe you could try:

1. Doing a pantry challenge – start using all the food items you already have and you will be surprised at what you can whiz up even when you think the cupboard is bare

2. Investing in a worm farm – they don’t take up much room, are very low maintenance and very kindly recycle all sorts of scraps. Many local councils conduct educational workshops and subsidize the purchase of worm farms.

3. Devising a weekly menu with your housemates or family and shop to it – this prevents excess buying and saves you money. Try online shopping too, it eliminates impulse buying because there are no visuals to tempt you and saves you money.  All the major supermarkets have it available now and deliver from 6am to 9pm seven days per week.

4. Buying smaller sizes of products to avoid waste. It might be cheaper to buy the three litre milk on special but it’s not cost or environmentally effective when you have to throw out the remaining 2 litres that you can’t get through.

5. Buying fresh fruit and vegetables twice every week instead of one big shop – this will ensure you get the freshest produce possible without throwing out the rotting leftovers at the end of the week.  Try frozen fruit and vegetables too for no waste, they are picked at their best and this eliminates wilting and bruising resulting in a product that ticks all the boxes nutritionally. If there is only one or two of you in the house, look out for the ‘baby’ varieties of vegetables as they are much smaller and suited for smaller portions.

6. Investing in a decent sized freezer so that you can freeze extra portions of meals for lunches or for those nights when cooking feels akin to climbing Mt Everest.

7. When buying a loaf of bread, freeze what you don’t use for sandwiches that taste just as fresh when thawed, use for toast, bread and butter custard (try jam instead of butter) or throw it in the food processor for breadcrumbs.

8. Serving smaller portions – research shows that eating less than we require increases our longevity and improves our health outcomes. With 61% of Australians being overweight or obese, measuring and our decreasing portion sizes is essential.

9.  Considering whether you need the bread plus the whole three courses when eating out? How about ordering an entree size meal instead a main – eyes are often much bigger than stomachs.

10. And last but certainly not least, store packaged or loose dry food in sealed containers to avoid the invasion of the dreaded pantry moth. Keep an eye on your dark chocolate and teabags because these bugs love getting high on antioxidants.

Have you got a great tip to assist in reducing the global issue of food wastage?

 

Comments

  1. Hi Julie- this is not about the food but the packaging. At our new school students are not allowed to take glad wrap or any disposable wrapping. It works well and everyone does it.

  2. Chris Forbes-Ewan says:

    Great suggestions Julie, but I disagree with you on one point: “Buying fresh fruit and vegetables twice every week instead of one big shop – this will ensure you get the freshest produce possible …”

    There is a way of getting even fresher produce–grow as much of your own as you can. Michael Pollan put forward a strong case for growing your own garden in an article in the New York Times (URL: http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/why-bother/).

    Another benefit of having a garden is that all your kitchen scraps can go on a compost heap, along with leaves, lawn clippings, hedge trimmings and so on, so you are recycling nutrients and wasting virtually none.

    I’ve been doing this since 1977; for the past 35 years we have been about 50% self sufficient for vegetables and somewhat less so for fruit.

    Also, giving away produce that is excess to your requirements is a good way of making friends with neighbours and work colleagues.

    Cheers and keep up the great work!

    Chris Forbes-Ewan

  3. Hi Julie,

    Another sensational article…thank you.

    Coincidentally I also undertake a pantry/freezer challenge twice a year and started my most recent on January 1st. Having 3 x 20 year old’s at home all buying odds and sods and extras and different ‘stuff’ means we seem to accumulate more than required and slowly but surely the pantry and freezer ‘expand’ so to speak.

    I enroll all 5 of us to undertake a month long “challenge” to utilise what we already have and create interesting meals only from what we have in stock, buying only fruit, veg and dairy.

    It works a treat and we all have so much FUN…endeavoring to out create one another. Love it!!!

    Janette

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