Caring for the Earth means cultivating conscious habits in the kitchen. Currently, 35% of the average household bin in Australia is food waste. 1 in 5 bags of shopping is wasted, which is roughly $1,000 per year for the average household. Over 5 million tonnes of food ends up in landfill from households and the commercial sector.
What do I mean by food waste?
Fruit and vegetables that have spoilt before they are eaten, leftovers that aren’t eaten, kitchen scraps (peels, cuttings etc), meat scraps, meat and dairy that is past the use-by date, tea leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells, expired food, and the like.
Why would you want to reduce your kitchen waste?
I don’t think people enjoy throwing out spoilt food, particularly as you know you've paid for that, and are perhaps disappointed in yourself that you haven't used it in time.
Food waste has a big impact on both your household, and the Earth.
- It saves you money because you are not buying food that you’re not using.
- It saves you space because you are not overfilling the fridge or pantry.
- It saves you time because you’re buying the right amount of groceries.
- It’s more hygienic. Bye, bye mould. Who else notices the smell from food waste in the bin?
So what can we do?
- Reduce what's coming in. Check what you already have before you buy more. Shop less often or avoid shops as you often buy more items than you intended when you go into a shop.
- Use what you have. Meal plan. Freeze food before use-by. Use turning fruit in baking. Put old canned food at the front and the new canned food at the back so you can use up the old cans first. Label what's in your freezer or make a list so you know what's in there and can use it up. Share what you have made with others. Eat your leftover dinner or use it as a base for another meal (savoury mince is a great one for its versatility). Substitute recipe ingredients for what you have instead of buying more.
- Store what you have to make it last longer. Your grains (flours, oats, rice, pasta, cereals, nuts, seeds, legumes) need to be in air tight containers to avoid weevils. If you find signs of weevils, you’ll be throwing out a lot of food from your pantry. Some produce also lasts longer in containers in the fridge such as celery, or keeps better in containers such as small goods and cheeses.
- Use your kitchen scraps. Compost. Use a blender with water and feed soil around plants directly. Feed some to your chickens. Use a worm farm. Collect veggie scraps for the freezer and turn it into vegetable stock. Give it away.
- Go fresh. Grow your own herbs (rosemary is easy, and you can get pots of seasonal herbs like basil from the supermarket that can sit in your kitchen window) and harvest as you need them instead of storing them. Buy dinner ingredients on a daily basis - I know some people save a lot of money on reduced to sell meat doing that (disclaimer: only if you're someone who can just buy the dinner ingredients or stick to a list! I know I can't!).
- Turn it into something else. Use citrus peels for cooking, turn it into cleaning products. Make apple juice from apple cores.
Start from where you are
If this is all new to you, there is no need to try to take it on all at once. Just choose something from the list that you would be interested in doing and see how that goes. If you're able to do that consistently, then look at adding something else from the list.
If you’ve never reviewed what you have in your pantry, or you have been living at the same address for some time and you can't remember the last time you cleaned out the pantry, you will likely have items in there that belong in the bin. It’s a good practice to regularly take everything off a shelf, check what's there and the use by dates, and give the shelf a good clean before you put the food back again. This helps you to remind yourself of what you do have so you can use it up or give it to someone who will use it.
Good luck! I'd love to hear how you go!
If you find the idea of that overwhelming, I can help. Clearing out the expired food, and setting up your pantry space so you can see everything and know where it belongs gives you clarity when it comes to meal planning and you’ll know what you have instead of buying all the double ups. Check out my in-home organising page for more details.
*Statistics from http://www.ozharvest.org/fightfoodwaste/food-waste-facts/