By simply changing the way you shop and eat you can save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We asked Sustainable Table the best ways to begin.
While reducing food wastage will have a direct impact on our own hip pockets, the effect could traverse our bank balance and play a big role in reducing greenhouse gases. The United Nations 2013 Food Wastage Footprint report found that if food wastage was a country it would be the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China.
According to research by environmental not-for-profit organisation Sustainable Table, Australians throw out 20 percent of the groceries we purchase. So how do we shop smarter and eat more efficiently to do our part in reducing the waste? Sustainable Table co-founder Cassie Duncan says the first step everyone should make is to invest in a compost bin.
“A compost bin is an incredible way to reduce landfill waste and to recycle finite nutrients back into the soil and you only need a tiny courtyard or balcony to house one,” Cassie explains. “We all end up with food scraps and some food waste, but with a compost bin at least it means that all that goodness is returning to the soil to help another plant to grow.”
Cassie shares her top strategies to make good food last longer:
- Do a fridge stocktake prior to shopping. The fruit and veggie drawer in particular needs a onceover to avoid double ups.
- Plan your meals. Be realistic about how many meals you’ll be eating at home in the week so you don’t over buy. By meal planning, you’ll feel more organised for the week, save money and only shop for the meals you know you’ll consume.
- Avoid packaged fresh produce. Two for one deals and bulk bagged purchases are bad news for food waste. If you only need two of something that is all you should buy unless you’re committed to a big cook up and freezing the food you’ve purchased. You’ll also save on the single use plastic that’s choking up the planet.
- Make friends with stalks and stems. I used to cut the florets off and ditch the stem, which is a terrible waste of food and taste because the stem is actually deliciously juicy and a bit sweeter. Cook it for longer to make it tender, so add it earlier to a stir-fry or steamer. Try broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and basil stems, and beetroot leaves. All these are edible and tasty, so don’t shy away from using them.
- Tired veggies are still good. A bit of droop never hurt anyone, so throw any tired-looking veg in a pot and make a soup or stew. They might not be great in salad, but I only throw out vegies if they have literally become mouldy and mushy.
- The freezer is your friend. If fruit or veg is starting to look a little tired and you know you won’t get a chance to eat it, cook something that will freeze well. Puree or stew fruit into portions for your children or to add to porridge, smoothies, or a dish in need of sweetening.
- Herbs and spices. I am guilty of buying a delicious looking sauce or marinade only to use it a couple of times before it rots on the top shelf of the fridge. I now try to use fresh herbs and dried spice mixes I get from my local bulk store to save on both packaging and food waste. It’s also a cheaper way to cook.
- Store food correctly. We have an eBook called The Clever Book, which details the best way to store different foods to extend their life. One thing I now do is chop up fruit into containers so when I’m peckish or packing lunch for my child it is quicker and easier to reach for. This is especially true for summer melons.
- Shop at farmers’ markets. Food bought from my local farmers’ market lasts much longer because it was picked within a few days of purchasing and has not travelled vast distances, which is better for the environment too.
- Trust your senses. If you open a carton of milk and the smell hits you in the face, then it needs to go. On the other hand, if it is a day or two past its best before date and still smells fine then it is good to use. I use the same rule for most things (I’m more careful with meat), but the look and smell of it is usually a dead giveaway, so I would always encourage people to use their senses rather than blindly throw things out based on the best before or used by date as they are always conservative.