Who doesn’t love food? The smells, the texture, the cooking - the taste!
Wars have been waged over it, thousands of books written on the subject and over 220 million #food tagged photos exist on Instagram, we love it that much! Yet every year in Australia, about $8 billion worth of food is wasted. Of that, $2.18 billion is from thrown out leftovers and $2.67 billion is from discarded fresh food.
So what gives?
According to FoodWise, the main reasons fresh food and leftovers are binned are because people:
Cook too much food
Don’t know how to use leftovers
Order takeaway last minute instead of cooking with the food they have at home
Throw food out before the best-before date, or before it’s actually gone off
Fail to check the pantry or fridge before shopping
Don’t stick to their shopping list
The list seems pretty basic and highly relatable. Most of us would go through these things on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.
So what can be done about it?
Although the numbers are shockingly high, it’s not all gloom and doom when it comes to food wastage. Being sustainable in the kitchen doesn’t mean you have to eat mouldy fruit or never order takeaway away again. By doing this one, pretty surprising thing you’ll be able to bin (pun intended) your wasteful habits.
The solution: Meal Planning
We know. It sounds kind of underwhelming and something only families with four or more do, but trust us, this nifty skill will benefit anyone wanting to waste less!
Meal planning is basically what it’s name implies; planning all your meals for the week so you know what to shop for, what to cook and what can be used as leftovers. It sounds easy, but getting your meal plan schtick won’t happen overnight. Plans and appetites change, and while you don’t always have to cater for that, you’ll learn how to tweak and work with what you’ve got for those instances.
Here are our top tips on how to use meal planning to be more sustainable in the kitchen:
Don’t plan a new meal for every night. Be realistic. You’ll be eating out, or maybe Monday’s pasta has enough leftovers for three days. Use your maths and your social calendar to figure it out.
Go shopping in your pantry first. According to FoodWise one of the biggest reasons food is wasted is that people simply don’t check the cupboard, leaving those spud potatoes to grow unsightly knobs and your oats to become a breeding ground for weevils. Avoid this by actually using those ingredients for a delicious meal!
Never shop hungry. Act like the bodyguard for your VIP grocery list. No riff raff or hungry decisions allowed. Be picky with what you let in you trolley. Basically, make a shopping list with recipes and stick to it.
Buy local. Check out what’s being sold at your local farmer’s market and create your meal plan around what’s available there. The less your food has travelled or been packaged, the better. Some of the forgotten costs of food wastage are fuel, water, packaging and the other resources it takes to get from the farm to your fork.
Shop seasonally. If it were up to us we’d be eating mangoes all year round. But, Mother Nature has other plans and it’s wise to listen to the boss. Similar to buying locally, stay on top of what fruit & veggies are in season and create recipes around them. Shopping seasonally means you’ll avoid produce that has been transported from the other side of the globe (less food miles), and will have fresher and tastier produce with a higher nutritional value.
Learn how to store food properly. There are a few foods that seem to last forever and some that simply wilt and die just from looking at them. Fresh coriander? You better use it up quick!
Taking the time to store your food properly will help it last longer so it won’t end up as part of the 40% of food that ends up in the average household bin.
Grow your own. Indoor gardens are blooming up in kitchens everywhere and even if you’ve only got enough room (or time) for a pot of parsley, you’re still one step closer to having a sustainable kitchen than you were before.
Practice stem-to-leaf eating. You know what all the ends of your carrots, leeks, zucchini and broccolis are good for? Broth! Whenever you’re cooking, pop these ends into a resealable bag in the freezer. When it comes time to making a soup or broth, whip them out for extra flavour.
When meal planning, incorporate a baked veggie dish or green juice into it, using any fruit and veggies that are starting to turn.
Freeze it! Say it with us now, frozen food is still nutritious food! We’re not talking about TV dinners, but veggies and fruit! They are snap frozen soon after being picked, which often leaves them with a higher nutrient count than fresh food, which’ll start to deteriorate once picked.
Frozen produce is an effective way to avoid waste as you only use as much as you need at the time.
Get smart. Instead of ordering takeaway every time the urge arises, have on hand a bunch of 15 minute meals you can whip together, or a healthified version of your favourite meal. You’ll be using the ingredients you have at home, eating healthy and saving money!
The steps to reducing food waste and becoming a sustainable grocery shopper & eater are pretty simple. It all starts with doing what you can, when you can. Then turning these good actions into habits.
If you want to give meal planning a go, head to Voome for your one week free trial. You’ll get access to our Meal Planner, nutritionist-designed meal plan and hundreds of healthy and delicious recipes!
Some sustainable eating recipe options: