Waste Not Want Not

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Doing it in the Kitchen!

Being eco-aware can be pretty fun because once you start there is no end to the possibilities for lifestyle changes. While it might seem a little boring to think about food waste and the kitchen (as it’s obviously not as much fun as buying organic cotton t-shirts) this area of our homes and lives can be an endless source of eco-wastage. The following are a few simple tips that you can think about and implement to make your kitchen practices more environmentally minded.

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Plan Your Meals!

Before you hit up the shops or farmers markets take some time to think about what it is that you want to use all this delicious food for! It can be fun to experiment with new ingredients but be sure to head to the shops with an eating plan. That way you know exactly what to buy and don’t get stuck with double ups of things you already have, or a collection of ingredients that don’t necessarily work together to make a meal. The better you get at working to a meal plan the less wastage you will experience. Every perished items you throw away represents dollars from your purse! Being a well prepared grocery shopper saves you money and reduces your waste impact.

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Use your brain and your resources.

Be sure to take note of what items move quickly in your home, and what seems to plod along slowly and/or not move at all. One great way to monitor your food consumption patterns is to leave empty containers of items you have finished on the bench for a week (if you eat meat and dairy items you can either wash the containers and leave them out, or just write a note of what you ate and put it with the pile). Come week-end you can easily assess all the items that you and your family have consumed and in what quantities and this can aid you in working out what to buy each week. As most of my pantry items are bought from bulk buy stores I have chalk board labelled containers that I store them in. Leaving these out on the bench (or on a different shelf in the cupboard) makes it really easy to write a shopping list before I head off to the farmers markets.

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Buy Less. Store Well.

If you live in walking/riding/public transport distance to the nearest food retailer then why not buy a little less. The majority of us aren’t bunkering down for a tropical cyclone each week (and if you are have a good store of canned goods and water) so having a less overflowing cupboard and fridge can’t hurt. If you run out of food a day or two before shopping day you can always get inventive and create something with your left over stores. This is a good way to use up those items that have sat around in the cupboard unused. If the shops are a little too far to go on a whim then make sure you store things well. Freeze your perishables. Bread, meat, and most berries and tropical fruits (for smoothies and baking) go well in the freezer. Storing grains and biscuits in airtight containers keeps them fresh for longer. Got an abundance of a seasonal fruit or veggies? You could pickle, preserve, or make it into a jam.

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Left Overs Rock.

The term ‘left-overs’ is kind of a sad and sorry way to describe what happens to be the most exciting phenomena ever. Opening the fridge and having your food ready made for the day is amazing! Honestly there is nothing better than a curry on the second or third day after it was made. Embracing your left overs by remembering to bring them to work the following day, or freezing them for a future ‘meal in a hurry’ will not only save you time but it will also save money. A double win!

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Think about your impact.

It can be pretty daunting to enter a supermarket with the goal of shopping minimal waste. It is becoming increasingly difficult to buy anything that doesn’t come wrapped in some kind of plastic in most mainstream stores. The introduction of self serve checkouts has made labelling and packaging differentiation a very important part of the serve yourself process in order to make sure customers are ringing up the right items. Don’t be deterred. There are some benefits to this. You can now bring your own paper or fabric bags along to the shops without having to explain yourself each time you come to the counter with them full of produce and bulk buy items (if your local chain store supermarket has this facility). Many of the ‘choose your own’ bakery items counters now have paper bags with plastic windows in them so if you bring your own bag you dodge that non-biodegradable nasty. If you have to buy pre packaged foods (let’s face it… most of us do at some point) opt for items that aren’t packaged in that soft plastic wrapper as it’s much harder to recycle and will have to be physically returned to your nearest Planet Ark recycling station. In the event you have to buy something in a plastic wrapper go for a ‘bulk buy’ size rather than individual packets (like chips for example) and you can cut back on your waste. ALWAYS compost if you have the space and/or the facilities. Ultimately the easiest way to shop better is to head to the local farmers markets for most of your purchases as you can request what you want without the packaging, and only shop at the big chains when you really need to. 

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DIY Pumpkin Chips!

As you have made it to the end of a post all about food there is a good chance that you might be feeling a little peckish. Ever wondered how to make your very own delicious pumpkin chips? They are so much easier than they look. All you have to do is slice some very thin bits of pumpkin (I used a veggie peeler but you could use a food processor or a mandolin) add a little salt and allow the slices to sit between some cotton tea towels or kitchen paper to absorb some of the moisture naturally held by the pumpkin flesh (as long as you can be bothered waiting is usually my rule). The dip the slices in a little coconut oil and lay on a baking tray in a single layer. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 160 degrees celsius for around 20 minutes or as long as it takes for them to go a little brown and crispy. Allow them to cool, add as much salt as desired and eat! Om nom nom.

How do you shop for your groceries? Got a good left-overs recipe? Share all below.

Author: Katie

Katie Roberts is a self confessed 'write-a-holic' Environmental Scientist with a passion for Sustainable Fashion.

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2 Comments

  1. I love this post. My main problem is when I buy meat at the supermarket it comes in polystyrene containers… If I go to the butcher he puts it in paper, but it happens less often, as it is more expensive.
    Bread is sold in recyclable paper bags, and I keep these bags for the bread I make myself when I have time.
    You know what I really love? Sometimes when I am at the farmer’s market I listen or even start talking with older women. They are a great source of informations on minimal waste cooking!
    I learned you can boil the leaves that come with carrots and sautée them with garlic and hot pepper. Same with beets leaves. Or I use fennel stems in my veggie soup. You can really put anything in a veggie soup, and little girl loves it anyway.
    My grandpa used to say that during WW2, when he was prisoner in Germany, he survived on potato skins. I wouldn’t reccommend this to anyone, but I think with some fantasy it’s possible to minimize food waste.

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    • Have you tried taking your own container to the butcher Chiara? Some of them are ok with it. When I’ve gone to get meat for others and taken a container most people think you are really against plastic due to food toxicity but they will usually oblige. The only thing is that many of them still use a plastic bag to pick up the meat to put it in your container then throw the plastic bag out… It’s so hard with food handling laws and standards!

      It’s good you can get bread in recyclable bags! Most of ours is sold in plastic. Even the ‘serve yourself’ parts of the supermarket bakery section have plastic bags, or paper bags with plastic panels. I get my bread from the German Bakery stall at the market because it’s delicious and you can bring your own bag or get a paper one.

      Have you checked out Erin’s website “The Rogue Ginger‘ she has some great ‘out of the box’ ideas that your carrot tops and beet leaves reminded me of! Your grandpa must have some incredible stories. I would love to sit down and talk with him. Yes… a potato skin diet sounds extreme but you have to do what you have to do sometimes. Who knows… with all the wonderful, weird, and slightly unbelievable diet plans that surface every day there could be a market for the potato skin eating plan. :-) It’s amazing how much knowledge you can gain from speaking to older generations. My grandparents have all passed but I have some wonderful elderly neighbours who I enjoy making scones for and listening to their stories while we drink cups of tea.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

      xx
      Katie

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