4 Clever Ways To Reduce Your Food Waste

So January is over, you’re back at work, and the excess and mayhem of the silly season is fading til all you’re left with is an embarrassing awareness you said something weird to your boss at the Christmas Party. It’s time to do the thing you’ve been dreading all month: it’s time to actually implement your New Year’s Resolutions.

Last year, I resolved to reduce my food waste. It’s good for the environment, plus the less rubbish you have the less you have to argue with your partner about whose turn it is to take the bins out. If your 2017 resolutions were similarly motivated, here are a few great tips for reducing food waste.

1. Use the food you have

This sounds like such a basic instruction but according to Foodwise, Aussies throw out up to 20% of the food they buy each year. If you’re throwing out that much food, you’re also throwing out 20% of your money, which is ridiculous. You can reduce waste and save money by shopping smarter, cooking more inventively and planning well:

  • Make a shopping list. Stick to it. Don’t go shopping hungry or you’ll be buying absurd treats you don’t need and you’ll get home and wonder whether you actually needed 5 different cracker brands.
  • Use up what’s in the fridge before you buy new food. Plan ahead, eating fresh stuff that goes off first, and saving things with a longer shelf life til later in the week.
  • Get googling. On those days when you look in the fridge and there’s a motley collection of vegetables, turn to trusty Google. Type in the ingredients plus “recipe” and you’ll find something new to try.

2. Get into leftovers

Be that person at work, the one with the lunch box that makes the whole office smell like lasagne. People will either be jealous or annoyed, but you’ll feel smug about your reduced waste and increased cash. No one likes food court food and anyone who says they do is lying. Here are some tips:

  • Some foods make better leftovers than others; no one is saying you need to eat a limp, damp salad for lunch. You can keep leftover salads fresher by dressing them on your plate (not in the bowl); potato salad or roasted veg are delicious the next day; and soups, curries and stews just get tastier over time.
  • Become friendly with your freezer. You can make your own lean cuisine by making freezer meals for busy times and freezing fruit before it rots for delicious smoothies.
  • For added enviro-points, skip the glad wrap and use a cute lunch box, or these excellent eco friendly reusable food wraps.

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3. Learn to make stock with your scraps

Making stock had the biggest impact on my food waste over the past year. As a vegetarian I eat a lot of vegetables so the bin fills up with onion skin, leek tops, carrot peels and herb stalks. These are the perfect ingredients to make a tasty stock. Throughout the week I fill a freezer bag with the peels and odds and ends, then on the weekend when I am chilling out at home, I cook the stock. I either immediately use it to make soup for the week’s lunches or I freeze it in batches for later.

  • For those of you who eat meat or fish, save up your bones and scraps in a freezer bag for a rich and complex fish, chicken or meat stock.
  • Get into a rhythm or habit that works for you. If Sunday arvo doesn’t suit, pick a night when your favourite TV shows are on, or chuck everything in a slow cooker while you sleep. If you’re super busy a pressure cooker expedites the process.
  • I keep it pretty loose, lightly frying the onions, leeks and celery bits, then adding water to cover all the scraps, a few peppercorns, salt and a bay leaf or two. If you prefer recipes, there are good ones online for fish, chicken, beef and vegetable


4. Get a small home composting system.

With housing prices as they are, I am guessing most of us don’t have massive gardens where we can hide big compost bins. This doesn’t mean you can’t compost the scraps that didn’t make it into your stock. Here are 2 solutions that can work in small houses and apartments:

  • A worm farm. Worms might be unconventional pets but they’re cheap to keep, they eat your scraps and your farm will generate great fertiliser for plants or a little herb garden. Beware, though, worms don’t like some foods like onion and garlic (fortunately these are great in your stock). The City of Sydney has some great tips for starting a worm farm.
  • A Bokashi Bin. If worms give you the heebie-jeebies, or like me you’re afraid you’ll accidentally kill the worms and have to organise little worm funerals, a bokashi bin might be a better way to go. It’s a bit more expensive as you have to buy special bokashi mix to make it work, but it’s tidy, efficient and also generates fertiliser.

And there you have it, four tips for reducing food waste and enjoying a cheaper, tastier and more environmentally friendly 2017!

Maeve is a freelance writer, director, producer and performer, and the creator of Sydney cabaret act, Lady Sings it Better. She tweets from @maevegobash.