Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Reducing Food Waste

by Gavin, from The Greening of Gavin

Recently, I read that over 30% of all household garbage is food waste; peel, plate scraps, rotten food, tea bags, etc.  Now this figure does not include food waste from Supermarkets, agriculture and the food industry in general.  In landfill these organic scraps become buried under tonnes of other waste and earth in an oxygen deprived environment.  As they breakdown they produce methane which is 25 time more potent than CO2 as a Green House Gas.  Not to mention the pure arrogance of being able to throw away food when over a billion people across the world don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  It makes me feel sick and sad.

So if this issue is so big, what are some of the solutions?  Well a few that I can thing of that can help you to divert food waste from landfill are really common sense and easy to implement   The most obvious is to reduce food waste at the start of the cycle.  By this, I mean when you go grocery shopping.  Here are a few tips;

  • Take a list.  By using a list you will most probably only buy the food items you really need, and in compiling the list you would have checked upon your existing stores at home and just be topping up.
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach.  From personal experience, you buy more food when you are hungry, and usually it is food that you just don’t need.  It is like impulse buying that kicks in due to hunger pains.
  • Grow your own food.  Plant a vegetable garden and reap the rewards, financially, physically and mentally.  It has been proven that people that grow their own waste very little of their own produce.  Maybe it is pride, or the thought of all that effort you took from seed to table.
So by limiting food waste at the beginning of the cycle reduces waste overall. 
During the storage phase, there are other solutions to minimise waste.  Here are some thoughts that might help
  • Menu planning.  Planning each meal may sound a bit anal, but it helps you to utilise the food you have at hand.  Each item in your fridge (where most food spoils) will be accounted for and will usually be used before going furry.
  • Use the crisper.  Your fridge has different compartment for different types of food.  The crisper is the best place for fruit and vegetables and usually last at least two weeks longer than in other parts of the fridge.
  • Use stuff on hand.  Before you go opening another jar of jam, check to see if you have one already open in the fridge.  No use breaking the seal to find that you still have one that is three quarters full.

Finally, what to do with leftovers?  Leftovers are one of my favourite meals.  They can be put into containers and frozen for lunches during the week.  They can be used in other meals.  Cooked too many vegetables?  Try making a bubble and squeak.  Too much Christmas Ham?  Make a pea and ham soup, or freeze chunks of it for use in a few months time when you crave some hammy goodness.  Cooked too much soup?  Well freeze it so you can enjoy it later.  There are so many things you can do with leftover food. 

If worst comes to worst, at least your pets can enjoy a good feed, or maybe even the chickens can have a nosh up if you keep them.  Nothing goes to waste around here at my house.  If the dog won’t eat it, the chooks, or worms or compost bins probably will.  The only organic things we throw into the landfill bin are small bones, but only after we have used them to make a stock!

In summary, using some of these methods will help you to reduce your organic waste, and save you a few dollars in the process.  Waste not, want not! 


Fleecenik Farm said...

We recently moved into a new home that was built 30 years ago with a cold room. We had to replace the fridge and decided that we would find a small dorm sized fridge. We also have a chest freezer we use as one part of our food preservation. It was our hope to use less electricity and we have been able to do okay at this as well.

Because we have a smaller fridge I find that I don't cook more than we need to eat. So I have few leftovers now. If I don't have a big fridge I won't fill a big fridge. If for some reason I have a little overflow, as I did around the holidays, I put the excess in a cooler in the cold room and it keeps pretty well. I also freeze leftover soups that my husband can easily take to work for lunch.

The true test of this will come during the summer when there is plenty of garden bounty. I am thinking my system will stave off any procrastination at food preservation.

Mrs. J @ Road Less Traveled said...

Great post! I plan out a week's menu and make a grocery list based on that menu. I shop our fridge and cupboards first! We even have a planned number of snacks for the week.

Using this method, we only buy food we will use. Also, if a recipe calls for part of something that will go bad, I can pick another recipe that will use the rest of it. Like a couple stalks of celery, or half a bunch of kale. Since I plan a week at a time, it's easy to plan a use for all of the food we buy.

Like you, we compost the scraps and feed our dogs some vegetable peelings as treats. Since we don't eat meat, none of our food ends up in the landfill. It is all eaten or composted. It amazes us how much food people waste.

David said...

This is an issue that I continually need to be reminded of. It is something that continues to a plague to our nation. If you don't think so just go to a buffet and see how much food is taken off the food line but not eaten at the table. Many families could be fed from the tossed food from a single buffet day. It really causes me concern when I see half eaten plates of food taken away to be tossed in the dumpster and taken to the landfill. At home I try to use every scrap of food again and again until it's gone. In a household that hates leftovers except for me, that can be a bit challenging at times.

Have a great no food waste day.

Laura Spilde said...

Good ideas. A person can even use aged milk products if they know how to make cheese ;)

katnap said...

What, pray tell, is a bubble and squeak?!!

Steve Mynhier said...

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Melanie Williams said...

I create very little waste and what does get created gets sent to the compost pile where it is turned into compost,then spread on the garden to help make more food.

For awhile I had two areas of weakness--drained fats from cooking meat, and bones. I ended up sending both of those to the landfill. Eventually I realized it was absurd to toss out the fats--these could be strained, saved in the freezer, and reused. So the bones remain the only problem. I *want* to turn them into bonemeal, but currently don't have a reasonable way to do that. I could dry them in the oven, but that would waste energy. When I get around to building a solar cooker or solar dehydrator I will have a way to dry them that makes sense and doesn't waste energy. Then the next problem will be figuring out how to crush or pulverize the bones so I can spread them on the garden.

Anonymous said...

We used to be great at not wasting food, but I've been noticing a lot more waste in the past few weeks, when both of us have been working crazy hours. We just aren't keeping track as well, and we've not been eating at home every night. I also fear it's because I recently got a new job and we're not feeling as cash-strapped. This, of course, is great, but it's no excuse to be wasteful.

Margo said...

You could always use those bones to make bonemeal for the garden.... :-)


Where did you read it? I am about to embark on a masters degree in sustainable art and as part of that I am doing small natural dye samples using my food scraps and having something to site would help.

Margaret said...

I seldom throw food out and I own a small diner. For the most part, all the coffee grinds, tea bags and veggie scraps go into my compost at home. Most of the food that comes back uneaten is scraped into the dog/chicken bowls. Leftover food is taken home for my husband and I and if it's too much I share it with my son and his family. Bread ends are dried and made into breadcrumbs and I recycle everything. What does this mean? I use many of the veggies I grow as well as the eggs my chickens lay at my restaurant and I only have about three bags of garbage each week, that includes my home and restaurant garbage. My future plan is to buy a bike and drop the car...not sure if my hubby will go for it but then he scoffed at reclying, composting, chickens, and growing food...not anymore, he has enbraced this new life and loves it.

Kristina Strain said...

Chickens are a great way to reduce food waste. There are lots more great tips I found in this article Reduce Food Waste.

africanaussie said...

Yes this is an area where we need to be concerned, thanks for bringing up the subject for review! When we eat fish or shellfish I bury all the shells and bones in the garden - they quickly rot down, dont smell and bring in lots of worms, and I am sure minerals. I am wondering if you can just bury soup bones as well - do they need to be crushed?

nixwilliams said...

We make stock from the cut off ends and peelings of veggies (not potatoes) and some fruit (apples, pears). Because I don't have time to make stock every week, I have a couple of containers filled with offcuts that I keep in the freezer. When I know I'm going to have time to make stock, I put the containers in the fridge to defrost overnight (saves energy by keeping the fridge cold, too) then make stock the next day. It goes back into the freezer to store, or I make soup/stew with it straight away. Unfortunately, the remainders are not good for compost and we don't have chooks or pets (inner city flat), but it feels good to know that none of that organic waste has been really wasted!

Bel said...

Anything the cats will eat goes to their bowl adjacent to the kitchen. Other food scraps go to the chickens, ducks and guinea pigs. Occasionally there are treats like bendy carrots for the cows and horses too. Anything which the animals don't consume goes into the compost, or is buried in the garden. We don't have many bones, as we don't eat much meat, but when we do, we simply bury them (lucky to have a lot of space to do so).

When I am out and about and I have, for example, a banana peel, I always struggle to place it in a regular garbage bin and prefer to hide it in the bushes at the base of a tree in the park or something! Is that strange? LOL

The Nurturing Pirate said...

With regard to bones, specifically chicken bones, I've found that if I make two batches of chicken stock from them, they're soft enough to grind in my food processor. I then feed the "shmoo" to my dog. I'm careful to grind them *very* fine, so that there are no sharp bits. I don't think you could do this with beef bones, as I don't think they'd ever get soft enough.