by Kylie Foster November 21, 2022
Food waste never feels good. If you are struggling with food waste or know you could tighten this up further, you might find the tips below helpful. When change is required, the least overwhelming way to start is to just pick one thing, get that sorted and embedded as a habit and then add in another positive step. Before you know it you'll have reduced your food waste and be enjoying more dollars in your pocket.
Here are my top tips for reducing food waste.
1. Meal plan
This is at the heart of reducing waste and keeping budgets under control. A good tip is to check what you already have before heading to the supermarket and then fill in the gaps. Your meal plan could be quite fluid if you like to shop specials - that's ok, you can finalise it when you get home and make sure you are using your most perishable items first.
A pro tip that was shared by an Instagram follower was to actually plan a leftovers night - use up the leftovers and little bits and bobs you have in the fridge. An alternative for leftovers is to have them for lunch the next day.
2. Use your freezer (also see tip #8)
Use your freezer as a tool to reduce waste but make sure you store the food well and keep it rotating. I rarely keep any raw meat in my fridge, it all goes straight into the freezer to take out when we want to use it - this avoids things being left too long in the fridge. Leftovers, scraps, bones etc are great popped in the freezer to bring out for when you want to make stock or soup and I always have jars of vegetable water (the water at the bottom after steaming) in glass jars in my freezer to use for gravy and soup.
Freezer burn is a real joy killer. We have access to home-kill meat and I've found supermarket freezer bags to be pretty hopeless - I now vacuum seal in plastic bags that I can reuse time and time again. There are home compostable options available now too which is amazing. I also find glass pyrex containers with a plastic lid great for ready made meals and straight sided preserving jars are excellent for soups and vegetable water - make sure the jars are straight sided (no shoulder) and you leave space for the contents to expand on freezing. I'm really liking the Le Parfait Familia Wiss Terrine and Le Parfait Super Terrine jars for the freezer - straight sides, decent lids and marked with max fill lines.
An inventory of your freezer is really useful too but most important is to keep the food rotating to ensure it isn't left in there too long.
3. Airtight storage containers
This makes a big difference for avoiding pantry moths or items going soft or stale. We have lots of fab food storage containers for your pantry in the online shop. Preserving jars work well too; many of our customers use Agee, Ball, Weck and Le Parfait preserving jars as pantry storage jars.
4. A tidy pantry
An organised pantry will stop items disappearing into the back of the cupboard to then emerge later, 2 years past the best before date. A tidy pantry always feels good.
5. Vegetable garden
There's a mental shift that happens when you start growing your own food. Knowing the time and resources that have gone into growing your food, it makes it very hard to let any of it go to waste. Plus, you can pick exactly what you need so nothing is wasted. Herbs are an easy one to grow and the store bought options don't tend to last very well so this can be a good place to start. We started with 2x raised vegetable beds and now have many many more... it's hard to stop....
6. Preserve the excess
During peak preserving seasons, there can be huge amounts of fruit and vegetables that go to waste. Perhaps plan to just bottle/can one of those things this year as you find your feet with home preserving (be warned, it is addictive). Or if you've been preserving food for a while now, plan to try a new recipe so you can expand what excesses you can save. Over the last few years I've tried a few new recipes, loved them and they are now part of our annual preserving plans - bread and butter pickle (a great option for excess cucumbers) and savoury plum sauce (there's usually someone with a laden plum tree who is happy to share) are two of my favourites.
Another great option is dehydrating food. A dehydrator is such a handy piece of equipment to have in the kitchen and is perfect for saving those bananas that have just started to get a bit spotty or herbs when your plants need a trim back. The options are endless.
7. Only do one shop
This goes without saying, the less you shop, the less waste you are likely to have. (And the less snacks you are likely to buy.)
8. Pressure can for long-life, shelf-stable food
Pressure canning is a game changer and I'd go so far as to say it has been life changing for me. I've had a few incidences in the last few years where we have almost lost a freezer load of food (mostly meat). The first one I discovered just in time (the power had been turned off at the wall) and managed to save almost all of it by making into meals which went back into the freezer. The second time the door had been left open and I caught it early enough that we could simply close the door again. It has really drilled home to me that we can be too reliant on our freezers. We really enjoy having pressure canned meats, vegetables, fish and complete meals in our pantry, it makes for the easiest meals (I always think of them as nutritious takeaways).
Pressure canned food can double as your emergency food too so it's a double win for me. (I have our emergency bottled food bubble wrapped in our emergency food storage box as we are prone to earthquakes here.)
9. Use more of your vegetables
Broccoli stalks, carrot tops, celery leaves... we are all likely throwing out vegetable scraps that we could be eating. At the very least, we can freeze them to use for soups and broths later.
10. Make compost or feed your animals
Even with all of the tips above, we will still have some waste and that's ok. We put almost everything into our compost bin. Meat and bones go into a bokashi bin and then that gets emptied into our compost bin when ready. We use all of the compost in our vegetable gardens to start the cycle again. And, I do have a worm farm here but I've not mastered the worm farm thing yet... must check on those worms.... I know many of you have pigs and chooks that take care of your kitchen scraps too, perfect!
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