We often buy food and end up wasting it. There was that delicious recipe that required ingredients you hardly ever use but they’re still in the cupboard well past their ‘best before’ date. What about that bagged salad mix for a salad that was never made? And how about the extra broccoli head, bought because of the two-for-one deal, which has curled up its toes and lost its nutrients.
New Zealanders waste the equivalent of the weight of 350 Boeing 747 Jumbo jets each year – that’s equivalent to 122,547 tonnes of food, which works out at 29kg per person per year*.
Put another way, estimated food waste is equivalent to $1071 worth of food per household per year. Over half of that waste is food that has gone off before being eaten(1).
It can be a sobering exercise to look, over a couple of weeks, at what you throw out and add up what it has cost you. Also, when you do a larder spring clean: the oil that has started to discolour, the bottle of malt vinegar never used (and when will it be used?), biscuits that have gone stale. Add it up – it’ll probably spur you into avoiding so much wastage.
Here are some tips to save you wasting food and money – and help you to protect the environment
- A bit of planning your food for the week goes a long way to help stop impulsive buys. But even if you haven’t planned, think twice before you pick up something just because it’s on special.
- Try and be realistic about how much you need – it’s fine, of course, to buy a bag of carrots if you have a family to feed, but if there’s just one or two of you even carrots turn up their toes over time.
- Portion control can help. Rather than buying one large 500-gram pot of yoghurt buy a pack of four or six small ones. It may be a little more expensive, but you’re less likely to waste the product.
- Again, if you are a small household, rather than buying a large packet of rice, try measuring it out from the bulk bins so you don’t over-buy.
- Put some of your bread in the deep freeze – it still toasts well.
- And if you use breadcrumbs, make them from some of the left-over bread.
- Divide big pieces of food (e.g. meat) into smaller pieces and freeze rather than freezing the lot in one pack.
Use brown bananas for muffins or make a banana bread.
- Make sure you buy good quality containers that seal properly – it’s worth the expense up front because it keeps your food better. And check you have the fridge and freezer at the right temperature.
- If you cook more than you need, label and freeze it – you may not want to eat it the next day, but it’s handy to have a ready-made meal in the freezer for one of those nights when you do not feel like cooking.
- When you unpack your groceries, bring the older ones to the front of the shelf and put the new ones at the back – just as they do in the supermarkets.
- Try using all the product when you cook – that is, scrub but leave the skin on the potatoes, cook the little stems on the broccoli along with the head. If they’re small they’re usually tender.
- If you do have vegetable scraps, freeze them and wait till you are making a vegetable broth or soup.
- If you have time, use fruit to do some preserves or, if it’s looking a little less fresh, use it in a smoothie.
And when it comes to eating your meal – even eating too much is a form of waste and the dial on the scale will start pointing in the wrong direction.
- Don’t put too much on your plate. It’s better to go back for a small second helping than trying to wade your way through the whole meal thinking you need to eat up every scrap.
- Try eating slowly. It takes a while for the brain to register your food intake.
- When you are out at a restaurant, try having two starters rather than a starter and a main. And if you are out for lunch and there are only giant-sized panini’s (instead of the good old single-slice sandwich) go halves with your friend.
There are some good websites aimed to help you waste less food. Love Food Hate Waste NZ is an initiative to help stop food wastage. Check out their website: lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz
*Research commissioned by RaboDirect NZ, a subsidiary of Rabobank NZ. October 2017