Food for thought – 3 ways to avoid food waste

Food for thought – 3 ways to avoid food waste

They say you are what you eat, but what you buy and don’t eat may say more about your future health and prosperity if you allow waste to chew away at potential grocery savings.

Australians throw away a staggering $5.2 billion of uneaten and spoiled food every year. While it may be tempting to think that the amount your household turfs out is too insignificant to matter, all those plate scraps and wilted vegetables in the bottom of the fridge add up.

It is estimated that about 20 per cent of bought food is wasted, or $616 per household a year, given that the average household equals 2.3 people.

This means that a family with two adults and two children is throwing almost $1000 a year into their wheelie bin. That money might help pay a family’s annual energy bill or even a weekend getaway.

1. Soup kitchens

There are many reasons why households waste food and money in the kitchen, including a lack of time and poor cooking skills. For older generations, frugality may bring back memories of poverty.

During the Great Depression, poor families had no choice but to “waste not want not” or else watch their children go hungry. In Europe, many would keep a giant soup pot simmering 24 hours a day.

Into the stock would be thrown vegetable peelings, stale bread, bones, gristle and fat left over from rare meals of meat, and the occasional potato pilfered from the market garden down the road.

While going back to the bad old days is not recommended, it is concerning that so few households consider recycling or composting left overs and kitchen scraps. About two thirds of all waste sent to landfills in Australia consists of food waste and organic matter.

Sadly, avoiding this backyard task is encouraging unsustainable food production practices that damage the environment, push up the price of fresh food and contribute to an epidemic of obesity and diet-related diseases.

2. Chop into shopping list

There are many measures consumers can take to carve up food waste and slice grocery bills. Those requiring the least effort include buying cheaper, in-season produce, replacing some fresh vegetables with frozen ones, shopping at discount grocers, limiting exotic meal ingredients and even making sure your next refrigerator is smaller than the commercial kitchen-style chillers of today. This will also help lower energy costs.

Habits that require a little more organisation include making lunches from fresh ingredients rather than packing junk food into kids’ lunch boxes, growing your own vegetables, and trading home-grown produce with other like-minded gardeners.

Using cook books such as the series Four Ingredients will introduce you to hundreds of tasty recipes that require just a few items, thereby starving your shopping list of unnecessary and costly products.

3. Avoid great temptations

In the past five years, Australians’ eating habits have been transformed. This is in no small part due to the rise in popularity of cooking shows such as MasterChef, which tempt viewers to spend more time experimenting with pantry loads of ingredients than ever before.

Adding to the cost of feeding ourselves are supermarket aisles dedicated to organic food, products devoid of potential allergens such as gluten and pre-cooked “fresh” meals.

No longer content with meat and three veg, Aussies have become the gourmet generation with expensive dinner habits. But it is not necessary to spend a fortune to eat well.

By putting more thought into our daily food preparation and eating habits we could trim our waistlines as well as our household budgets.

Sacha Loutkovsky
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