Did you know that the average Australian household rubbish bin contains 40% food waste? Or that over $1000 worth of the food we purchase in a year will be thrown out? It’s quite staggering. And when you take into account the water, fuel and resources it took to grow your food and get it to your home, the true cost of our over-abundant access to food is high.
There are lots of ways you can use your organic waste so that it doesn’t end up in landfill, but when making a conscious effort to reduce your waste the focus is on not generating it in the first place. You have complete control over this by deciding what you bring into your home (well, almost complete control —I’m sure we’ve all been a victim of the child who declares a passionate love for one type of food, until you stock up on it and now they recoil in horror at the mere thought of eating said food!).
As with most things in life, planning is the key to success! With 1 in 5 bags of groceries ending up in landfill, taking the time to plan your family meals can go a long way to ensuring you only buy what you need. I only plan our dinners (I don’t feel the need to write “Weet-bix” in the breakfast slot 7 times on my planner!), and occasionally lunchbox snacks. It doesn’t need to be a time-consuming activity — half an hour on a Sunday to plan your meals and write your shopping list will not only help reduce your food waste, it will eliminate the nightly horror of trying to decide what to cook for dinner. If you are lacking inspiration, drag out those cookbooks or hit up Pinterest for some new ideas. Or, you can flip this idea on it’s head and try reverse meal planning — trawl through your pantry and freezer and see what you can create with the ingredients you already have on hand. You might even save yourself a few trips to the shops.
You can elevate your planning to include not only what you cook, but how much. $876 million worth of leftover food is discarded in Australia every year. From my own observations, there seems to be two distinct groups of people when it comes to leftovers – those who love it (cold pizza for breakfast, anyone?), and those who won’t go near it; either because they don’t like repeating the same meal twice, or there are concerns over food spoilage. If you are in the second group, then really try not to generate any leftovers. Plan your portions and reduce the quantity of food you cook. I know we hate the thought of anyone going hungry, but there are usually plenty of snack/supper options for anyone who didn’t fill up at dinner.
In my household any leftover food that cannot be re-used is fed to our dog, and then the chickens. The dog is fed exclusively on our food scraps (this was not intentional, nor is it recommended by any veterinarians, he is just won’t go near commercial dog food!), and we have just 2 chickens that take care of the rest. I think if every household had a couple of chooks in the backyard it would really make a difference to their household waste! Aside from the few items the chickens can’t eat, we have zero food waste heading to our bin (this has a fantastic bonus – if you have no wet waste in your indoor bin, you don’t need to use a plastic bin liner!). And I may be known to gather up food scraps at parties, leftovers when we eat out etc and bring them home. Am I worried about odd looks from fellow customers? Maybe. But I am more worried about the thought of that food rotting away in landfill when it could be put to better use!