6 simple ideas to drastically reduce your food waste

Food waste is a huge problem for the environment, not to mention your wallet. Try these expert tips to cut down the amount of food you throw out.

Feel guilty chucking out that mouldy loaf of bread, yet another bag of wilted lettuce leaves or the half-eaten risotto hiding in the back of the fridge?

Food waste is among Australia’s biggest environmental problems, with Australians sending an estimated 7.3 million tonnes of uneaten food to waste each year.

“It is a phenomenal amount of food,” says food waste warrior Katy Barfield.

Katy says many people think it’s OK to send food to the tip because it’s organic.

“But when it’s wrapped in plastic and put in the ground and it can’t decompose because there’s no air down there, then it actually is really, really damaging because it creates methane,” says Katy, founder of Yume Food.

Not to mention that a quarter of the water used by agricultural worldwide is spent growing food that’s never eaten.

Here’s what you can do to reduce food waste:

1. Get a worm farm

At Katy’s house, the family dog eats many of the leftovers. But there’s also hungry worms ready to devour scraps such as uneaten vegies and fruit.

“They really don’t take a lot of looking after – and the great thing is if you’ve got a garden, you can then put the worms and the great compost on to the garden that they make,” she says.

2. Use the whole vegetable

Katy says we’re often too fussy when it comes to cutting up vegetables.

“People from other countries would look at us like we’re completely mad – like why would cut off the stalk of the broccoli, which has got all this nutrition in it and then just eat the leafy bits at the top?” she says.

Floppy lettuce can be stir-fried, while using a whole leek will add texture and flavour, she says.

3. Find good food storage solutions

Clinical nutritionist Cailie Ford, who works with imperfect fruit and vegetable rescue business Good & Fugly to spread the message on food waste, says correct storage is key.

Keeping vegetables in airtight storage in the fridge helps retain moisture that would otherwise evaporate, Cailie says.

“Things like lettuce, spinach and bok choy are best rinsed and then wrapped in a paper towel before being stored in the veggie compartment to retain the freshness and moisture for longer,” she says.

4. Fill up the freezer

Cailie says pretty much everything – except potatoes – can be chopped and frozen for later.

“Just blanch first and allow to cool before storing in a snap lock bag or container to prevent freezer burn,” she says.

“Bananas are another one that commonly gets thrown out when they’re looking a little sad – just peel and store in a snap-lock bag in the freezer to be used for smoothies or baking at a later date.”

5. Get creative with your cooking

Cailie likes to combine all sorts of vegetables, such as zucchini, cauliflower and beetroot, into smoothies, then sweeten with whatever fruit she has hanging around.

In winter, it’s all about the soup.

“Random veg can be thrown in with lentils or shredded meat for a hearty meal,” she says.

“Homemade pasta sauce is another good one.”

6. Only buy what you need

If that big bottle of tomato passata is on special for the same price as the smaller one, think twice before buying that “bargain”, says Katy.

While it’s hard to ignore the might of marketers, it is important – especially in a country of plenty such as Australia, she says.

“I think honestly we just buy too much, we eat too much, we serve too much and we throw away too much,” she says.

Written by Larissa Ham.