I don’t like to waste anything, especially not food. Sometimes, sure, it just happens. Food goes off or becomes mouldy, perhaps it was too hot or it was left in the fridge for too long. We’ve all been there and done that at some stage but that’s not to say that we shouldn’t make a conscious effort to minimise such food waste and/or avoid it altogether. We really do try our best to avoid food waste in our kitchen as wasted food is, after all, money wasted.
Not only that, food waste is a much larger problem, in South Africa as well as globally, costing billions in whichever currency you look at it. Yet, there are how many people who go to bed hungry each night? According to this article by Farmer’s Weekly Food wastage in SA: shameful facts 31,4% of all food produced in South Africa goes to waste. Food wasted during consumption accounts for 5% of this waste and occurs mainly in urban areas by those who can afford to feed themselves. I also recently came across this BBC new story How one woman is winning the fight against food waste which was very inspirational!
So on a personal level, and as an individual, here is what you can do to avoid food waste in the kitchen.
Know how much you need & buy what you need
This is the first step: do your month-end shopping with a grocery list. I know this sounds like an absolute cliché but we do it, and it works for us. It helps us stick to buying only what we need and nothing else that might go to waste because it didn’t get eaten. I know that it can be hard sometimes to find the time in our busy schedules to go through the fridge, the freezer and the pantry taking stock of what we have before we produce a shopping list, and go shopping, but we remember why we do it and that keeps us going.
Meal planning goes hand in hand with step number 1 above. Meal planning ensures that we plan to use up the food that we have and that we’ve purchased for the month so that nothing, or as little as possible, goes to waste. For some ideas on how to get started with meal planning check our my posts Meal Planning Around Specials, Meal Planning Ideas and Meal Planning Folder Dividers.
Use every bit of meat & vegetable that you buy
When I meal plan, I make sure that I plan to use up every little bit of meat and vegetables that we’ve bought for the month. I’ll give you an example of how I do that. Last month I bought a budget packet of lamb meat that was on special at Meat World. When I got home, I probably spent an hour removing all the meat off the bones and chopping up the meat. I apportioned a small amount of meat to use in my Green Beans soup recipe, the rest of the meat I used to prepare Lamb Curry and the bones ended up in the freezer to be used when I next make a broth for us (you can check out my Chicken broth recipe in which you can substitute with beef or lamb bones as substitutes for chicken and you can make use of vegetable scraps).
Prepare your vegetables in bulk: wash, peel, chop, etc.
If you buy veggies or fruits in season, when they’re most affordable, you are far more likely to buy such produce in larger quantities because it’s so cheap. I often do that in which case, it’s best to wash, peel, chop and prepare fresh produce, especially veggies, as soon as I get home or at least within a day or two of purchase. I then freeze what I can, cook what needs to be cooked immediately and store the rest for use within the week or two. Last month, I also started collecting vegetable scraps as I’m preparing our veggies in bulk. I’ve stored these scraps in a freezer bag and I will use them to make a broth for us soon. Here you will a useful list of vegetable scraps you can use to make a healthy and delicious broth.
Preserve & pickle produce
Some produce, especially fruits, are only cheap and affordable when they’re in season and supermarkets and greengrocers have surplus stock. That is the best time to buy produce in large quantities to preserve and pickle. We haven’t bought jams or konfyt in years, for example, as I make enough for us to last us a while and we always have plenty to share! We especially enjoy our homemade fig jam, stewed peaches, marmalade, quince konfyt, apple butter as well as tomato sauce, tomato juice, peach juice and sweet pepper relish.
Having a compost heap or bin in your garden is an absolutely awesome way to recycle all the fresh vegetable and fruit waste from your kitchen. You don’t even have to have a very large garden to find space for a compost bin – you can do it on a small scale and still benefit. We love our compost bin. It is fairly large though so as a result every 6 months or so we have about 7 or 8 20-litre buckets full of organic manure to add to our garden, and this is practically free.
Store veggies in the fridge at eye level
This is something that we’ve started doing just recently and we’ve found that if we can see the fruits and veggies (especially the fruits) they’re a lot more likely to get consumed before they go off. We used to store our fresh fruits and veggies in the bottom drawer of the fridge and we would then often forget about what was there. We often used to throw away mouldy carrots, cucumbers, mangoes to name a few. But not anymore because we can now see the fresh produce on the shelves of the fridge and remember to eat it.
Cook in bulk and freeze
Cooking in bulk and freezing meals is definitely the way to go. It’s also very convenient to have ready-made meals in the freezer which you can defrost on weeknights and as a bonus, you haven’t spent a fortune buying ready-made meals from the shops. I usually cook several meals in bulk just after I’ve done my month-end shopping. It is tiring, I must say, and I know lots of people who prefer not to cook in bulk and freeze because of that. However, I make the effort because it saves us money and it also means we don’t waste food that has been purchased in bulk at the end of the month.
Use up all your leftovers
Dinner leftovers can turn into a large source of food waste. Even if leftovers are stored in the fridge for later use, if we don’t consume the leftovers soon, they will end up as wasted that’s for sure. Taking leftovers to work the next day is a good way of using up leftovers rather quickly, or even having the same dinner two nights in a row works for us. Food is food. Alternatively, you might want to consider using those small amounts of leftovers as an addition to another meal you’re cooking. To give you an example, I recently used up a small amount of leftover mushroom sauce and gravy in a vegetable pie. It was delicious!
Don’t over-serve your plate but eat everything that’s on your plate
This is one of the easiest ways to avoid food waste – eat everything. Dish up enough but finish it. Seeing food left on a plate and then thrown into the bin is really one of my pet peeves. There are so many who are less fortunate than ourselves to have any food on a plate so in our household this type of food waste is an absolute no-no. If, for some reason, one of us can’t finish what’s been dished up on our plate, we will simply leave it in the fridge for later.
We’ll still eat recipes gone wrong
Not all recipes will turn out as wonderfully as we’d hoped they would and sometimes even the best of chefs have their off days! Sometimes a cake will fall apart… a veggie bake might not taste that great with a certain combination of spices… but, that’s no reason to turn a small mishap in the kitchen into wasted food. We’ll polish off our plates but just remember not to make use of the same recipe again!
Keep track of what’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer
This is probably not the easiest things to do, I admit! We all have busy schedules and lead busy lives. Sometimes, we just forget to check what’s in the pantry, fridge or freezer, I know. It’s happened to me more than once. But, I have since learnt to make an effort to check the expiry dates on items in my pantry especially, and to incorporate soon-to-expire items in next month’s meal plans. For more ideas on using up items in your pantry and freezer, have a look at some of my posts on the Pantry and Freezer Challenge.
Please share some of your ideas of how you avoid food waste in your kitchen by leaving me a comment below.
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