12 tips to help you reduce your food waste
Tips for zero-waste living
One of the hottest food trends of the last few years, the no-waste cooking movement is one that is beneficial to the environment, your health, and your wallet. Unsure of where to start or how to cook without waste? These suggestions will inspire you to rethink your favourite recipes and the ingredients you traditionally use.
1. Take a shopping list
Sticking to a list that you’ve prepared can help to reduce the likelihood of impulse purchases at the shops. Try to avoid shopping on an empty stomach, too. When you’re hungry, you’re likely to buy much more than you need.
2. Buy less, more frequently
Replenish fresh produce and other perishables every few days, rather than buying a week’s worth of groceries at once. Topping up your fresh produce more regularly means you’re less likely to buy too much of something and end up throwing it away.
3. Serve only what you need
Unless you’re intentionally doing a batch cook, measure ingredients accurately to ensure you cook only what you need. That way you’re less likely to overcrowd your plate or throw away food at the end of the night.
4. Preserve seasonal produce
Preserve any leftover fruit and vegetables by turning them into pickles, jams and chutneys. Find some of our recipes using pickled and fermented foods.
5. Store food more effectively
Herbs and salad leaves wilt quickly if not stored properly. To make them last longer, wrap herbs in a damp paper towel and store in a sealed container. Store salad leaves, such as rocket or baby spinach, between dry paper towels inside an airtight container.
6. Get creative with leftovers
Uneaten leftovers make up a huge proportion of food waste. Use leftovers to make stocks and soups. Turn extra pasta or cooked veggies into frittatas or blend cooked veggies with canned tomatoes to create a veggie-packed pasta sauce.
7. Freeze foods for later
Freeze things like freshly squeezed lemon juice or par-cooked, pre-cut veggies to make them last longer.
8. Embrace composting
If you’ve got a garden or balcony, invest in a compost bin for your food scraps to turn your leftovers into natural, chemical-free, zero-cost fertiliser for your plants.
9. Understand expiration dates
‘Baked on’ dates are for baked goods, such as bread and pastries. They taste best on the day they’re baked, but it doesn’t mean they’re inedible after that. ‘Use by’ means that you need to consume the product by that date. These dates are set by manufacturers as there may be safety concerns for foods after this date. The ‘best before’ date emphasises quality not safety. So if a food is past its ‘best before’ date, it may not be off, just not as fresh as it could be, such as chips or biscuits that have lost their crunch.
10. Grow your own herbs
So many fresh herbs are thrown out because we only need a few leaves. Try growing your own herbs in a windowsill planter or a sunny spot in the garden, if you have space. You’ll add some beautiful greenery to your home while reducing food waste.
11. Make homemade stock
Making homemade broth and stock at home is an excellent way to get rid of many kitchen scraps at once and it couldn’t be easier to do. Begin by labelling large resealable freezer bags with the date and type of stock you’d like to make (for example, 'beef broth' or 'vegetable stock'). Use these bags to collect various kitchen scraps over the next couple of weeks. Once the bag is full its contents can be added to a large stock pot, slow cooker or pressure cooker, covered with cold water and then simmered for 60 minutes to up to 24 hours (the use of a slow cooker for longer times keeps the process safe.) Use homemade stock immediately or bring to room temperature and freeze for up to 12 months.
12. Rethink traditional pesto
Is your crisper drawer full of sad-looking greens destined for the compost heap? If the answer is yes and you own a food processor, you’re only 10 minutes away from delicious homemade pesto. To make a basic pesto you’ll need 2-3 cups of chopped greens, about 1 cup of grated cheese, olive oil, and a small handful of nuts or seeds.
Create casseroles with zero waste
You can always count on a casserole to come to the rescue on nights when the fridge looks discouragingly bare. All you need is some sort of cooked grain or pasta, a couple of vegetable odds and ends, some protein, and something vaguely sauce-like to keep the whole thing together. Simply combine, pour into a casserole dish, top with whatever you have on hand and bake in a moderately hot oven for 30 to 45 minutes. You’ll have a hot, nourishing meal on the table in no time - you might even accidentally create a new family favourite!
- Leftover rice, quinoa or couscous all work well in casseroles (or, you could finally use up that small amount of uncooked grains that’s been sitting in the bottom of the bag for months.) Likewise, leftover pasta or an assortment of different uncooked pastas (check to make sure their cooking times are similar) can be used as a base for almost any casserole.
- The sky’s the limit when it comes to vegetables; a single carrot, a few wilted kale leaves, a half an onion, leftover mashed regular or sweet potatoes, some slightly mushy tomatoes, and bell pepper that’s past its prime can all be used to bulk up a casserole. You can always add frozen and canned vegetables to supplement if you’re truly short on ingredients.
- If you have any leftover poultry or meat from the week you can cut it into small cubes and add it to the other casserole ingredients. Those last few pieces of baked tofu can receive the same treatment, as can any bits of cheese or beans cooked earlier in the week.
- Use partially filled jars of pasta sauce, salsa and antipasti for tomato-based sauces (you can always add a small amount of water to small amounts of sauce and shake until it pours out easily.) Out of tomato sauce or looking to try something different? Leftover gravy, creamy soups, and hearty stews can also be used to bind casserole ingredients together.