Let’s talk about food waste on a national level.
Currently, it is hard to estimate the effect that food waste is having on our environment and our economy. This is due to the difficulty in collecting data at every stage of the food waste cycle. The food waste cycle includes areas such as organic waste materials from farming (crop waste and manure), to food manufacturing and processing waste and consumer food waste.
One study showed that Australian’s estimated they spent approximately $5.2 billion on food they never consumed. Food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy $20 billion annually. Consumers discard approximately 3.1 million tonnes of food per year, with an additional 2.2 million tonnes discarded by the commercial and industrial sectors.
On average, the people who are most likely to discard food are young adults (aged 18-24 years), households with incomes >$100,000 and families with children. As a mum of a toddler, I am astounded at the amount of food which goes in the bin after any given meal time. It’s not an easy process to change, that’s for sure!
Let’s take a look at food waste on an individual level.
According to Foodwise, the average household discards $1036 worth of food each year. This is enough money to feed an average family for a whole month! What else could you be spending the money on?
Personally, I aim to discard as little food as possible. I try to cook with the ingredients that I have and make our meals go that extra-mile. I ad-lib with recipes to make them suit the contents of our pantry and fridge. We have a compost bin. I try to only purchase the essentials which we need.
But it’s still not enough.
Sadly each week, even with this conscious effort, we still discard food untouched.
The reason I’m writing this post, isn’t to show you how easy it is to change.
The reason I am writing this post is to show that small changes can make a big difference to our environment and economy at individual, national and global levels.
Have a think about these questions for a moment:
- How much food do you throw away each week?
- How many times do you tell yourself, I won’t do the same thing next week, only to end up discarding the same amount of food?
- How often do you purchase an ingredient because the recipe calls for it, before checking what you have in the pantry or fridge at home?
- Do you plan your meals each week? Or do you find you cook on the spare of the moment, without too much thought?
So what steps can we take to reduce our food waste?
1. Purchase produce from FarmGate Online.
This is a recommendation for a few reasons:
- The produce is delicious, sustainable, fresh and supports local farmers
- Typically, you order your staples for the week. This allows you to plan your meals effectively. It stops you going to the local shops for ingredients every one, two or three days. You have your food for the week, and you can plan what to do with it,
- The produce you are purchasing isn’t necessarily what you would see in supermarkets. It’s not perfect. The produce isn’t all identical. It’s authentic, the way produce should be. By supporting farmers, you are stopping one part of the food waste cycle. On average, 20-40% of fruit and vegetables are rejected by main stream supermarkets due to cosmetic standards.
2. Plan your meals ahead.
If you know what you are going to cook for the week, you know how to utilise what you have, without buying more. If this means you cook meals in bulk and freeze them, by all means, do so.
If this means you have leftovers to take to lunch the next day, then perfect. You save money as well as reducing food waste.
3. Freeze produce before it’s ‘too late’.
Fruit is simple. Pop it in freezer-safe container and freeze produce until you are ready to use.
For vegetables, it’s best to quickly blanch them before freezing.
Vegetables such as spinach, kale and silverbeet freeze well after blanching.
4. Only buy what you need.
Have you heard people say, ‘don’t shop when you are hungry’? Write a list and stick to it.
5. Utilise the internet.
I often search for recipes based on what is in the fridge. For example: pumpkin and kale recipes. I’ll have a quick search, find something that takes my fancy and adapt it to what I have available.
It takes a little bit of time to feel comfortable to do this, but trust me, practice does help. Plus it helps you feel a little more creative in the kitchen.
6. Start composting and use a worm farm.
This ensures your food doesn’t end up in land-fill
7. Know your portions and what this means for meal preparation and food purchasing.
- Watch this quick video for some simple tips which you can translate to your every day cooking habits.
- Have a look through my previous posts for hints on serve sizes of fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat/meat alternatives and grains/legumes. Alternatively you can have a read of the Australian Guide to Health Eating website for some simple tips.
- Without fail, every week I will roast a tray of vegetables. They are so simple but add bulk to any meal. Add a tin of tuna or boiled eggs to have a salad for lunch, pop them in a frittata for an easy breakfast or light dinner. The options are endless. I often just toss them in extra virgin olive oil, dried oregano and a little salt and pepper and pop them in the oven for 30 minutes. So simple, but it makes use of what we have at home.
- Along with roasting vegetables each week, I tend to stew fruit to avoid food waste. This way I can top my morning yoghurt or porridge with stewed fruit. I can add it to a crumble for a simple, warming dessert. It puts a simple spin on your usual ingredients.
- Did you try the stewed apple recipe from last week? Or how about this recipe and substitute your favourite fruit?
- Have you tried making your own vegetable stock before? Give this recipe a go.
- What about pickling your ingredients to extend their shelf life?
- This article has some wonderful ideas on fruit and vegetables you could be pickling.
- Tried freezing bananas yet? They make your morning smoothie decadently smooth. Try this recipe for a banana, PB smoothie
- Or how about this chilled, banana nut pie for an easy, waste-free dessert option? It uses 5 frozen bananas.
Cooking with vegetable scraps you would usually discard:
- Ever cooked with Swiss chard stems? This spicy Swiss chard soba noodle stir fry recipe is super simple, quick and utilises the whole vegetable, stems included!
- This radish greens pesto is an inventive way to use parts of the vegetable you would usually discard. Serve with dried pasta for a simple, cost-effective, nourishing meal. Don’t have radishes? How about this carrot top pesto instead?
- What about using cake as a way to avoid food waste? This carrot peeling cake with cinnamon icing is so delicious and a wonderful way to get in that extra bit of fibre.
- I love the sweetness of broccoli stalks. Typically we use them in stir-fries but this recipe for parmesan roasted broccoli stalks is a must try!
Recipe for the week:
Curried cauliflower rice and kale soup
I discovered this recipe by Stone Pier Press. I adapted it to fit what ingredients I had at home. I doubled the quantities of spice mix to add just that bit of extra flavour. Feel free to tweak it and make it your own.
Note: my husband dislikes kale. When I told him there was kale in the recipe he turned his nose up. After tasting it, he proceeded to eat more of the dish than I did and exclaimed he didn’t mind the kale. I”ll take that as a win for the day.
I also make my own curry powder. I use this recipe which is incredibly delicious.
Curried Cauliflower Rice and Kale Soup
- 4 tbsp curry powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for roasting
- 1/4-1/2 Japanese pumpkin, cubed or whatever variety you have
- 1/4 head of cauliflower, broken into florets or as much cauliflower as you have
- 1 large sweet potato, cubed
- 1 medium red onion chopped
- 2 large cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch kale leaves, chopped steams removed
- 4 cups stock vegetable, chicken
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- salt to taste once dish is cooked
Preheat oven to 180C. In a small bowl, combine curry powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
Spread cauliflower, pumpkin and sweet potato in a baking dish (I needed two). Sprinkle spice mix over vegetables, toss with tongs to combine.
Place vegetables in oven for 20-22 minutes, until tender. Remove and set aside. Separate cauliflower from sweet potato and pumpkin.
Whilst vegetables are cooling, prepare your onion, kale and garlic.
When cauliflower has cooled slightly, place in food processor and pulse a few times until it forms a 'rice' consistency.
Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add onion and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until fragrant.
Add broth, coconut milk, vegetables, cauliflower rice and black pepper to stock pot.
Bring to boil, then simmer for approximately 20 minutes until kale is tender.
Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!
As always, feel free to comment below with recipe inspiration or head over to the FarmGate Online Facebook Group and show me what you’ve created.