Australians, I am told, throw away three million tonnes of food each year, averaging 145kg of discarded food for every man, woman and child.
And Sydneysiders are apparently the worst offenders – half of our weekly domestic garbage is food. While so many people in the world have no food at all, we throw half of ours away. Obscene. And not just because of the sheer wastefulness of it, but the environmental impact – disastrous levels of methane, a damaging greenhouse gas, arise from all this organic matter going into landfill.
I must admit I’ve been less watchful of this than I should be, and have used the fact that we have a worm farm rather too nonchalantly when it comes to disposal of unused food.
Senor, on the other hand, has always been a vigilante in this area, using my regular Monday evening absence from home to act as a kind of weekly fridge bottom-feeder, eating leftovers and concocting some often rather unusual dinners for one (corn cobs and curry sauce with a mayonnaise & raspberry coulis chaser? Mmm-mm! Just another instance of the usefulness of his iron-clad stomach).
But I hereby declare a personal war on food waste. Last night, having spied a very weary eggplant in the bottom of the crisper, I rang the Empress for a tip or two, then made baba ganoush for the first time ever. It was easy, pretty quick, and extremely good. And a perfectly usable whole eggplant was saved from the worms.
For other fridge scraps, I invoke the memory of my Aunty Pat, who stayed with me for a month or so many years ago. I worked near home, and would pop home for lunch. Every day there was some incredibly delicious soup she’d made from what I had seen as highly dubious scraps and nubs of past-it veg in the crisper. Occasionally it didn’t do to think of what some of that veg had looked like, but the soup was always amazing.
So, how do you reduce food waste?
There are a few websites devoted to this issue, containing lots of tips and tricks for preventing waste, but I have to say that anyone with half a brain could figure out a good proportion of them (‘freeze leftovers and reheat later’ and ‘keep vegetables in bags to keep fresh longer’ – ingenious!) And the Australian one is rather depressingly skewed towards the use of Tupperware, its major sponsor (no mention of the greenhouse gases produced by manufacture of plastic, of course). And lots of reader tips involve that apparently very popular practice of popping leftovers of all kinds into ice cube trays [“too much bouillabaisse? just pop excess into an ice cube tray for use as needed“], which I have always found amusing. How many ice cube trays does a person have??
The main advice, of course, is not to buy too much perishable food in the first place – sounds crazy, but apparently it works! And secondly, don’t cook too much food.
At the very least, get yourself a worm farm, if not a proper compost bin, so that unusable food scraps don’t go into landfill. We have a spanking new worm farm with two thousand head of worm, ready to chomp. We had to set our old worms free when the building work began, so are hoping our new batch are as ravenous as the old ones. All the advice is that worms won’t eat onions & garlic, but our old lot chowed down on them with relish, so fingers crossed that the newbies are similarly omnivorous.
Anyhoo, check out these sites; some of the readers’ tips are not bad, and quite a few are good for a laugh. However, I reckon we could get a much more interesting list going here.
1. Using up carrots: My first contribution will be ol’ Guillaume’s carrot puree, used to thicken his BB – I made too much, but have used it twice since, in thickening a chicken cacciatore and a lamb and pea mixture for a pie. Wherever a recipe calls for thickening with flour, chuck in your puree. You could even pop it into an ice cube tray to create easy-to-use individual portions!
2. Grow your own herbs: which means only using what you need. I’m forever throwing out half-bunches of parsley or thyme (I know, I should be freezing them into damn ice-cubes – but growing them is more pleasurable and aesthetically pleasing to boot).
Okay, now your turn. What do you do to reduce food waste?