Zero waste chef and author of ‘More Plants, Less Waste’ Max La Manna shares his tips and challenges you to reduce your food waste for one whole week.
Food waste is a bigger problem than people realise. One quarter of the food thrown away in the US, UK and Europe could feed the world’s nearly 1 billion people. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Tossing edible food in the bin doesn’t just waste money – it wastes water, transportation, labour, energy, packaging, and resources. Discarded food is sent to landfills, where it rots and produces methane gas – the second most common greenhouse gas. In other words, throwing out your food contributes to climate change.
Sadly, it is not an exaggeration to say that food waste is one of the biggest problems facing mankind today. So let’s rethink how we buy food; how we store food; how we eat; and how we put food back into the earth.
7 day no food waste challenge…
- Day 1 ‘Shop Smart’ – Many people tend to buy more than they need when they go food shopping. Before you hit the shops, make a point of using up all of the food that you purchased during your last shopping trip. For anything missing or that needs replenishing, make a list to take with you to the store and only buy what you really need.
- Day 2 ‘Store Food Properly’ – Improper storage is one of the major causes of food waste. Many people are unsure of how to properly store fruit and vegetables, which can lead to premature ripening and, eventually, rotten produce.
For instance, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers and onions are best kept at room temperature and therefore shouldn’t be refrigerated. The stems of leafy greens and herbs can be submerged in water to keep them fresher for longer. You can store bread in your freezer if you think you won’t finish the loaf in time.
You can also help to reduce waste by choosing slightly imperfect produce at the grocery store, or better yet, directly from the farmer at a market.
- Day 3 ‘Save Leftovers’ (and actually eat them too) – Leftovers aren’t just for the holidays. If you happen to cook a lot and you regularly have leftovers, designate a day of the week to use up any that have accumulated in the fridge. It’s a great way to avoid throwing away food and also saves you time and money.
- Day 4 ‘Make A Homemade Stock’- Whipping up a homemade stock is an easy way to reduce food waste. Sauté vegetable scraps like the tops, stalks and peels with some olive oil or butter, then add water and let it all simmer together into an aromatic vegetable broth.
- Day 5 ‘Make Friends With Your Freezer’ – Freezing food is one of the easiest ways to preserve it, and the types of food that take well to freezing are endless. For example, greens that are a bit too soft to be used in your favourite salad can be put in freezer bags or containers and used at a later date in smoothies.
An excess of herbs can be combined with olive oil and chopped garlic, and then frozen in ice cube trays for a handy and delicious addition to sautés and other dishes.
You can freeze leftovers from meals; excess produce from your farmer’s market haul; and bulk dishes like soups and chillis. It’s a great way to ensure you always have a healthy, home-cooked meal available.
- Day 6 ‘Pack Your Lunch’ – A helpful way to save money while reducing your carbon footprint is to bring your lunch to work with you. If you’re strapped for time in the morning, try freezing your leftovers or batch cooking in portion-sized containers. That way, you’ll have pre-made, hearty lunches ready to go each morning.
- Day 7 ‘Compost If You Can’ – Composting leftover food is a beneficial way to reuse food scraps, turning food waste into energy for plants. While not everyone has a garden with room for an outdoor compost pile (especially if you live in the city), there are lots of countertop composting systems that make this practice easy and accessible for everyone, even those with limited space.
By thinking more about the food your household wastes every day, you can help create positive change and conserve some of the planet’s most valuable resources. Even small changes to the way you shop, cook and consume food will help to reduce your impact on the environment, and save you time and money in the process.
For recipe inspiration, see Max’s zero waste broccoli stem fusilli – two ways.