Food Wastage – How to Reduce Household Food & Packaging Waste?

Rubbish RS CC

So, continuing our conversation on Food Wastage, we have covered how much food is wasted globally, what Industrial Waste is and, in this post, we will cover what Food Wastage at home looks like. In broadening my knowledge about Food Wastage I have to ask myself two questions. The first, How can I reduce Food Waste in my own home and when I’m eating out?, and the second what does this waste include? For me waste includes everything to do with the purchase and consumption of food that I bring into my home and food that I eat out of the home. This includes the plastic bags we use to collect or bring our food home in, the packaging the food is wrapped in, any disposable cutlery, serving containers or cups used in the meal, as well as the food that we waste after a meal and the leftovers we throw away or don’t use the next day.

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Packaging Waste – Packaging for food products can be classified either as recyclable (Glass, Plastic, Paper, Cardboard, Aluminium, Metal Cans), or non recyclable (this includes everything else including small pieces of plastic like forks, soft plastic bags and Styrofoam. This may differ in your area so please check with your council or rubbish disposal service. Food grade plastic is often recyclable but check the packaging for a recycling symbol, if there isn’t one, the packaging is most likely not recyclable and should be put in the regular rubbish. All the packaging we bring into the house is sorted and recycled or disposed of appropriately. 

The best way to minimise the amount of packaging that needs to be recycled in your home is to minimise the amount brought into the home or used in the first place. When shopping you can choose to use re-usable bags made from material instead of plastic bags. Purchase fruits and vegetables in a single bag instead of pre-packaged product which tends to be a tray inside of an outer bag. When eating out I try to reduce the amount of disposable cutlery, cups and plates that I use. Yes, it means washing up but I opt to use crockery and metal cutlery for a meal when I’m at home. Avoid single use plastic objects such as straws and sandwhich bags where possible. Straws can be easily rinsed, dried and re-used if used in liquids such as soft drink and water. If the straw has been used in a milk based drink, then it will need to be washed in hot soapy water to remove the protein residue from the milk before drying. 

Disposable coffee cups have been getting a lot of publicity lately with countries around the world implementing initiatives to try to minimise the number of cups disposed and working out ways to effectively recycle them. The UK alone uses 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year. They are difficult to recycle as they are made of layered paper with plastic which can be difficult to separate. The best way to minimise the number of coffee cups disposed of every week is to avoid purchasing them in the first place. If you reduce the amount of coffee you purchase from cafe’s, you can probably save enough to invest in a coffee machine for your home. This way you can make yourself a special coffee to start the day and take it away from home. There are a range of re-useable, double walled coffee cups that are designed for take-away coffee and to keep the coffee as hot as possible for as long as possible. These cups can also be taken along to most coffee shops who are happy to fill them for you which is fantastic.  Here is a recent article out of the UK on this issue –

Food Waste – There are lots of ways to minimise food waste in the household. Again, the best way to minimise wastage is to minimise the amount of excess food brought into the home. To work towards this goal, the best way I find is to take some time every week to create a meal plan for the week. Friday night, with a glass of wine once the kids are in
bed is my night to quickly go through my cupboards, fridge and fruit & vegetable draws. I can then come up with ideas for the week ahead using what’s on hand as a base. If you Shopping List RS CCsit down and really look at the week you can work out which meals you need to cook and those that you may not be in the home for. Which recipes you can make a double batch of and freeze, and which meals you can make from what you already have in the freezer. Ensure you note down snacks for the family and make sure you have plenty of items such as fresh fruit for the kid’s cheese, nuts, olives etc on hand as hunger can often lead to random snacking on whatever is within reach. From the meal plan you can make a list of all the ingredients you need and only purchase those ingredients you know you will be cooking with for the week ahead. Ensure your weekly plan allows for one night a week for Left Over Night, where you only eat leftovers and you get a night off from cooking.

When it comes to food wastage here are some other tricks –

  • Eat older ingredients first. If you have space available put the ingredients that need to be eaten first on the top shelf of your fridge so they are easy to see. 
  • If you are like me and you love your dairy products, keep them all together on one shelf of the fridge so they don’t get lost at the back of different shelves. 
  • Purchase your meat in bulk and pack off amounts in clip lock bags for freezing.
  • When freezing meal components such as bolognese sauce, meat muffins or pesto be sure to write the contents and the date on the label so you can keep track of what is in your freezer.
  • Use vegetables that are getting a little old in recipes where they will be cooked like stews, soups, curries, scrambled eggs etc. This is great for tomatoes that may be getting a little old. 
  • Freeze diced cooked or roasted left over chicken meat in clip lock bags for use in soups, stews or quiches. 
  • Instead of wasting food as left overs, try to freeze what you can for meal components straight away. Meat and tomato sauced based recipes like soups, stews, curries, bolognese sauces, unsauced meatballs, meat muffins, etc usually freeze quite well. 
  • Instead of cooking a meal, make an anti-pasto platter with left over smallgoods, vegetables, cheeses, olives, pickles etc. 
  • A once a week stir-fry is a great way of getting rid of a lot of different vegetables and any frozen meat that you have in the freezer. Keep in mind that stir-fries don’t freeze very well so only make enough for the meal and/or one meal the next day. 

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Plate and Portion Size – In regards to reducing the amount of left over food on our plates and the amount of leftovers we discard after a meal or the next day, there are a few things we can do to minimise food waste in these areas. We all have heard that meal and food portion sizes have increased over the past 20 years. We all supersize and upsize our meals and it’s understandable that we are all a little confussed when it comes to knowing what a normal serving size should be. We may unknowingly bring this into our home when serving our home cooked meals.

To reduce the amount of food that is thrown away after a meal have a look at the portion sizes you are currently serving to the members of your family. Kids can be quite difficult to judge their portion size as they will eat different amounts depending on the time of the day, when they last snacked and what’s on the menu. For families with older children or adults, instead of loading up your plate the next time you serve your next meal, think about the amount of food you are putting on the plate. If you are like me and you are wired to eat everything on your plate, but your trying to control or reduce the amount of food you eat at meal times, then I would suggest either choosing a smaller plate or serving 2/3rds of your normal serving size first. After eating your meal, wait 10 minutes and if you are still hungry go back for a small second serve.

The topics of portion size, and the science behind how our brain registers when we have eaten enough are topics I will cover in more detail in future posts. I hope you found this information useful.


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