Go and have a look inside your garbage bin. Is there a lot of food in there? Every year, Australians waste approximately 7.6 million tonnes of food, costing the Australian economy $36.6 billion. The garbage found in the average household bin is 40 per cent food with 18 per cent of purchased food going to waste, even though 70 per cent of it is still edible.
That's why, this September, SecondBite, one of Australia's largest food rescue organisations, is encouraging Aussies to get creative in the reduction and/or elimination of their food waste, announcing its inaugural "No Food Waste Challenge".
Aimed at promoting awareness of the charity's efforts to support food-insecure Australians, every $1 raised until Septmeber 29 will help provide up to five nutritious meals for Aussies doing it tough.
SecondBite began in 2005 when one couple, Ian and Simone Carson, gathered a committed group of friends and visited market stalls in Melbourne at the end of a day to collect surplus food and drop it to a local charity that ran a food program.
In the first 12 months they collected 650 kilograms of food and now that figure is closer to 25 million kilograms, equivalent to 50 million meals to more than 1100 charities around the country.
"In the past 12 months, more than two million households in Australia have experienced severe food insecurity and on any given day, more than half a million households are struggling to meet their food needs," says Simone Carson.
"At SecondBite we're committed to helping those who may need support at any given time.
"The No Food Waste Challenge will support our food rescue programs so we can continue to reduce food insecurity and hunger, and address critical social, environmental and economic challenges that come from food waste and excess packaging. Even small changes can make a large impact on how much personal food waste we all produce."
Former MasterChef finalist and television presenter Courtney Roulston has come on board as an ambassador and has plenty of good advice on how home cooks can reduce food waste.
1. It's so important to have a look at your schedule for the week before you hit the shops. Account for dinner recipes, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, consider your schedule and try to get a balance of variety and nutrition.
2. Choose recipes based on your schedule for the week. If you're new to cooking or want to save time, you might choose recipes with less ingredients or steps involved. Consider choosing recipes that use some of the same ingredients across them to help minimise waste. For example, you may need half a bottle of tomato passata for a pasta recipe, so try to cook another recipe that week that you can use the remaining passata in, say, a soup or a curry.
3. Be flexible: Remember that meal plans can change. You might not feel like the meal you've planned for a particular day, or you might have leftovers that need eating. It's okay to switch things around, just remember to check the "best before" dates and freeze or store the ingredients accordingly until you`re ready to use them.
1. In-season produce is cheaper to buy, will tend to last longer, will taste better, and has travelled fewer miles, so it makes sense to shop the seasons.
2. For example, during the No Waste Food Challenge we are in spring. This season offers a huge variety of fresh vegetables like asparagus, peas, zucchini, fennel, and artichokes. You could make a spring vegetable pasta, zucchini risotto, or a light salad with mixed greens to pair with your next barbecue. For fruits, strawberries start to come into season, perfect for smoothies, jams, cakes, or desserts.
1. Try to create a shopping list that is conscious of food packaging, look out for loose fruit and vegetables instead of packaged ones, and try to only buy what you need.
2. Look out for fruits and vegetables without plastic packaging. Use reusable produce bags or place them directly in your cart or basket.
3. When it comes to snacks, look for ones in recyclable or compostable packaging, or give making your own snacks a go, like popcorn, spice roasted nuts, or baked chips.
4. Use reusable keep cups at your local café and refillable water bottles to save on single-use plastic bottles and coffee cups going into landfill.
1. You'll get more life out of your produce with the correct storage.
2. Fresh herbs are best stored wrapped in paper towel to prevent them from going slimy which they'll do if left in plastic.
3. Fresh fruit is best stored on the countertop in separate bowls, rather than all together in one large bowl. For example, bananas release a gas that can ripen other fruits faster.
4. Bread that is a day or two old is best sliced and stored in the freezer to keep it fresh. You can simply take out what you need and thaw it before using.
5. Potatoes and onions prefer to be stored at room temperature in a cool dark place away from sunlight.
6. Most vegetables like carrots, celery, and cauliflower can be brought back to life if looking a little limp by soaking them in cold water for a few hours.
1. Stale bread can be used as the base for so many meals. Turn it into croutons for salads or blitz with olive oil and garlic then toast until crispy to use as pangratatto that can add a crunchy topping to your next pasta.
2. Mix stale sliced bread with eggs, cream, milk and sugar for a delicious bread and butter pudding. You can also make savoury bread and butter puddings by omitting the sugar and with the addition of things like ham, spinach and cheese to serve as a sharing-style brunch.
3. Every week I have a container in the fridge that I collect all my vegetable scraps in and then I make a stock out of them with the addition of bay leaves, peppercorns and some salt. If I cook a Sunday roast, I add the leftover bones in and simmer for a few hours for a flavourful bone broth.
4. When I have a few bunches of herbs that need using, I blitz them with a little garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, any nuts or seeds that need using, and olive oil then freeze in an ice cube tray. You can pop out cubes as you need to add to pasta sauces, to use on roast meats or to swirl through yoghurt to use as a dressing for grilled vegetables.
5. For bananas that are getting overripe, I cut into chunks and freeze in a container to use in banana bread, muesli bars, banana pancakes or to blitz into a simple fruit "nice" cream during summer.
6. Potato peels and vegetable skins make great crispy snack when tossed with a little olive oil, seasonings and roasted in the oven until crisp. You can even roast pumpkin skins and eat with dips instead of store-bought crackers.