I think everyone can relate to throwing out the rest of an old loaf of bread, rediscovering an old sweet potato or two that is no longer good and chucking it out or cooking way too much food and throwing it away when we get sick of the leftovers. When I think of these things that happen week to week I don’t think too much of it. My family did our best to eat what we could so we threw the remainder away. Last week I heard about the enormity of this seemingly little bit of wastage.
I was listening to a podcast (surprise surprise) last week that was discussing the massive issue of food wastage in the world. To give you just a glimpse of this issue I am going to provide five hard sad fact to you:
Over one third of all food produced globally goes to waste.
The annual value of food wasted globally is $1 trillion, and it weighs 1.3 billion tonnes.
All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.
An area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten.
25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten.
Now it is easy to look at those statistics and think “Australia is much smaller than US and Europe how much could we really be contributing?” Think again… Australians discard up to 20% of the food they purchase. This is the equivalent of 1 out of every 5 bags of groceries they buy. Aussies throw out $8 billion worth of edible food every year. This is 4,000,000 tonnes of food each year collectively and 345kg per household (about the weight of three fridges). Now before we start blaming big corporations and supermarkets, it is important to know that in most developed countries over half of all food waste takes place in the home.
If you add up all the food Australia wastes each year it is enough to fill 450,000 garbage trucks. Placed end to end, the convoy would bridge the gap between Australia and New Zealand, just over three times. - Food Wise
Now that we know how serious this problem is in general I am just going to add that when food rots with other organics in landfill, it gives off a greenhouse gas called ‘methane’ which is 25 times more potent than the carbon pollution that comes out of your car exhaust.
Okay no more scary facts let’s have a look at the reasons why we waste food. First off, we cook too much and then don’t know what to do with the leftovers. We can forget that certain food in the fridge is going to go off so we have to throw it out. Often times we don’t check what we already have in the fridge and the pantry before going shopping so we buy things that we do not need. If we are tired we can turn to getting takeaway instead of using the food in the fridge. These are all innocent little mistakes but collectively are causing a problem.
Tessa Cook saw the problem with this back in December 2014. She was moving house and still had some leftover food. The movers told her to throw it away but she couldn’t bring herself to do that. She set out to the streets with her food and her newborn baby to try and give it to someone else. She thought of a women who she thought might take it but she wasn’t in her usual spot. She then thought of perhaps giving it to her neighbours but she felt a little uncomfortable knocking on her neighbour’s doors offering them her food. She questioned in that moment why there wasn’t an app that would allow her to share her food. This is when she came up with the idea for OLIO. She teamed up with her long time friend Saasha Celestial-One and they made this idea come to life.
OLIO is an app that connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from your baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away. OLIO is super easy! To make an item available, simply open the app, add a photo, description, and when and where the item is available for pick-up. Since it has started 697,108 items of food have been shared; 512,010 OLIOers have joined the #FoodSharingRevolution; 306, 638 meals saved from going to waste and food has been shared in 41 countries including Australia!!
If you are not the type to be sharing food or gaining another persons leftovers I understand so I am going to provide you with a few tips to help you save Australia’s top five wasted ingredients:
Store - Bread is best stored at room temperature in a cool spot on your benchtop. If you can’t finish all the bread you have, put it in your freezer (already sliced) and it will defrost when you put it in the toaster.
Create - Why not turn your leftover bread into breadcrumbs? Simply place your bread in the food processor with some parmesan cheese and parsley. This can be used to coat chicken and made some delicious schnitzels for dinner.
Store - Store bananas at room temperature. They store longer in the fridge if they are ripe, however just be aware that the skin will go brown.
Create - It actually hurts my heart at the thought of throwing away bananas. Overripe bananas are perfect for baking! I love making muffins and banana bread with it (I will put link to my recipe for banana and peanut butter muffins and banana bread below). Even easier than baking with the overripe bananas, freeze them. Frozen bananas are the best in smoothies and will last ages in your freezer. Just be sure to peel them before you put them in the freezer (I learnt that lesson the hard way).
Bagged lettuce and salad
Store - Generally, lettuce does best stored in the veggie crisper in the fridge. Make sure you keep it away from the coolest part of the fridge as it will result in the leaves going soggy and wilted.
Create - Salads are the obvious choice for lettuce leaves but how about you try stuffing them with beef and making san choy bao?
Store - Store meat in the fridge. If you notice the used by date is coming and you won’t get to use it, freeze it. I like to put the meat in the fridge in the order it needs to be used. The one that will go off last I place at the bottom and the one that is going off first goes on the top.
Create - In our house we love to marinade the chicken we have in the fridge and make meatballs with the mince we have in the fridge and then put them in the freezer. These are lifesavers for nights we don’t have time to cook. We let it defrost during the day and at night all we have to do is put it in the oven.
Store - Store milk in a cold and stable environment in the fridge (ideally in the door).
Create - Milk can be used up in a bechamel sauce and used for the top layer of lasagne. Even simpler whip up smoothies for your family as a delicious afternoon snack or quick morning breakfast.
It really is a sad truth how much food is being wasted but the good news is that we can all do our part to utilise the food we have so it doesn’t have to go to waste. Little steps can make a big difference.
Nothing makes me happier than sharing food with the people I love. I think I definitely learnt this from my nonnas. They are forever supplying us with an endless supply of lemons and fresh food they have made too much of. If you see things getting a little piled up in the fridge why not share it with others in the form of a cake? Why not give some extra fruit to a friend? Why not invite some people over for dinner to share it with you?
Simply by downloading the OLIO app or even just being more creative in the kitchen we can save so much food! Food is such a beautiful and valuable resource, let’s use it not waste it.
Click here for the the recipe for my Banana and Peanut Butter Muffins
Click here for the recipe for my Nutty Banana Bread