Waste Not, Want Not: Tips to Reduce Waste in the Kitchen

I am here to help you reduce waste in the kitchen. Did you catch the show War on Waste on the ABC last week? If you didn’t – go watch it on iView. Seriously. It will change the way you think about food and the wastage that we all perpetuate.

Unless you grow your vegies and compost everything, you are probably part of the problem and therefore part of the solution.

We are wasting tonnes of food each year. The average family wastes multiple tonnes a year. This was mind-blowing to me. I’d like to think that I am at the lower end – but if that is the case, that means that there are families that waste more than us.

So – how do we change? How do we reduce waste in the kitchen?

The Empowered Cooks shares tips on how to reduce waste in the kitchen. Meal Planning, Pantry Organisation, Shopping at the butcher - and more!

Here’s some useful tips to employ in your life, in your kitchen and with your family.

#1 – Get Organised

This sounds scary and big – but really it’s not. Simply having an organised fridge, freezer and pantry will mean that you can see what you have available – and that means that you are even more likely to use it.

My guide to Setting up a Pantry walks you through this process, step by step. It even talks about basic stock control processes like keeping the older items at the front of the shelf, and stocking newer items at the back. Simple processes like these will mean that your kitchen runs more efficiently – and you will reduce waste in the kitchen. No more tossing that expired packet of pasta. You’ll have seen it and noticed it – so you’ll likely have used it before it expires.

Plus – keeping your fridge and freezer running in the same fashion will mean less wastage too. Having room to store leftovers, to cook in bulk and to freeze those items before they hit expiry – is a big ticket to reduced waste.

#2 – Meal Plan

Groan. Fairly obvious right? Yes. But you need to do more than just simply plan what you are going to eat during the week.

You need to make sure that before you meal plan, you do a full assessment of what is in your fridge and freezer and pantry. Don’t go writing some fancy meal on your meal plan if you have a pack of chicken in the fridge that needs to be eaten. Meat wastage is possibly the worse of the lot – an animal lost its life to feed you, and if you waste that – then that is terribly sad for that animal. Not to mention disrespectful.

So – use what you have. Start from there, and create meal plans around what you have on hand. I do this every week – and it means we still eat a variety, but it also means that we have good turnover in our stockpile.

If you are after more tips on meal planning, then come read my post on the best way to start meal planning.

#3 – Use (and eat!) those leftovers

Leftovers can be super boring, I know. But not if you USE them – rather than just serve them up again the next night – or worse, leave them in the fridge untouched.

I like to do two things with my leftovers:

Lunch the next day

This is our first option. We will take the food for our lunches the next day where we can. It will also form part of my little one’s lunchbox where possible too. He loves a little bit of mashed potato in his lunchbox 🙂

We’ll freeze for another time

Sometimes you just don’t feel like eating the same thing again – or you’ve made a double batch of something. So – freeze what is left.

We will also freeze these in appropriately sized containers. I have some small rectangular PYREX 3 cup dishes that we use for single serve dishes – so we’ll package up the leftovers just like we would pack a lunch – just enough for one person. And then we’ll label and freeze it. This makes a great lunch for work. Or a combination dinner one night when we feel like eating different meals.

If there is more than just a single serve left, we will simply pop this in a larger container, and freeze a family size portion. The key to this is to only store in a single size for your family – and to label it. That way, you know what size the portion is without having to guess.

By doing these things, we rarely have leftovers that go to waste. And generally it will only be because we’ve been slack and haven’t packaged it up – or we’ve changed our minds about lunch. Poor excuses, but they do happen.

#4 – Keep a Scrap Bag for Stock

Do you make your own stock? I hope so! Such a money saver! And so good for you.

But do you do this?

I keep a large snap lock bag in my freezer – and I simply fill this with veggie scraps. Think carrot peel, onion ends, celery tops, broccoli ends. When the bag is full, I add the contents to a big pot and fill it with water. Simmer this for a while and you will have a delicious vegetable stock. Add chicken bones and you’ll have chicken stock. Super delicious – and you’ve not wasted anything.

#5 – Shop Outside the Mainstream

Go back to your roots. Go back to the weekly grocery shop at the butcher, and the green grocer, and maybe even the fishmonger. Seek out a quality butcher that you trust. My Mum always said you could tell a good butcher by his sausages – so maybe start there (it’s only now, as I write that, that I wonder if that was an euphemism and I have maybe taken it literally! lol).

How often as a kid did you go to a single big supermarket? I rarely did. We always went to the butcher and the bakery. And then to the fruit and veggie shop. And last, we went to the local grocery store.

It’s time to go back to basics. Shopping at the butcher will mean that you have less packaging – they’ll simply wrap your food in paper – or at most, with a single plastic bag. You’ll likely find that they’ll give you a single chop if you need it – so need to buy 4 if you’re only cooking for one. They’ll also give you access to all the cuts of meat too – not just the pretty popular ones that the supermarket stocks.

The same goes for your fruit and veggie shop – you can buy as little or as much as you want. And you’ll find the variety is larger and more suited to your local area. There isn’t a franchise watching over your shoulder on what you’re selling.

So next time – skip the mainstream. Head to your local butcher, and try their sausages.

Got more tips to reduce waste in the kitchen? Tell me in the comments below.

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