How to reduce our food waste
Australians throw out millions of tonnes of food a year. What can we do about it?
What did you do with the uneaten toast you had for breakfast? Or what about that half-eaten sandwich at lunchtime? And how often do you discover food lurking at the back of your fridge that ends up in the bin?
Food waste is a major problem in Australia. Government figures estimate each person wastes around 300 kilograms of food every year. Food waste costs the economy a staggering $20 billion per annum.
OzHarvest, an organisation dedicated to reducing food waste, says more than 5 million tonnes of food ends up in landfill – that’s 9000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And one in five shopping bags of food ends up in the bin.
Every year, Australians generate about five million tonnes of food waste.
If food waste was a country it would be the third-biggest producer of harmful greenhouse gases – after the US and China. This waste doesn’t only harm our wallet, it impacts the environment, too. Eliminating global food waste would have the same effect as taking one in four cars off the roads.
“We know cars are bad, but people don’t think about the food they waste being part of the environmental crisis,” says Sarah Wilson, creator of IQuitSugar.com whose latest book, I Quit Sugar: Simplicious Flow, promotes ‘zero-waste cooking’.
“In Australia we’re so disconnected from the food supply chain and we’re surrounded by opulence. So, we don’t think about how much food we throw away. I grew up in the country and Mum went into town once a week to shop and that food had to last us. So she used every last bit of food, which is what I do.
“I also don’t leave food behind at a cafe. I take a bag or lunchbox and take everything home and repurpose it. I take leftover butter home in a napkin, too.”
SIMPLE STEPS TO SAVE FOOD
Grow your own
“When you engage more with the food-growing process you won’t want to throw out that basil that you’ve carefully looked after for the past three months. You can even use the stalks,” says Sarah. Cultivate a herb garden on a balcony or establish a vegie patch.
Don’t overpeel your food
“I don’t hull strawberries or peel citrus fruits. I buy lemons in bulk when they are on sale and puree the entire lemon. Then I pour them in ice-cube containers, freeze them and add them to smoothies and casseroles. I don’t peel pumpkin and carrots either because the goodness is in the peel,” says Sarah.
Use scraps for stock
When you cut the ends off carrots and onions put them in a container in the freezer and gradually add chicken or beef bones left over from meals. When the container is full, use the ingredients to make a stock. You can also boil the rinds of parmesan cheese to make stock for soups and risottos.
Store nuts and flours in the freezer
Keeping them in the freezer rather than the pantry triples their life. Herbs kept in the freezer will keep for two to three years.
Put off shopping for a day or a week
“See how long you can last and use up every last scrap in your fridge and freezer instead. Treat it as a game – we can call it ‘The Armageddon Challenge’,” says Sarah.
Try your hand at baking Sarah Wilson’s banana peel cake.
RECIPE: BANANA PEEL CAKE - SERVES 14
Australians eat five million bananas a day (!) and given that the peel makes up 12 per cent of a banana’s weight, we conceivably toss 49,680,000 kilograms of peels a year.
Don’t find this so interesting? Okay, perhaps the fact that you can cook with banana peel is. The peel provides a great fruity flavour and gummy texture. This cake has a very earnest, dense and filling vibe, very much like a legit breakfast banana bread. You only need a thin slice. Trust me. Plus, it contains less than two teaspoons of sugar per serve.
- Sarah Wilson
- 4 organic bananas, peeled, black ends removed
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla powder
- 80 grams unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- ½ cup rice malt syrup
- Four organic eggs, separated
- 2½ cups plain flour
- ½ cup desiccated coconut
- 1½ tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
Salted caramel icing
- 250 grams cream cheese
- 2 teaspoons rice malt syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
- Pinch of sea salt
- 60 grams unsalted butter, softened, plus extra if needed
Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan-forced). Grease a 21-centimetre round cake tin with a little softened butter.
Place the banana peels in a food processor with ½ a cup of water and blitz to a thick puree. Add the vanilla, butter, rice malt syrup and egg yolks and process for 30 seconds or until creamy.
Add the flour, coconut, baking powder and cinnamon and pulse until the mixture forms a batter. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites and walnuts through the batter and transfer to the prepared tin.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top crusts slightly and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, to make the icing, place all of the ingredients except the butter in a high-speed blender and blitz until combined. Gradually add the butter until the mixture is thick but still spreadable. If needed, add more butter. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze it (minus the icing) for up to three months.
I Quit Sugar: Simplicious Flow by Sarah Wilson, Pan Macmillan Australia $45.