FOOD

9 Food Waste Hacks Everyone Needs To Know

Say goodbye to sad, floppy carrots.

13/07/2016 12:44 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:57 PM AEST
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Planning is key.

Dear sad, droopy, mouldy carrots. We're sorry for not cooking you in time. You were once bright and crunchy, but we forgot you existed and now you're gone. How could we have avoided this tragedy?

Okay, we may not feel as strongly about carrots as this, but maybe we all should. Throwing out and seeing wasted food in your bin is a sad sight, and it's something we're all guilty of doing.

Seriously, we throw out way too much food each week -- one in five shopping bag's worth. That's 20 percent of our money and food down the drain in the bin.

But there are easy ways to stop the need to throw out poor little carrots.

These hacks and tips will help you avoid overbuying food when you shop and reduce the amount of waste later on at home.

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1. Plan ahead


"What it comes down to is we need to be more mindful about what we buy and how much food we actually need," Chloe McLeod, accredited practising dietitian and sports nutritionist, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Plan your meals ahead of time. Look at what is planned in your calendar for the week at the start of the week and plan accordingly.

"If you know that you might not be eating at home a few nights a week, take that into account and don't buy food for every single meal, because that's when food can end up being wasted."

If there are a few gaps in your planner and you're not sure whether you'll be home to eat, McLeod recommends cooking up a few meals and freezing them.

"The meals are ready to go if you need them and so it doesn't end up getting wasted," she said.

"Being mindful of how much you need in a week and being organised so you don't end up overcompensating is a really key thing."

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Before doing your weekly food shop, spend a few minutes figuring out your meals and exactly what you'll need.

2. Use a shopping list


Once you've planned your meals for the week ahead, write a shopping list of everything you need.

"Using a shopping list and planning ahead is really helpful," McLeod said. "Figure out how many capsicums you need for that week, how many bags of baby spinach leaves, and buy according to what meals you want to cook."

3. Use (and reuse) leftovers


Made a pot of soup and have just a little bit leftover? Instead of throwing it out, you could have it as is the next day or with toast, bulk it up with more ingredients, or add it to a new stew, curry or casserole. If you've got leftover roast veggies, revisit childhood memories and make bubble and squeak.

"There's nothing wrong with having leftovers or the same meals two days in a row if it means you're not going to end up wasting food," McLeod said.

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It might not seem like a lot going in the bin, but over time this can add up to a whopping 345kg per year.

4. Be flexible with recipe ingredients


"People often get caught up in 'I can't make that recipe because I don't have that ingredient', but if you've got something similar give it a shot," McLeod told HuffPost Australia.

"If you've got eggplant leftover in the fridge but the recipe asks for zucchini, just use the eggplant. If it's a chicken recipe but you've got beef strips, use the beef instead. There's nothing wrong with modifying different recipes to suit what you've got in the fridge."

5. Make the freezer your friend


If you don't already, see your icy buddy as a time-freezer. You could make a big batch of curry or pasta and freeze individual portions.

"I'm such a huge fan of freezing," McLeod said. "Freezing meals means it's going to save you time in the long run as you've got extra portions ready to eat."

Food waste facts


Aussies throw out 8 billion dollars' worth of food each year.

Out of this $8 billion of wasted food, 33 percent is fresh food, 27 percent is leftovers, 15 percent is packaged and long-life products, nine percent is drinks, nine percent is frozen food and seven percent is takeaway.

We waste 4 million tonnes of food each year and each throw out 345 kilograms -- the weight equivalent of three fridges.

If you add up all the food Australia wastes each year, it's enough to fill 450,000 food trucks.

From FoodWise.com.au

Or, you can use the freezer to freeze condiments that would otherwise go off if left in the fridge, such as stock or pesto. Ice cube trays are perfect for this.

"Freezing those sorts of things, as well as freezing individual portions of meals is great," McLeod said.

6. Salvage nearly-off veggies


Floppy carrots and celery may not look appealing, but they're still fine to use.

"If you've got veggies that are about to go off, cook them in something you're happy to eat that day, such as a soup, or freeze it so it's ready to go," McLeod said.

Or make your own vegetable stock using the ends of carrots, onions and celery.

"I like the idea of making your own veggie stock," McLeod said. "Let it sit there and boil away. It's going to be a lot healthier than the packaged ones."

HuffPost Australia
Freeze pesto into ice cubes for quick, easy individual portions.

7. Stock the pantry with canned legumes


If you've got leftover soup or stew, having canned legumes on hand means you can easily make another meal out of it. Or if you're stuck at home with not much to work with, you can use canned legumes to quickly whip up a bean salad, pasta or chilli con carne.

"Have the pantry stocked with chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils as they're a really great way to bulk out a meal in a healthy way," McLeod told HuffPost Australia.

"It means you've got something that's going to keep, but you also don't have to worry about any food waste."

8. Check your fridge temperature


According to Rachelle Williams, Chair of the Food Safety Information Council, the temperature of your fridge is important in making your food last.

"If your fridge at home is not operating at less than five degrees -- and that's a lot to do with how well you stack it and if there's enough air movement -- then your food can more easily contain food poisoning bacteria," Williams told HuffPost Australia.

"If a product goes above five degrees, bacteria start to grow more rapidly. This is what we call 'the danger zone'. It's between five and 60 degrees."

9. Store your cooked meals properly


Guilty of putting a hot pot full of food in the fridge? Stop, now.

"You need to decant or transfer your food from the pot you cooked it in into containers, otherwise you've run the risk of contaminating the food with food poisoning bacteria," Williams said.

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Don't forget about what's at the back of the fridge.

"For example, if you've cooked a chilli con carne put it into a shallow container, leave the lid two-thirds on with enough room for the steam to come out. Have your meal and come back, put the lid on and put it in the fridge.

"If you put the lid straight on a hot product the steam is going to go up and land on the lid. Whatever is on the lid, as the container gets colder and the food gets colder, all the condensation from the lid will drop into the food. So you've contaminated the food."

If you'd like to support HuffPost's campaign to #EndWaste in partnership with Change.org, you can start a petition or sign one here.

Visit HuffPost Australia's profile on Pinterest.

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