Less waste, more taste: how to eat your food scraps
Eating your scraps saves you cash.
With grocery prices on the rise, many of us are doing what we can to reduce our weekly food bill. Yet many of us are throwing money in the bin (or compost) every week with all the food we buy and don’t eat.
I’m talking about the leftovers you forgot to take to work for lunch and those sad, limp carrots sitting in the back of your fridge. Sure, a few stale pieces of bread and uneaten leftovers may not seem like a big deal, but over the course of a year they all add up.
Research undertaken by Love Food Hate Waste, a national campaign to help New Zealanders reduce their food waste, has revealed that the average Kiwi family throws away around three shopping trolleys worth of edible food each year. That’s around $1520 wasted.
Even if you don’t think you are a big food waster, you may be surprised by how much you actually do waste ... and what you could save.
Food waste harms more than just our wallets
Food waste occurs at all stages of the supply chain, however a large proportion of food waste comes from households. New Zealand homes collectively throw away over 100,000 tonnes of food per year, all of which could have been eaten.
If your council does not have a food scraps collection and you don’t compost at home, food scraps end up in landfill. When food decomposes without oxygen in the landfill, it releases methane which is a harmful greenhouse gas.
New Zealand’s yearly food waste produces over 400,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. To offset this, we would need to take more than 150,000 cars off the road for one year or plant over 160,000 trees.
Scraps to cash
Collectively New Zealanders throw away 2340 tonnes of carrots and 1727 tonnes of carrot peelings every year.
Why? They’re cheap and often sold in large bags, so we buy more than we need and they end up sitting in the fridge until they go limp or black.
If your carrots have gone slimy or black, the only thing they should be feeding is your compost bin, not your family. But if carrots have gone limp, they can be revived simply by soaking in water. Research by the University of Otago found that carrots will last 10 times longer if you store them in the fridge in an airtight container with a dry paper towel or damp clean cloth at the bottom.
• If you can’t get through a bag of carrots fast enough, freeze them. It’s best to cut your carrots to size and blanch them, then pop them in the freezer.
• Broccoli and cauliflower stalks are edible and are a great way to bulk out a stir-fry or a soup.
If you pay $2.29 for a head of broccoli but only cook the florets and throw away the stalk, you could be wasting up to $60 a year.
More than 2500 tonnes of broccoli stalks and leaves are thrown out every year in NZ. But they can be eaten! Like the florets, the broccoli stalk is good for you. It is low in energy but a good source of fibre, vitamins A, C, B2 (riboflavin), B6 and folate.
If you give your vegetables a good wash, most of the time you shouldn’t need to peel them. But if you do need to peel your vegetables for things like mashed potatoes, you can make use of the peelings by roasting them to make vege chips.
Storing your fruit and veges correctly can drastically extend their life. Find out the dos and don’ts here.
Why do we waste so much?
A survey conducted by Love Food Hate Waste showed that the main reasons we waste food are because we cook too much, don’t eat our leftovers and leave food in the fridge and the freezer, where it goes off. This, as well as not planning before we go shopping, buying too much and not storing it correctly, all contribute to the food waste problem.
The top 10 foods we throw out in NZ every year
Collectively, households throw away 29 million loaves of bread a year!
If you're not eating it fast enough, your loaf of bread will end up mouldy, stale, or both. Consider storing it in the freezer and defrosting as needed. You can toast bread directly from frozen, too!
It’s not just the healthy stuff. Surprisingly, Love Food Hate Waste found that 1787 tonnes of cake and 2755 tonnes of takeaway chips are thrown out each year, while 1430 tonnes of sandwiches end up in landfill.
Our own social media manager, Frank, is a whiz in the kitchen (we can all vouch for his baking skills) and has been making the most of his food scraps for years.
Frank's tips for turning waste into taste
• Save all your vege scraps in a freezer bag and once you have enough, turn it into vegetable stock. This includes onion skins which, although unpleasant to eat, are great for infusing flavour into soups, sauces and stock; not to mention they’re richer in nutrients than the rest of the onion!
• If you’ve got a blender or mortar and pestle, wash your carrot tops and make a carrot top pesto! In fact, almost any leafy green or herb, nut and cheese can make a delicious condiment. Skip the cheese for a vegan alternative. You can find heaps of recipes online.
• Picked fresh herbs but didn’t eat them all? Blend leftover herbs with oil for a delicious sauce/dressing which can be drizzled onto salads or even used as a marinade for meat. Add lemon juice and garlic for extra flavour.
• Lettuce gone limp? Instead of feeding the compost, blanch or stir-fry the lettuce to feed your tastebuds. Adding oyster sauce and fried garlic to blanched lettuce creates a surprisingly tasty side dish. This works best with cos or iceberg lettuce.
So, think twice before you bin those limp carrots – your wallet will thank you.
For more tips and tricks on how to reduce your food waste, head to Love Food, Hate Waste.
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