Thursday, April 25, 2024

Make it Food Waste Action Week every week

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Did you know that you’re wasting about $1500 work of food every year?
The research team hopes to determine how much food is being wasted in New Zealand.
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By Angus Simms, co-founder of Wonky Box

As a food-producing nation, Aotearoa New Zealand abounds in fresh food – which is something to be thankful for. But if we look beneath the lid (or under the kitchen bench into the rubbish bin), approximately 100,000 tonnes of perfectly edible food is wasted every year in our country, equating to roughly $1,510 per household, or $3.2 billion of wasted food for the whole country.

But money shouldn’t be the only reason we don’t waste food. 

When food ends up in landfills, it breaks down and releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. In fact, UNEP put this in perspective by stating that if food waste was its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, beaten only by China and the United States. As suppliers of rescued fruit and veg, Wonky Box has at the heart of its mission reducing food waste from farms, but we know this is just part of the journey. What happens once our wonky wonders make it to their new homes in Kiwi kitchens is also hugely important. 

Making the most of your weekly groceries not only reduces the environmental footprint of food in landfills but is good for your wallet too as it reduces the need for those top-up grocery shops and means you can get the most from every meal. 

Food Waste Action Week, championed by the clever Kiwis from Love Food Hate Waste New Zealand, serves as a great reminder to have this conversation, and look for practical ways that every household can reduce a little more food waste each week: 

Money shouldn’t be the only reason we don’t waste food, says Wonky Box co-founder Angus Simms. When food ends up in landfills, it breaks down and releases methane.

• Let’s go back to leftovers
Eating your leftovers is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce waste. Try packing them up for lunch or eating them for dinner a second night, padded out with some veggies or legumes. And don’t despair, many meals actually taste better on the second day, especially things like stews and soups, as the flavours have time to develop. 

• Don’t feel like it the next day, why not freeze?
If you really can’t deal with eating the same meal twice, why not freeze your leftovers to eat next week or even next month? Freezing preserves the nutrients and quality of the meal you have excellently prepared. Another upside is that you get to treat yourself to a night of no cooking down the track.

• Food storage counts.
There are also ways to store individual food items that will preserve them for longer. For example, bread can be frozen to stop it from going mouldy – just take out what you need the night before to defrost for sandwiches or pop it directly into the toaster to warm up. Or, if you’ve got a loaf that’s gone a bit hard, turn it into breadcrumbs or use it for bruschetta.

Certain vegetables will last longer if you keep them in water – asparagus, celery and spring onions are good examples. Stand the ends in a jar of water and change the water every few days. Herbs do well too, if kept wrapped in a damp kitchen towel and then popped in a bag or a container. 

When it comes to fruity favourites, apples last weeks longer if kept in the fridge, and it’s best to store bananas separate from other fruits because they emit ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening process for their fruit bowl neighbours. 

If we haven’t managed to finish our veggies or have peels or outer leaves to use up, we keep them in a bag in the freezer and then turn them into vegetable stock for soups and sauces – especially handy as the weather starts to cool. 

• Find your nearest food rescue
And finally, food rescue groups that work to collect surplus fresh food and redirect it to those in need can be found all over the country from Northland all the way down to Southland. 

Check out the Love Food Hate Waste website’s food rescue directory here.

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