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Author: Tonya Ha
Source: ABC News
Date: 5 June, 2013

When people think about their environmental impact, food is not often at the top of the mind. But food is our fundamental form of consumption. And naturally, food has an environmental and financial cost. It takes water, land, topsoil and crop inputs to produce food and money to buy it. When we waste food, we’re effectively throwing cash and resources in the bin.

With Australian households throwing away about 2.675 million tonnes of food waste per year, we have room for improvement. The message is simple. Food is precious. Enjoy the food you eat, but cut waste and save cash. Here’s our list of 30 easy ways.

Shop smarter

1. Some of our food waste is food that spoiled before we got around to using it. Avoid over-stocking your fridge and pantry. Check to see what you already have before shopping. 

2. Plan your meals over the next few days and write a shopping list based on the plan.

3. Perishable foods are those that spoil or go ‘off’ quickly if not refrigerated, such as raw meat and poultry, fresh seafood and produce, and dairy food. Don’t buy perishable foods in bulk.

4. Some fresh produce, such as potatoes, pumpkins and citrus fruits, last longer than things like leafy salad greens. If you eat a lot of salads, shop more regularly.

5. Foods with a ‘use-by’ date must be eaten (or thrown away) by the date. Those with a ‘best before’ date are still safe to eat after the date, provided they’re not damaged, deteriorated or perished. Only buy foods you’ll use within the ‘use-by’ or ‘best-before’ timeframes.

6.  A squashed tomato in the bottom of a shopping bag is pretty unappetising. Pack heavy, solid items at the bottom of bags and place more delicate items in the top or in a separate bag.

Store it smart

7. Store potatoes in a cool, dark and dry place. Exposed to sunlight, they’ll turn green and also produce protective chemicals, called glycoalkaloids, which can cause food poisoning.

8. Onions and other members of the onion family, such as garlic also like cool, dark and dry places for storage, but keep them away from potatoes. The two food families give off gases that cause each other to spoil more quickly.

9. Some fruits ripen faster in the presence of ethylene gas. Bananas give off huge amounts of ethylene gas, so don’t keep them in the fruit bowl.

10. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check your fridge is operating at the right temperature: below five degrees Celsius in the main section. CSIRO has a handy guide showing roughly how long various foods last refrigerated.

11. Scratches in single-use takeaway containers can harbour bacteria. Store food in containers designed for repeated reuse.

12. Icing a cake can give it a longer shelf life by preventing moisture loss.

13. Store biscuits and crackers in an airtight container.

14. Got too much of a good thing? Freeze the excess. You can freeze left over wine or stock to cook with later. Stale bread can be frozen and later toasted. You can even freeze cheese. An added bonus is that a full freezer runs more efficiently.

15. Defrosted frozen food should not be refrozen. Freeze foods in useful portions, so you don’t have to defrost the bulk.

16. Label frozen food so that you know what it is and the date it was frozen.

Use it wisely

17. Have a plan for the rest of the can. For example, if a recipe calls for only 300 of the 375 millilitres of evaporated milk in a can, use the remainder in a soup or an extra creamy coffee.

18. Make sure you’re not throwing out edible food with the scraps. Pumpkin seeds scooped from inside a pumpkin, for example, can be cleaned up, lightly salted and toasted. Toss them over a salad or eat as a snack.

19. If you’ve got a glut of ripe fruit or vegetables, learn the art of food drying and preserving. At the very least, juice the fruit and vegetables. The fibre remaining is perfect for composting or worm farming.

20. Size matters! A lot of our food waste comes from extra-large helpings. Match your serving size to your appetite. The NSW ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative has a handy serving size calculator.

Leftovers from ‘super-sized’ fast food meals are another commonly wasted food category. Again, match the serving to your appetite.

Love the leftovers

22. Refrigerate leftovers immediately. Last night’s leftovers can be today’s lunch, reducing waste and saving money.

23. Leftovers should be reheated to at least 75 degrees Celsius all the way through to kill any bacteria. 

24. Use chicken bones and meat trimmings to make stock.

25. Left over stew plus stock makes a great winter soup. 

26. Got a particular left over? Search by ingredient at Foodwise’s Recipe Finder for ways to use it.

Don’t feed landfill

27. Fruit and vegetable scraps can be composted, along with tea bags, coffee grounds, shredded newspaper and egg shells. You can also set up a worm farm to munch through food scraps.

28. Bokashi buckets uses microbes to process food waste, including bread, dairy and meat, things you generally can’t add to compost bins. The buckets have an airtight lid and can fit under the kitchen sink.

Grow your own

29. Leafy greens and herbs last longer on the plant. Grow your salad greens and herbs and pick as you go.

30. Garden with garbage! Depending on your climate, onion bases, sprouted garlic cloves, potato scraps with eyes, pineapple tops, unused ginger and celery bases can all be replanted and used to grow new food plants.

Tanya Ha is an environmental consultant and author of Greeniology.

Read article in ABC News