Preserving organic vegetables in jars

How to reduce your food waste

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Learn to embrace your food waste and get your recommended daily intake of vegetables as a healthy side effect.

Despite most of us knowing we need five serves of veggies per day, Nutrition Australia reports less than 4% of us are consuming enough - in fact, the average Australian eats eat only half that.

For a lot of us, it has little to do with access; we are filling our carts with leafy greens, crunchy salad fillings and other fresh vegetables, but a substantial proportion of them are then hitting the bin.

OzHarvest reports half of all fruit and vegetables produced are wasted, and veggie are one of the biggest contributors to food waste.

As well as being better for your health, eating up instead of throwing them away is better for the environment.

According to the Australian Government’s National Food Waste Strategy, vegetable production carries a cost to the environment through every stage; from growing and harvesting, to transporting, processing, storing and distribution. And once it has passed through all those stages, the unconsumed food that hits landfill then breaks down and releases methane - a potent greenhouse gas.

Need a few more reasons to reduce your food waste? According to OzHarvest:
  • One third of all food produced is lost or wasted –around 1.3 billion tonnes of food –costing the global economy close to $940 billion each year. In Australia, the Government estimates food waste costs $20 billion each year
  • Over 5 million tonnes of food ends up as landfill, enough to fill 9,000 Olympic sized swimming pools
  • Eliminating global food waste would save 4.4 million tonnes of C02 a year, the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road
  • 35% of the average household bin is food waste
How to waste less vegetables while eating more While it’s simple to say only buy what you’ll consume and consume everything you buy, the statistics suggest we could all benefit from a few practical tips to help us improve our waste – not to mention bump up our daily intake of vegetables!
  • Do a thorough weekly stock take before doing the food shopping. If you’re noticing certain veggies always hit the end of the week without being used, it may be a good idea to strike them off the shopping list. If you’d rather work them into your repertoire, google your fave recipe sites for ways to use them and sign up to the Wellbeing Kitchen to get a free healthy recipe straight to your inbox every week
  • Any end of week veggies that need to be used ASAP can be juiced (the pulp makes a great compost), chopped up for soup, thrown in the blender for a smoothie, or grated for frittatas, muffins, pasta sauce or fritters
  • When you bring home new supplies, make sure the oldest veggies go to the front or top of your fridge, so they are used up first
  • Plan meals ahead so you are more likely to only buy what you need. If you are tempted to purchase what is on special, think about what you’ll use them for – if you don’t have a plan for them, you are far more likely to throw them away because they didn’t fit into any of the meals you’ve made
  • Improve the shelf life of your vegetables by storing them correctly. Veggies shouldn’t be washed before storage as this starts the process of them breaking down, nor should you leave any rubber bands on them. Veggies like celery with green leaves on their ends will last longer if you remove the leaves before storing in an airtight container
  • If you have the time, you’ll find yourself more likely to eat veggies throughout the day if you chop them up into snack sized sticks. Make a travel snack by dropping a dollop of hummus in the bottom of a small jar, then stack in your sticks and seal
  • If you’re regularly throwing out fresh vegetables because you’re too time poor to use them, explore recipes using frozen vegetables – think homemade chilli, shepherds and cottage pie, and side dishes
  • When you’ve finished you meal, store leftovers properly. Many cooked veggie dishes can be frozen if you’re unlikely to eat them before they spoil
  • If composting is not your thing or you don’t have the space ShareWaste is a handy website that shows you where you can drop off your scraps nearby
  • Pickling vegetables can also prolong their life and make a great addition to platters or as a healthy snack

When it comes to reducing food waste and increasing your daily intake of vegetables, planning is key, as is creativity!

Want more tips for a greener, lighter life? Sign up to the How to live a sustainable life Action Plan for tips to get benefits for your health and to the environment.