Imagine buying $1,000 worth of groceries and then throwing it all in the bin.
It sounds crazy, but according to food waste statistics, that’s exactly what the average Australian family is doing each year.
We waste an incredible 4 million tonnes, or $8 billion worth of food annually and the festive season is when food wastage reaches its peak. Who hasn’t woken to that groaning fridge on Boxing Day and been overwhelmed by all those leftovers?
The good news is, there’s plenty you can do to reduce your Christmas food waste, and by taking a few simple steps you’ll not only be saving money, but the environment as well.
The most obvious choice to reduce your Christmas food waste is to eat it. Sandwiches, quiches, stir-fries and pastas are all great ways to use up leftovers. The DoSomething! website foodwise.com.au has a great feature that allows you to find recipes according to what ingredients (or leftovers) you have on hand. Making a stock is another great way to ensure nothing goes to waste. A few celery and carrot sticks, some onion, herbs and a pot of boiling water are all you need to turn your chicken or turkey carcass into a nourishing broth you can freeze and use for months to come.
If you can’t face the thought of eating any more Christmas food, you still have options—storing food properly to extend its shelf life is a good start. Dry goods like crackers, biscuits, chips, flours, sugar, spices, dried fruit, rice and dried beans will all stay fresh and last longer if they are kept in airtight containers. If they’re in the fridge, they keep even longer (especially in summer).
Mangos turning bad in the warm weather? Moving them to the fridge will slow down the process, but drying your fruit will extend its shelf life even further. Most fresh fruits (and veggies) can be dried and will keep for months. Use the sun, your oven, or a dehydrator—check out Shelf Life Advice for some great tips.
There are a few foods that don’t freeze successfully—salad greens, eggs in shells and soft cheeses among them, but the sheer amount of foods that CAN be frozen make it an excellent option for storing your Christmas leftovers. Cakes and pudding, raw meats and seafoods (as long as they haven’t been frozen before), shredded coked chicken, eggs out of their shell (in an airtight bag or container), butter, lemon zest, herbs (blended with olive oil) avocado (peeled or pureed with some lemon juice on an airtight container), berries, bananas, passionfruit pulp (mixed with a little sugar and popped in ice cube trays), mango cheeks and corn (blanched first) will all store well in the freezer for at least a few months. Make sure you freeze in portion sizes so you don’t have to defrost more than you need. Check out the Food Safety Information Council for some tips on storing food safely in the fridge or freezer.
If that Christmas salad is way past saving, you can still stop it from ending up in landfill. Composting at home is a great way to use food scraps, and you’ll eventually be rewarded with a beautiful fertiliser for your garden. At this point, you might be asking: “what’s the difference between it breaking down in my home compost and in the ground at the landfill?” Well, plenty actually. When waste ends up in landfill, it’s not exposed to air, which means that as it breaks down it creates the particularly nasty greenhouse gas, methane. At home (or in a dedicated composting facility—now run by some councils with green bins), oxygen helps the waste decompose aerobically, producing very little methane, which is much better for the planet.