Waste-Free Cooking

Written by Katia Tassiou, content creator and dietitian intern at Nutrition A-Z

Our stomachs are calling for food but our planet is screaming for help. How can we please both?

Cooking is an ideal way to keep the quality of the food you eat in check, as you are the one holding the magic spoon, defining the origin and the amount of each ingredient.  Moreover, cooking also ensures that food-waste is reduced in comparison when eating out. If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant or talked to someone who does, you will realise the enormity of food that’s being wasted. Sometimes, this is due to miscalculation of the expected reservations. In this case, raw food materials are thrown away at the end of the week or the shift. Other times, the portions are too big and the food is wasted whenever the restaurant operates, after it is cooked and ordered.

However, when you cook at home, the final amount of the food that’s wasted is up to the way you handle raw ingredients. But some might be wondering..“Why should I care about food waste?”

Food waste is one of the reasons our planet and its inhabitants are suffering. The thousands of dollars households could save per person annually by reducing food waste, might start to make you wonder. The wholesome food that’s currently being wasted could help feed families experiencing high food insecurity or hunger and that already sounds dramatic. However, there's more to it! When food is wasted, so is the land, water, labor, energy and other factors that were used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of the discarded food. 

For all these reasons, we want to provide you with some tips on how to keep your food waste low to non-existent:

  • Store food properly in containers etc. to remain fresh and last longer.

  • Organise your fridge and pantry to keep track of your stock. Be aware of what needs to be used now and what is stored, to avoid doubling up on products and produce.

  • Make sure your shopping list aligns with your cooking plan.

  • Buying local, gives less waste and food will be fresher. The perk is that the travel from producer to plate is also shorter.

  • Don’t let market discounts distract you from buying only what you need for cooking and snacking.

  • If you buy discounted products in amounts greater than you need, make sure to freeze what cannot be used immediately.

  • Check expiration dates carefully and keep in mind they are not identical to the best before dates. The latest refers to the day a product may lose its freshness, nutritional value, or taste but if you forgot to eat it earlier than this date use your senses to check if you still can.

  • Refrigerate or freeze your leftovers with date labels after cooking or eating, but only if you can’t reutilise them immediately in a recipe-free meal.

  • Explore “root to stem” and “nose to tail” cooking, and think twice about what you can do with the vegetable or animal parts you usually throw away while cooking. 

And for the “root to stem” advice, here’s more:

  • Try to consume vegetables and fruits without peeling them.
  • Learn which are natural food preservatives and how to use them.
  • Save pulp, use nut pulp (from homemade nut milk) for spread, carrot pulp into energy balls and orange pulp for flavouring (from juices). 
  • Incorporate broccoli stems/stalks, beet, radish or turnip greens and carrot tops into your cooking by using them as side dish, garnish, or ingredients for food or pesto sauce.
  • Keep vegetable peelings, onion, garlic, carrot and celery, zucchini ends, mushroom stems and leftover herbs in your freezer for a homemade vegetable broth.
  • Roast squash or pumpkin seeds as a snack.

And at last but not least, when everything else fails, compost!

By reducing food waste, you are already responding to our planet’s cry for help. However, you can always take an extra step and simultaneously minimise overall kitchen packaging waste that negatively impacts the environment as well. Thus, while you are digesting the food for thought we provided you with today, stay tuned for our next post on how to go “zero waste” in your kitchen.

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