There is a famous quote, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Meal planning can take a lot of the frustration out of the weekly grind of cooking meals. Rather than dreaming of your fantasy self who serves up cordon bleu meals every night, it is worth starting simple. Planning out the meals that you know well, can cook easily and that the other members of your household find tasty. You can find beautiful or beautifully simple pads that will help with this.
Shopping well – Make a list
There has been a lasting impact for my family due to Covid. This is the way I do my food shopping. I used to be a bit loosey goosey about getting groceries. Now I limit the frequency that I do my food shopping to once a week. I have a list that is divided by the shops that I go to and stick to it. I try to write my list very clearly and in the order that the food is arranged in the shop, by department and aisle.
When I am at the shops, my partner cleans out the fridge and takes anything out that needs to be eaten or cooked that day or composted. When new food comes in the door, the fridge is ready to receive it.
Storing your food well
Turn your fridge down to 5 °C or lower to keep your food fresher for longer. My local library has a kit that you can borrow that will help you check your fridge temperature and other energy saving actions around your home.
Check the humidity that your fruit and vegetables need to stay fresh. Some will stay fresher for longer if wrapped in moist paper or cotton. Some vegetables and fruits are better off out of the fridge (such as tomatoes and potatoes)
Use up all your leftovers
Prioritise your leftovers. Some meals can taste better the day after they have been cooked. So, eat the same meal the next day too, if there is anything left.
Another great idea is to try to store your leftovers in a largish container that stays at the front of your fridge shelf. Nothing is worse than discovering a nasty mouldy container that has been overlooked.
OzHarvest has also created the Use It Up Tape. It can be used in your fridge, freezer or pantry to mark a shelf for food that needs using up or be stuck on individual items. It’s made from paper, is dishwasher proof and can be recycled or reused. It’s also free! All you need to do is order online and cover the $4 cost of postage.
Try to freeze what you don’t eat. Always label what is in the container and write the date on the container or bag.
Donate What you Can’t Use
Check out Virtual Pantries for donations via social media. If you have an ingredient that you bought and never used, or have been given, consider gifting it to someone local on Facebook. There is a Virtual Pantry in my general area in Sydney and it is super easy to take a photo, list the use by date and then leave it out by my front door for someone to collect.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden, you can compost veggies and fruit and even old, ripped cotton tea towels in a compost bin. My bin seems to be more worm friendly than strictly compost, but it works and never has filled up over the 28 years I have lived with it. If you do not have a garden, check out a bokashi buckets that ferments organic waste and turns smelly veggies into beautiful compost that you can give away.
Best Before vs Use By Date
The ‘use-by’ date tells us when food is safe to eat, it’s not so straightforward for fresh food and food with ‘best-before’ date labels. Best before means it may still be okay to eat after that date, depending on how it’s been stored, whether it has been opened and the ‘sniff test’. Your nose and sense of taste are good indicators to check if some foods have gone off and should not be consumed.
Why it matters
In New South Wales more than 1/3 of the waste we send to landfill is food. That adds up to about $10 billion worth of good food that’s being thrown away every year by New South Wales households. If we can act smarter, we can reduce our food bill and help the environment.
Resources Food Smart is a free online program to help New South Wales households reduce food waste. Over six weeks, participants will receive fun and easy food-saving tips, activities and recipes via email to help them save food, time and money.
Top Tip – If you buy several cans or packets of food at a time, turn any existing cans/packets upside down when you put them away next to the same item. Tell your family to always grab the packet the wrong side up first. This way you will use up the food in date order and not have old ones left at the back.