The next time you’re in the kitchen preparing something simple yet delicious like a garden salad, a bunch of French fries and an egg sandwich, kindly keep a check on the amount of wastage that eventually happens. From the thick crust of the bread to the peels of cucumbers and potatoes, a lot invariably ends up in bins. But you’re not alone. Almost all of us, at some point have wasted food either because we didn’t know how to use ingredients optimally, or loaded our plates beyond limits.
Food constitutes a major chunk of landfill waste. And we’re not referring to only leftovers here; but discards of fruits, veggies and meats as well. Global estimates suggest that 30% of the food that is produced anywhere in the world gets wasted every year and could amount to a whopping 1.3 million tons annually!
With a thrust on sustainability gaining in importance, it’s time to take a re-look at how we can minimise wastage and prepare for the reuse of leftovers. And it’s not a herculean task. Remember when we were kids and parents told us to finish our food and not waste any? We can all start small by planning our meals in advance, shopping right, cooking smart and eating in moderation to prevent wastage.
Here’s how you can make a start:
Utilise the weekend to plan ahead. Plan for the kind of meals you’d want to cook and the type of food you’d want to eat out and shop accordingly. There’s no point stocking up a basketful of fresh greens and fruits if you plan to dine out or order in on a regular basis. Buy small quantities and buy fresh.
Three kilograms of juicy pink carrots for a family of three that includes a toddler? Not done. Unless you plan to drink carrot juice for breakfast each day! Veggies and fruits wilt in no time. Milk and dairy can curdle out. Likewise, cereals, grains and pulses can deteriorate if stocked for weeks together. Check the refrigerator and larder for perishables, dairy and pulses before going on a shopping spree. Avoid over-shopping to ensure you stock only what you will actually use.
The locavore movement seems to have caught the fancy of chefs and foodies alike. A great way to embrace this trend is by shopping smart for produce grown within a 200 kilometre radius of your city, which traps in the same water and sunlight as you and is thus palatable with your body constitution. Food which is grown locally is fresher and carries more nutrients than food that has traversed countries.
Coming to cooking, try and use each and every part of a vegetable or a fruit. Peels, seeds and rinds can be utilised in making an interesting bunch of delicacies. Take for example a watermelon. The seeds can be dried and consumed as a snack. The pinkish-white rind can be grated, mixed with semolina and jaggery and made into homemade breakfast pancakes. Banana, potato and mango peels and carrot tops can be used for composting, while the stems of cauliflower and broccoli can be used in making veggie stock. If you look at it, almost every food can be used till the last scrap.
Leftover food can be transformed into exotic dishes. Indian flatbreads can be stuffed with hard-boiled eggs, grated cheese and herbs and relished as rolls. Rice can be loaded with veggies, meats and spices and made into fried rice. If there’s extra food remaining from your restaurant orders, it’s always better to parcel out that food and eat it a while later.
Zero wastage goes beyond just food and extends to include the cloth bags that we carry for shopping, or the steel and glass cutlery and crockery used for eating. These choices are far more eco-friendly that plastic grocery bags or plastic cutlery and paper plates that get used at mealtime.
Zero-wastage is simple and easy and goes a long way in making us responsible connoisseurs of food. Cheers to zero-waste cooking!