Laura Bedwell and Nikki Crerar from menu planning and meal prep service, Assortment. Photo / Supplied
Food waste is more than just a dent in our wallets – it also has environmental impacts beyond what we experience first-hand. When food ends up in landfills it decomposes without oxygen, producing methane gas – one of the biggest contributors to climate change. New Zealanders alone throw away 157,389 tons of food a year and, as the average person eats just under one ton of food a year, that is a lot of wasted meals, and quite literally food for thought!
The good news is that we can all have a positive impact on reducing food waste by making small changes to the way we shop, plan, prep, store and dispose of our food.
Tips to reduce food waste
● Meal planning
Planning your weekly meals means you will know exactly what you need to buy for the recipes you’re making that week. This way you’ll buy what you need and eat what you buy. Shop your fridge and pantry first – always start by figuring out what you’ve already got and what needs to be used, you’ll be surprised at how often you can adapt recipes, and substitute ingredients for what you have on hand.
Leftovers, if stored correctly, are perfectly edible and more often than not, even more delicious. Reinvent leftover meats into a delicious salad the next day by adding fresh greens, lentils, toasted nuts, tahini and herbs. Frittatas are a great way to use up leftover cooked vegetables like roast pumpkin and kūmara or saute some leftover greens sitting in the back of your fridge at the end of the week. Leftover rice makes the best homemade fried rice and coincidentally it’s also great for using up the odds and ends in your fridge or freezer.
● First in, first out
We know the fridge is notorious for hiding your food at the back (just like the dryer eats your socks), so we suggest you have a notepad on or near your fridge with reminders of what needs to be eaten.
● Proper storage
Storing fruit and vegetables properly helps to keep them fresher for longer, and keeps them tasting delicious too. A lot of produce keeps well in the refrigerator, whereas some items like potatoes, pumpkins, onions, and garlic are best stored in cool, dark places.
Store herbs with stems (such as coriander and parsley) in a jar with water in the fridge.
● Freeze it, pickle it, ferment it
If you know something is close to spoiling, there are many ways you can resurrect it and give it new life. We love to ferment and pickle leftover veges or make stocks, soups or bolognese and freeze them for a quick and easy dinner that the future you will thank you for.
Recipe: Chicken hunter with cauliflower mash
The perfect autumn comfort food! Rustic, Italian-style chicken hunter with a creamy cauliflower mash. Not sure what to do with the leftover celery? See below for Assortment’s quick and easy Celery salad with dates, parmesan, and crunchy roasted almonds.
500-600g chicken thighs, skinless, boneless
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
3 celery sticks, finely diced
2 Tbsp of fresh mixed herbs, we used rosemary, oregano and thyme
4 cloves garlic, crushed
⅓ cup black or green pitted olives
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock or bone broth
Salt and pepper
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
½ cup parsley, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 180C, fan bake.
2. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan or an ovenproof pan over high heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the pan.
3. Cook for 3 minutes on either side or until golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Add another 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the pan and turn down to medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, herbs and garlic; cook for 10 or so minutes, the vegetables should be nicely softened.
5. Add the chicken thighs back into the pan, along with the olives, chopped tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and cover with a lid or tinfoil.
6. Pop in the oven to cook for 40 minutes until the chicken has cooked through and the sauce has reduced. Sprinkle over chopped parsley to serve.
7. While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the cauliflower mash. Simply steam the cauliflower until tender. Add to a food processor or blender with butter, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy.
Recipe: Celery salad with dates, parmesan and crunchy roasted almonds
Serve 4 as a side dish
6 celery stalks, finely sliced
1 small red onion, finely sliced
5 dried dates, finely chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup parsley, roughly torn
⅓ cup parmesan, shaved
⅓ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
1. In a large salad bowl combine the celery, red onion and dates.
2. Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil and toss well.
3. Add the parsley, parmesan and almonds and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.
Laura Bedwell and Nikki Crerar run Assortment, a weekly menu planning service. Catch them on Instagram @assortment___ or head to assortmentfoods.com for more.