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The Zero-Waste Kitchen: How Kiwi Homes Are Minimising Food Waste

Many New Zealanders are aware of the ongoing problems with waste and its effects on the environment. Yet, while plastics and fuel usage are commonly cited causes of greenhouse gas emissions, one contributing factor that is often overlooked is food waste. According to the Ministry for the Environment, 1.3 billion tonnes of food (over a third of all food produced) is wasted each year globally. In New Zealand alone, 130,000 tonnes of food is wasted annually, which contributes to 9% of all biogenic methane emissions and 4% of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, there are ways to minimise food waste, with many New Zealand homes employing strategies to keep food wastage to a minimum. From pre-measured meal kits to repurposing excess food, here are some of the ways Kiwi kitchens are becoming zero waste.

Portioning Meals

One of the biggest contributors to food wastage is by creating meal portions that are far too large. While the amount every individual consumes varies from person to person, it is not unusual to end up scraping food into the bin because the excess is more than can be safely stored. It’s also common for certain ingredients to be left over after meal preparation, which may also get thrown out if not needed for any other recipes. By measuring food into exact portions, you can help minimise the amount of food left over after a meal. According to Love Food Hate Waste NZ, a good measurement guide is by using your hand: the amount of protein should be the size and thickness of your palm, carbohydrates the size of your fist, vegetables and salad equal to two cupped hands, and fats the size of your thumb. Another excellent way of portioning food is to use a meal kit delivery service. For instance, each HelloFresh food box delivery contains a pre-measured amount of ingredients. By measuring the contents of each meal kit, you can create exact portions for each meal, ensuring little to no food waste.

Storing Leftovers

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Rather than throwing excess food into the bin, it is worth considering ways to store food to enjoy later. Many ingredients are designed to last a long time, from dried pasta to tinned fruits and vegetables. In turn, we can use some of these methods to preserve food and keep it safe from mould and bacteria. Refrigerating or freezing foods is a common way of preservation. Other methods include bottling fruits and vegetables, dehydrating foods like pasta, or preserving foods in vinegar or salt. Some recipes, such as jam, chutney and sauerkraut, are excellent ways to use leftover foods for condiments that can be used later. Make sure to sort any food by “use by” and “best before” dates, and use these up first as a priority. Finally, if eating out at a restaurant and are unable to finish your meal, ask if you can take home any leftovers in a container or “doggy bag”.

Repurposing Waste

Even if you have no further use for excess food or ingredients at home, there are ways you can repurpose them rather than simply throwing them out. If you have spare food items or ingredients you no longer use, you can always try donating them to organisations such as Foodbank NZ. Animals such as pigs, dogs, cats and even worms help reduce food wastage by eating leftovers. However, make sure the food you give them is safe to eat. You can also consider using food scraps for composting and fertilising soil rather than sending it to the landfill. All these methods are excellent ways to combat the issue of food waste.

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