What are your food crimes?

August 30, 2008 at 3:33 am 1 comment

When I was growing up, my mother used to freak me out with “bubble and squeak”. When I was REALLY young, I used to fret that the “squeak” part had something to do with mice. As I got older, I realised that there was a lot of brussels sprouts going on in this B&S business (and this is a vegetable I don’t like)!! Basically, my mother (and her mother before her) adopted the first form of food recycling – taking the leftovers from the Sunday roast or last night’s dinner and frying them up. Potatoes, brussels sprouts, pumpkin, peas, carrots, cabbage – anything left over, would be tossed into a frying pan for a fry up (in butter: my mother loved lashings of butter).

Over the years, I forgot about B&S until my mother came to live with us in 2005 (at 88 years old). I was then reintroduced to all the stuff I had grown up with: tapioca, junket, trifle (making use of left over jelly) and….bubble and squeak. She thought we wasted a lot of food, so even at 88 years old, there she would be at the stove frying up the B&S. My husband (who is Portuguese) was frazzled by the whole B&S thing as it was never a part of his childhood but he came to love it and he took seriously my mother’s comment about food wastage. Especially, when one day he cooked a roast pork dinner and threw out the leftovers including some pork and my mother glared at him with a face of disapproval you would have to see to believe.

So now we “recycle” food a lot more. We make huge pots of soup stuffed full of vegetables and this gives us many, many meals. We’ve cut way down on consumption of meat. I am now a whiz at making junket (did you know that junket tablets in Australia have been reintroduced due to popular demand? well, junket powder this time around).

Have you ever really thought about how you waste food? Let me give you some statistics that might get you thinking. According to Notebook magazine, every single Australian throws away 145kg food a year. Let’s pause for a moment: that’s 145kg of food in a world where some people have to exist on $2.00 a day and often starve!

Worse: for every five bags of groceries Australians buy per week, one of those bags bites the dust – it goes straight into the garbage bin. So almost 20% of the food Australians purchase ends up being tossed, wasted. And as a nation, that is over $6 billion worth of food items.

The Editor of Notebook magazine, Caroline Roessler, says: “Food waste in this country is an environmental and financial disaster. When you consider that we are throwing away at least one out of five bags of groceries every time we go shopping, we might as well throw away the money it was bought with.”

Notebook has started a Stop Food Waste! campaign, which not only brings the shocking fact of food wastage to our attention, but also provides practical ideas on how to plan, shop and cook food without unnecessary wastage. I sure will be reading the September issue!

Sadly, Sydneysiders are the major food wasters in Australia with some of our garbage bins containing 50% food stuff. A November 2007 study found that homes in the ACT were throwing out 4.2 kilograms of food every week – up from 3.7 kilograms in 2004.

Jon Dee has joined forces with Notebook. He is of course an environmentalist and founder of Planet Ark. Dee comments that our attitude to food has changed over the years and now: “We leave it lingering in the depths of our fridges and cupboards, unused and unloved. When we do use it, we use too much and even then we don’t use the leftovers“. Whereas once people’s relationship with food was one of saving and reusing leftovers, food has now become a part of the throw-away society we live in. And here’s something else Dee says that we should really take note of:

When food waste rots in landfill it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than the CO2 pouring out of your car’s exhaust. If we don’t mend our wasteful ways, we’ll be eating ourselves out of an environment that can sustainably support future generations of Australians.”

And here’s some more facts for us to digest:

  • the $6 billion of food we toss away each year is enough to feed Australia for three weeks
  • we seem to keep the chocolate and the junk food but toss out fresh fruit and vegetables
  • meat, fish, bread, dairy produce, rice and pasta are all in the top most wasted foods
  • according to CSIRO data, dumping a kilogram of beef wastes the 50,000 litres of water it took to produce that meat
  • throwing out a kilogram of white rice will waste 2,385 litres and wasting a kilogram of potatoes costs 500 litres

I remember when the “use by date” was introduced, my father thought it was a smart ploy on the part of supermarkets to make you buy more items because you would freak out if the milk, for example, was due to expire today. So you’d rush out to buy more milk. My mother when living with us usually ignored the use by date and consumed the item. She never succumbed to food poisoning! And it is certainly true that our food portions have increased over the years. So both use-by-dates and increasing portions have led to food wastage.

My grandmother often told me about how food portions should relate to items, so a piece of meat should be no larger than the palm of your hand for example. But with the introduction of the “all you can eat, stuff your faces” buffets, seems we’ve lost the ability to eyeball food and know what is a reasonable portion. And so we end up cooking and consuming too much and tossing out the leftovers.

So whilst we are busy worrying about the planet heating up or future water shortages, let’s not take our eye off the fact that we are facing global food shortages (which of course drive up food prices). And every time we toss out food, we are not only being irresponsible humans, we are contributing to global food crises. Carolyn Roessler has a Stop Food Waste! blog, which shares her experiences of composting and cutting food waste in her own kitchen – check it out.

Thx to Sydney-based PR company Zing for bringing Notebook to my attention and giving me the information to blog about food wastage. I have shamelessly ganked the photo from Notebook that accompanies this post.

Get thinking now about how to Stop Food Waste! What are your food waste crimes? Leave a comment if you have some ideas or tips on how to stop food waste.


Entry filed under: Australia, Education and Awareness, Environment, Sustainability, Useful resources. Tags: , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. ohlala  |  August 30, 2008 at 4:55 am

    Here in Thailand, we have Thai style “bubble & squeak” called Gang Ho. Ho is the local word in North of Thailand means “to throw away”. Gang is halfway between a soup and a stew or it may be clear and thin.

    Gang ho is traditional dish in North of Thailand. In the past, people cooked it from the leftovers. But at present, since people love Gang Ho, many Gang Ho dishes prepared from fresh food.

    See image here: http://www.bloggang.com/viewdiary.php?id=toytokyo&month=02-2008&date=18&group=3&gblog=34

    Chineses in Thailand also has BUBBLE dish. It’s Jub-chai (ten kinds of vegetables). You put many kind of leftover food to the pot and then boiled it together ie boiled chicken or duck, rosted pork, boiled vegetables, Tao fu, blah blah. And add soy sauce or salt. That’s it.

    See image here : http://www.kruaklaibaan.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=8689

    Again, in these days, most of Jub chai prepared from fresh food!!!

    Many people think the way our parents or grandparents lived was outdate. But they might forget that the outdate way save resources for us to live in the modern way.


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