Did you know that one third of the world's food is wasted?
When in the landfill, food waste produces greenhouse gas, and the amount of emissions produced globally by all the food thrown away is third only after USA and China.
Australia is not immune by this food waste issue. The National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study produced by Food Innovation Australia Limited reported that:
- Each year in Australia we waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food which equals to about 312kg per person.
- Australia uses around 2600 gigalitres of water to grow food that is wasted – the volume of water of five Sydney Harbours.
- More than 25 million hectares of land is committed to grow wasted food, a landmass larger than the state of Victoria.
These facts alone should make us wanting to look closer at how we store and consume our food and how to do our part and in turn also save money, water and natural resources.
The first step is to learn the geography of your fridge and the best spot for each type of food (and no, your milk bottle should NOT go in the door…).
You’ll need to start by checking that your fridge’s temperature is set around 4-5 degrees: anything lower will freeze burn your more delicate veggies and fruits and anything higher might allow bacteria to develop and spoil your food.
You need to know though that the internal temperature of your fridge will then vary between shelves: the lowest shelves are the coolest as the temperature increases slightly moving to the top, ending with the fridge’s door, which is often a couple degrees warmer.
Here’s a guide on the most common types of food and the best spots in your fridge to store them.
You should store here food that doesn’t require cooking such as cold meats, pickles and leftovers from your day before.
This is the perfect spot for cheese, yoghurt, butter and milk. The latter, especially, is quite delicate and if placed in your fridge’s door would be subject to a slight variance of temperature every time you open it, which in turn could cause bacteria to grow.
Being the coolest spot, it’s where you should store raw meat and fish, always firmly wrapped or in airtight containers to avoid food cross-contamination. This is especially important as keeping raw and cooked food separate is one of the golden rules of food storing: by keeping cooked food on the top shelf and raw food on the bottom (and not vice versa) will also prevent the latter from potentially drip juices and contaminate cooked food.
It’s the perfect place for veggies, salads, fruit and herbs. They need a cool environment, but the drawer will protect them from potential freeze burn by being stored too close to the back of the fridge, which is where the cooling pipes run.
This is where temperature’s fluctuations are the highest and therefore the advice is to use it for water bottles and aliments containing preservatives such as jams, dressings, juices.
Now that you got your fridge sorted, what about making your fruits and veggies last for longer? As you might have realised, they don’t like to be treated all in the same way and with these hacks we’ll show you how to give each one their favourite spot.
Leave cucumbers alone
Many Fruits produce ethylene, a natural gas that accelerate the ripening process and since cucumbers are super sensitive to this agent, it’s best to store them separately. They can be kept on your kitchen bench but if you prefer to eat them cold then just remember to keep them away from the rest of your fruits.
Herbs like flowers
Herbs are as delicate as fresh flowers and therefore must be handled with care. Make sure they are completely dry (pat them with some paper towels), then cut away the ends and store them upright in a glass with a bit of water (not too much or they will go rotten).
Remember that basil is the only one that shouldn’t be stored in the fridge but at room temperature and using the same water glass method.
Pumpkins vs Apples & Pears
Pumpkins last a long time but make sure to keep them away from apples and pears, which would accelerate their ripening process. They love a temperature between 10 and 12 degrees (so not as cold as your fridge but cooler than room temperature) and dark places like inside a cupboard. If stored correctly, bigger pumpkins can last even six months. The exception are pumpkins bought already halved, they best be stored in your fridge.
From soil to bag
Tuber veggies such as carrots, potatoes, beets and onions are full of nutrients absorbed from the soil they grow in. And since they spent their life underground, it’s important to store them in a dark, cool and slightly humid place to preserve all their nutrients.
A cellar or basement would be best, otherwise a cupboard works too but remember to bag them in a paper or cotton bag to make them last longer.
Onions & Garlic
Even if both onions and potatoes have to be stored in similar conditions, they have to be kept apart or both these handy pantry staples will go bad more quickly. It’s fine though to store onions and garlic together, but don’t remove garlic peel until you need to use it.
Berries love Vinegar
If not stored correctly, berries can deteriorate so it would be best to not wash them until you want to consume them. This is unless you wash them for a couple of minutes in a water-vinegar solution, which will prevent mould formation. It’s important though to rinse them carefully using a colander, pat them dry before and store them in your fridge in a container with a lid partially open.
Bye bye Apples! With Love, Oranges.
Apples must be kept away also from oranges and always because of the ethylene gas they produce. If you want to make them last longer, you can keep them both in the fridge but on different shelves and keep oranges loose or in their mesh bag but never in a plastic bag or they’ll go mouldy much quicker.
Separate the kids
Seeing a bunch of bananas on your counter is certainly beautiful and a push to have healthier snacks but if you keep all the bananas together, they’ll be exposed to a higher concentration of ethylene gas and will ripe all at the same time forcing you to rush to eat them or to end up with the same old banana bread to not throw them away.
The advice is to break the bunch up, keep some on your bench and store the others in the fridge to slow their ripening process until you are ready to eat them.
The green gold
Always battling to find the perfect avocado and to store it perfectly?
We have some tricks for you: if your avocado is not ripe enough, place it in your fruit bowl together with bananas (yes, them, again) while if you want to slower the ripening process, store it in your fridge.
And what about opened avocadoes? Keep the seed on and wrap it firmly in a beeswax food wrap or store it in an airtight container together with a piece of onion.
Tomatoes want out
Did you know that tomatoes actually hate being stored in the fridge? It’s because the colder temperature can degrade their texture and dampen their flavour. So, keep them on your kitchen bench and you’ll improve their taste and store them in the fridge only if they have already been cut open.
Celery is often sold wrapped in plastic and simply thrown in your fridge as it is. Unfortunately, the plastic wrapping won’t let it breath and it will cause your celery to go bad quite fast. The best way to preserve its freshness is to cut it into sticks and submerge them in water in a closed container or glass jar. You can do the same with carrot sticks and asparagus and they’ll make for wonderful crunchy healthy snacks.
The first rule to follow when it comes to avoid food waste is meal planning: and this doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending your entire weekend cooking and then eating the same thing over and over for the following days (even though this could be a life saver if you don’t have time to cook) but it means plan the weekly meals ahead and buy only the ingredients needed for them. Do you have a recipe that requires coriander or maybe parsley? How can you avoid buying a bunch and then use only half of it? Is there any other recipe you could try this week using similar ingredients?
It's a real mental shift and we are confident that, together with all these hacks explained in this blog, you’ll see a significant reduction of the amount of food waste generated in your household!
If you are interest in how to reduce waste in other parts of your house, we have an easy read called "15 TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR WASTE".