The following is a guest post by Lyndey Milan
According to Love Food Hate Waste [NSW Government initiative] every New South Wales household throws away over 300kg of food every year. This equates to a staggering $1036 per household per year.
Not only are we throwing away fruit and vegetables, we are also discarding takeaway and packaged food, drinks and frozen food.
Are we buying too much? Cooking too much? Changing our eating plans; deciding to eat out rather than cook at home? Not understanding use by and best before dates? Or maybe not storing our food properly?
As these issues are very important to me, I gladly accepted an offer to contribute to OzHarvest’s first cookbook. OzHarvest is a rescue organisation for unwanted food from restaurants, cafes, hotels, retailers and food outlets established seven years ago by Ronni Kahn. To date they have saved over 4,400 tonnes of food from landfill and delivered over 15 million nourishing meals to 380 charities. This cookbook takes OzHarvest’s food waste philosophy into the domestic kitchen.
The cookbook, containing recipes from chefs including Maggie Beer, Neil Perry, Matt Moran and Christine Manfield, features new ways to create fabulous meals using leftovers. I contributed Risotto Bianco – the finished dish is only limited by your imagination (and fridge) and can include anything from leftover roast meat, vegetables, fresh herbs to whatever you can muster!
As well as using up what is in the fridge I’m also a big fan of my freezer. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up over many years cooking and eating.
Freezing preserves flavour, colour, texture and nutritional value as long as foods are frozen fresh and in good condition. I especially love having out-of-season produce, such as poached quinces and cooked chestnuts, available all year round. The best things to freeze are:
• Liquid based dishes such as stock, soup, sauces and casseroles;
• Fruit such as berries – place in a single layer on a baking tray to open freeze, then bag and return to freezer;
• Bakery items like muffins, cakes and slices – make sure to wrap well to avoid spoilage;
• Egg white – I pop these into an ice-cube tray so that I know each frozen cube is one egg white;
• Meat – exclude all air and wrap really well; and
• Nuts – prevents them becoming rancid.
Avoid freezing: high water content vegetables, jam, dairy products and egg yolks.
Don’t forget to:
• Cool food before you wrap it for the freezer;
• Label and date the packed food;
• Exclude all air from wrapping;
• Leave a gap of at least 2cm when freezing liquids as they’ll expand;
• First open freeze (not piled up or covered) items like meatballs to aid defrosting; and
• Pack into quantities that suit lifestyle; eg stock in 500ml containers, rather than 3L if cooking for a small family or couple.
• Raw meat and poultry – between three and six months
• Raw seafood – 2 months
• Cooked meat and poultry – between one and six months
• Baked items and bread – between four and twelve months
• Butter –, cheese and egg whites – up to three months
What about thawing?
• Foods with low moisture content – such as cakes, muffins and biscuits – are best thawed wrapped in their freezer packaging at room temperature
• Foods for a medium moisture content – such as fresh pasta and frozen bread – can be reheated / cooked immediately
• Foods with a high moisture content – such as meat and fruit – should be thawed in the fridge to prevent bacteria growth
In summary, to avoid food wastage and save money, learn how to use up leftovers and make better use of your freezer.
Lyndey Milan, Australian home cook hero, combines a thirst for life and a sense of fun with a love of good food and sparkling shiraz. A familiar face on television and in print, she been instrumental in changing the way Australians think and feel about food and wine for over thirty years. www.lyndeymilan.com
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