South Africa's first Michelin Star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen says fruit and vegetables are the most common foods people waste because they perish so easily.
He says: "With expensive products like meat or fish, before they have a chance to expire, the average consumer sees its value and knows to freeze it and hopefully use it at a later stage. The first line of defence against fresh produce wastage is not to overbuy. What often happens is that we buy far more fresh produce than we can realistically consume before it perishes, and half of it ends up in the bin or forgotten about in the bottom of the fridge."
Find fifteen minutes at the weekend to work out a weekday menu for the upcoming week, considering which ingredients you can use for multiple dishes. For instance, the tomatoes you didn’t use in your salad today can make a delicious relish tomorrow.
Adopt a shop-smart mindset. Make a shopping list and be realistic about what you need – checking, of course, what you already have in your fridge before popping down to the shops.
Get a bit creative. Embrace #LeftoverMondays. Instead of throwing the last three bananas out, make banana bread. And if you’re watching your waistline, give it to someone who needs it.
Another culprit in the food waste quagmire is the best before date. Treat it like a guideline, not a matter of fact. Use-by dates refer only to the quality of food – not its safety. Trust your senses – they are there for a reason. In other words, taste before you waste.
Take stock of the food you have in your home and adopt a new rule of thumb: use what spoils first.
Check your portions
Over preparing is a common issue throughout the industrialised world, but as South Africans, the notion of Die tafels moet kreun (an old Afrikaans adage referring to festive tables set with an abundance of food) is better reserved for special occasions than for the norm.
It is speculated that mainstream restaurant culture is largely to blame here and it has affected our sense of value. The larger the portion, the better the value for money. But in the process, we’ve lost the ability to gauge how much we actually need. Remember, your stomach is only about the size of your fist.
Make a mind switch – let value centre on the quality of the ingredients. Focus more on the smell, the taste and the joyful experience of eating the food you make and less on the amount you ingest.
Store it well
You’ll be surprised to learn what fruits and vegetables prefer to be stored at room temperature and not in the fridge. And if you can clear some fridge space, storing your leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch will become less of a problem.
Fridge clutter feeds a dangerous tendency of out of sight, out of mind. And it makes it difficult to know what you have to work with.
Donate what you don’t use
Studies show that when people give to charities, it activates pleasure centres in the brain connected to trust and a sense of belonging, which are responsible for that “warm glow” feeling.
Inevitably, we don’t always use all the food we buy. In a country with such a big divide between the haves and the have nots, why not find out where your local food banks are and donate what you don’t consume? Or start a local community dedicated to feeding the less privileged on a Saturday morning.