Food Wastage in this Country is a huge problem, statistics show that about a third of all the food we buy gets thrown out. Excessive quantities of food waste can be attributed to overbuying, unnecessary meal preparation or poor storage. According to Stopfoodwaste.ie which is a website run by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average Irish person produces about 280 kg of waste each year with the majority of that being due to organic wastage (37%). Out of this, 6% is due to garden waste and a massive 31% is due to food waste. Not even taking into account the cost of waste disposal, only the cost of the wasted food, the average Irish person can spend €700 - €1000 a year on food that is just thrown away.
In order for me to really comprehend and put into context how much food is being wasted, I have been keeping a diary on how much food is wasted in my house. I have included novel ways in which I can reduce my family’s food wastage on three of the biggest wastage areas there was in our house-fruit and vegetable peels and unfinished dinner plates.
For some people the first thing they need in the morning is coffee, for me its juice. I like to make myself a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice every morning in order to wake up. I normally use two large oranges for this (sometimes three smaller ones if that’s what we have in the house). Over a week this amounts to 14-21 oranges that I just throw in the compost bin after I juice them-this is not even taking into account the oranges used for the rest of the family. At the start of this experiment I never really thought of this as wastage, I was using most of the orange and just throwing away the scraps, but the skins of oranges and other citrus fruit are full of flavour and vitamins and can be utilized fully before throwing them out. The average orange can make up to two tablespoons of zest, and a lemon, one tablespoon. In order to avoid wastage I learnt that you can zest or make twists out of your citrus fruits utilize this many different ways. Zest freezes really well in an airtight container and can be taken out when needed for baking or cooking. It can also be used to add flavour to such things as olive oil, honey, sugar, pepper or vinegar simply by adding twists of the peel to them and letting the flavours infuse. Not only does adding citrus peel to olive flavour it, it also reinvigorates oil that’s getting old.
As a normal Irish family, we eat a lot of potatoes. When preparing dinner its normal that we just chuck all the potato skins into the compost. In order to try reducing this I attempted to make ‘Potato skin crisps’ I laid what would normally be considered ‘scraps’ on to a baking tray, brushed with some olive oil, chili powder and salt. I put them in the over for 15minutes and what came out was a delicious crispy snack which I will most defiantly be making in the future.
Portion size was another problem in my family whereby there would be a lot of food left over on our plates after dinner that was just thrown out. In order to combat this, I have insisted that everyone only puts a small amount on their plate to begin with and then goes back for more if they are still hungry. This means that only the food that is wanted is eaten and the rest that is left is put in the freezer for another day and not thrown away.
When I started doing this project to see how much food waste there was in my house I wasn’t aware of how much was actually wasted and was appalled by what I found out. I have learnt a lot from this experience and have now become much stricter at trying to utilize the entire product before throwing it away. I have also been paying a lot more attention to the storage instructions on products so that they don’t go off due to my carelessness, And as I have mentioned before I have been more aware of portion sizes when taking my own food.
Fiona O' Sullivan