03 Apr // Laziness: Love Food Hate Waste

I was thrilled to find out earlier this year that I was the recipient of an Auckland Council and Love Food Hate Waste grant, to help raise awareness about food waste, and encourage everyone to get involved in reducing the embarrassing amount of perfectly edible food that New Zealanders throw into the rubbish every year.

This is part one. Words by me. Photography by Bailey Mes.  

In order to talk about food waste, we must first talk about laziness. And to talk about laziness we must take a good hard look at ourselves, and reflect on how we eat and how we cook.

Maybe you know how it goes. You've had a busy week and you’re catching up on Queer Eye on Netflix, and you need to eat dinner and you want it to be reasonably healthy, like vegetables of some sort. A simple pasta from the cupboard feels too hard and eggs are boring, you console yourself with. You just have a scroll through UberEats or some other delivery food service. Every cuisine at your fingertips…

Here is the thing. Ubereats, or some other delivery food system, is the equivalent of opening and closing the fridge a few times and expecting something good to appear (thank you for the analogy Anny) and then getting bored. Say you do splash out.The food shows up, you’ve spent more than you should have, there is so much plastic and paper and general packaging to deal with and if you don’t want to be too gross you put it in a bowl, which means dishes anyway, and the reality is: you already had dinner in the fridge or freezer. In the time it takes for a petrol-fuelled car to drive you a single portion dinner across town, you could have made yourself something perfectly edible and moved on.  

Or maybe you're more of a grab-whatever kind of supermarket shopper, with every intention of cooking, but then you get busy, buy lunch a couple of times during the week (you're busy! you're running late! I get it!) and before you know it there's half a block of feta turning pink and slimey at the back of the fridge alongside chicken you forgot to freeze before cooking and some stinky baby spinach leaves slowly turning to liquid in a bag.  

In little ol’ New Zealand we throw away 122,547 tonnes of food a year. 5 jumbo jets full of perfectly edible food, and according to the Love Food Hate Waste website, enough to feed the population of Dunedin for two years. All that food, going into landfill. In official scientific terms, that’s a metric shit-tonne. And it’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed that I have contributed in some way to that edible food going in the rubbish bin.

A lot of what we see and hear around the topic of food waste is things like using the perfectly edible broccoli stalks and stems, and making cabbage into sauerkraut and using the leaves of beetroot and turning them into salad. These are all very valid uses. However, as a food writer I have the weight of your plates on my shoulders, and I am more concerned with the perfectly good food we are making and buying, and then letting go bad (because of laziness, because of bad fridge management, because of a desire to only eat what we feel like at any one time? I dunno). That plate of leftovers you don’t really want two days later. Or the perfectly edible lettuce that's slowly wilting. Or the bread that wasn't quite put in the freezer in time. All this food that you just don't feel like eating right now. All this food that instead goes in the rubbish.

So to begin we need to think about feeding ourselves. About laziness. And about putting aside our dreams of having an amazingly made beautifully perfect meal every single night, and instead sometimes just getting food in our bellies. Because we have the privilege of doing so, and the fact that 122,547 tonnes of food goes into landfill every year is embarrassing.

We are living in an age where for lots of us, food is at our fingertips and our cravings can be catered to on a whim. Pushing past that and making do with what’s available to us is something we have to do if we’re going to tackle the food waste problem. And it’s embarrassing.

So for this first post of the series I would like to lay out a challenge. I would like to challenge you to think about what you contribute to the 122,547 tonnes of food each year. Is it because of takeaways? Or over-ordering? Or lack of inspiration? Or a messy fridge? Is it because you don't have your pantry staples sorted? Work out whether you have contributed, and how. And then work out what we need to do from here. 

Have a think and share your tips and your tricks (mine coming in the next post), because we all have a responsibility and we can all hold each others' hands. Let's get that number down.