• Put your leftover bread to work and make a bread and butter pudding - sweet or savoury like this ham, cheese and spinach meal. (Danielle Abou Karam)Source: Danielle Abou Karam
New research shows we're wasting a lot of food, but from a regular 'shelfie' to delicious use-it-up recipes, there are a lot of ways to cut back on what goes in the bin.
Kylie Walker

7 Jul 2021 - 8:49 AM  UPDATED 11 Jul 2021 - 7:30 PM

New research has found that meat, bread and cheese are among the items most likely to end up in the bin – and food waste is costing many of us more than $900 a year.

The largest investigation in Australia so far into the how, why and what of food waste suggests that on average, we’re wasting $18.55 worth of food per person, per week. The study, part of an ongoing  ‘Designing effective interventions to reduce household food waste’ research project, took a three-level look at waste, including a national survey, a detailed waste diary and a physical bin audit.

The results of the study, by the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (FFW CRC), were released this week.

$965 a year straight in the bin? Our grandparents could be the answer
A new study has found most of us are wasting a lot more food than we realise.

The study found that most people don’t believe they personally waste a lot of food – but comparisons of the bin audits and surveys and dairies show many of us significantly underestimate how much we waste. For others, the desire to cut waste is there, but time pressures, budget or lack of food knowledge gets in the way. (Find out more about the report findings here)

So what can we do? Here are some tips, and recipes, to help you cut your waste.

The 'shelfie'

One of the CRC's tips for reducing waste is to check what you have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards before you go shopping - and take a 'shelfie', so you can double-check what you've got while you are out shopping.

No-waste gatherings

Professor David Pearson, the co-author of the study, tells SBS his key suggestion for people is to eat what you buy. "How? Plan your meals, check your fridge, create a shopping list (and stick to it!), store food by putting 'needs to be eaten first' at the front, and finally, keep leftovers for an easy meal the next day. And if you are hosting an activity which includes food make it a ‘no food waste event’ by having clip lock plastic bags for people to take home any uneaten foods."


Recipes to use things up

While the items most likely to be wasted vary a little between the three avenues of research, bread, meat, fruit and veg and dairy (mostly likely cheese) appear again and again. Here are some of our favourite ways to use those up. 

Bread becomes breakfast and many other things, too. 

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Stale bread yaytime

This is quite an elaborate recipe, a riff on an Australian classic iced confection, a reflection on how to upcycle basic ingredients and a lament for wasted bread.

Stale bread pizzette

The toppings on these pizzette can be made from whatever you have on hand. Don’t worry too much about measurements- just go with whatever looks good.

Bread and butter pudding (puddina)

With ingenuity the Maltese have adapted this recipe from the English bread and butter pudding (Malta was once a British colony) and added an Arabic twist. Day-old bread is soaked in water and mixed with generous quantities of dried fruit, almonds and cocoa. Puddina is served in slices with black tea as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Many ways with fruit and vegetable scraps

Buy-nothing-new curry

Don’t be bound by my ingredients list – make this curry your own by  using any limp veg.  For a yummy soup, add another cup of stock, remove the cinnamon stick at the end, and blend on high for a few seconds.

Quick kitchen-scrap pickle

Quick pickling is a great way to use up any vegetables in the fridge at the end of the week, as well as those leftover vegie stems – cauliflower, beetroot, broccoli and kale stems all make really delicious pickles!

Salt-preserved citrus skins

This recipe isn't as fancy as preserved lemons, but but it is a great way to reduce kitchen waste and produce a delicious kitchen staple. 

Carrot top pesto

At a farmers’ market recently, I was so saddened to see person after person having their carrot tops removed and discarded. It inspired me to start digging around for ways to use them. Pesto is just one way and I can guarantee you will never throw those tops away again. Although the recipe is specific measurement-wise, the idea is to make use of what you have, so don’t stress if you don’t have the exact weight I’ve given in carrot tops. Add extra herbs, adjust the oil quantities, and play around until you get the consistency you like.

Veggie scrap crackers

My incredibly talented cousin, Yasmin, who is one of the greatest chefs I have ever worked with, inspired this wonderful recipe. She does not waste anything and that is where these crackers came into being. If you don’t own a juicer, you can just grate up some veggies or use leftover ends of things – just make sure there is not too much moisture in them. This recipe does work best in a dehydrator, but you can use an oven on low heat for almost the same result – it’s just a longer process.

Meat into meals

Crispy lamb, pea and mint fritters

These golden fritters, made with tender lamb and packed with greens and herbs, are perfect for brunch, a simple lunch or light dinner – kids will love them too.

Mini meat pies

Use up all your leftover cooked meat, and have party snacks ready in under an hour! 

Adrian’s meat scone roll

A super-easy way to use up leftover bacon, chorizo or salami. You could also add cheese. 

Cheese-and-ham bread

The Dutch are famous for their cheeses. Edam and Gouda (with or without cumin) are named after the towns where they are made. The cheese markets in those towns date back to the Middle Ages and are still conducted in the same manner in the market place. Regional cheeses such as Limburger, Friesian or Maaslander are less available abroad. Matured or old Dutch cheese is also very popular for the intense taste sensation. For this traditional cheese and ham bread from the city of Gouda, chef Geert Elzinga from Sydney's Essen restaurant uses an old and a young cheese.

Corned beef hash

The trick to making good hash browns is getting the potato to stick together. I reckon this is best done by par-cooking them to change the starch’s character – but beware, as cooking times will vary enormously depending on varieties and the age of the potatoes you use. This recipe makes a modest amount, so I suggest making a big batch to use over coming days. Plan on making it after having corned beef for dinner if you want to avoid double work.

Cheesy ideas

Pea and pancetta soup

Leftover parmesan rind is the secret ingredient that turns this soup into something very special, and skins from the potatoes are used like crunchy croutons. 

Cauliflower and broccoli mac ’n’ cheese

This is proper comfort food with a little bit of veggie action in there too, and a great way to use up leftover bits of cheese or pasta.

Cauliflower cheese pasties

These mini pasties are perfect for anyone who loves cheese – creamy cauliflower cheese filling wrapped in a crunchy cheesy crust! Any kind of cheese can be used in the filling, as long as it melts well. Poh & Co. 2

Bacon, baked beans and cheese jaffles

These jaffles don’t have much (or any) butter on the bread because the bacon, placed on the outside, melts a bit of fat into the bread.

Find out more about the Fight Food Waste CRC here. Get more ideas for using things up in our holiday leftovers collection. 

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