waste not want not

Christmas- what a great excuse to over-indulge in food and drink with family and friends, I love it! Preparing and sharing food together is such a great way to re-connect with loved ones. But, while I try to get down from my high-horse at this time of year, the overabundance of food at Christmas time really does highlight the huge food-wastage that goes on year-round. Not wasting food is such an obvious, simple and easy way to lessen our food-foodprint. The average household throws out about $1000 worth of food each year– what a waste!

But its not just about the money, and not just about the ‘there’s starving kids in Africa’ argument. There are real environmental impacts of food wastage:


This diagram is actually meant to represent where food contamination can occur. But I think it demonstrates well where environmental impacts can occur too. From cdc.gov

1. Pollution. Wasted food=more rubbish=more landfills. Landfills are bad. They can leach nutrients and pollutants into soil, groundwater systems and waterways.

2. Greenhouse gases. Food and other organic matter breaks down in landfills to form methane gas, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

3. Most importantly, its a waste. Food production involves land clearing, water use, water pollution, fertiliser application, grazing, packaging, transport, the list goes on. So, every bit of food wasted represents wasted soil, land, water, carbon dioxide from transport and processing and materials for production and packaging.

There’s some great tips out there for how to save food, including a huge amount of resources on the Love Food Hate Waste¬†website, a NSW government initiative. LFHW ambassador Sarah Wilson also has some great tips on her page, like how to eat your scraps.

I’m going to start sharing with you some of the tips I’ve come up with along the way, for making use of otherwise-wasted food. My first one, is yoghurt.

Home made yoghurt

This is best for salvaging milk thats not going to be drunk before it goes off (long life or fresh), but also makes use of that little bit of yoghurt left at the bottom of the container! Plus, its so much cheaper than buying yoghurt. If I see close to/past its use by date discounted milk at the supermarket, I’ll buy it for this too- I figure few people are likely to want to buy it, so its a good way to stop it from being chucked out.

Its so simple. I use my Aldi yoghurt maker (like EasiYo), which I frivolously bought a couple of years ago before I realised that making yoghurt from those powder sachets was not cheap, nor tasty. Glad to have a reason to use it again! If you don’t have one, don’t go out and buy one. All you need is some sort of lidded container (could be a jar, tupperware, whatever!), and another bigger, insulated container that it will fit inside- an esky is great, but you could also just wrap the second container with towels or something.

For fresh milk, you first need to boil it, and then let it cool for a bit (its supposed to be about 40 degrees or less). Long life milk has already been heat treated so you don’t need to boil it.

Half fill your container with the left over milk. Add a spoonful of yoghurt, mix it it well. You need a heaped spoonful for a litre of milk. (By the way, your yoghurt needs to have active cultures- most natural/greek yoghurts seem to, except for the super processed stuff). For your next batch you can just use a spoonful of your last made batch. You can also add some milk powder if you want to make it creamier, too. Then, top up it up with the rest of your milk.


Fill your insulating container with boiling water, so that when you sit your yoghurt container in there it is surrounded by water but not submerged. Wait about 12 hours, and voila! Stick it in the fridge and thats that. For more refined methods of making it, there’s a good blog post by Chef in disguise. I had UHT milk, and followed Fig Jam and Lime Cordial‘s instructions.

I also had a whole lot of overripe squishy apricots from an overabundant apricot tree, which were a bit too yucky to eat by themselves. So this morning I chucked them in the food processor, and the puree made great flavouring for the yoghurt. I reckon this would work with most fruits, and you could even use the scrapings of that near-empty-but-not-empty-enough-to-recycle jar of jam. You can also mix the yoghurt with left over vegies, herbs or sauces to make dip.

I think that even if you were to make this with purpose-bought long-life milk (when you don’t have leftovers), this is probably a more sustainable way of eating yoghurt than buying it from the supermarket or making it from purpose-bought fresh milk, because it saves on refrigeration, and therefore, reduces greenhouse gases. Just a guess though.