For many people, the holiday season is about food and whānau. With a little bit of thought and planning, we can make this the season of goodwill – and not the landfill.
Did you know Kiwis throw out $2.4 billion worth of food each year?
That's a huge amount of food being wasted every single day. Cutting down on food waste helps lower greenhouse gas emissions, including the emissions that are created through producing the food, but also emissions from landfill.
As we're all getting together over the holiday period and maybe eating slightly more than usual, it's a good time to think about getting smart with the way we buy, cook, and store our food.
Food waste in New Zealand
Sources: Ministry for the Environment, Rabobank-Kiwi Harvest Food Waste Research.
Our emissions from food waste
Cost of wasted food each year
How much of our food we waste
Planning and shopping
A 2021 Rabobank-Kiwi Harvest survey found that New Zealanders waste 8.6% of our food. Planning a Christmas day menu and making a shopping list can help to reduce that food waste, because you'll know exactly what you need to buy and use it all. It's always a bit tricky to know how much much guests are going to eat, but as long as you know how many are coming, you can get a good idea of quantities.
Serving more vegetables and less meat is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your meal - emissions from most plant-based products are 10-50 times lower than most animal-based products. Many Kiwis are moving to lighter Christmas dinners, and there's so much fresh seasonal produce to choose from.
When you're doing your shopping, make sure you look for local produce wherever possible. Buying local is good for our economy, supports local growers, and comes with fewer food miles than out-of-season or overseas products. That isn't a hardship in New Zealand, where goodies like strawberries and fresh greens are in full swing.
Love your leftovers
After the meal, make sure you refrigerate any perishable food such as poultry as quickly as possible. A lot of food gets thrown out because it has been sitting at room temperature in the middle of a Kiwi summer for a long time. Store leftover food in jars or containers or use beeswax wrap to keep it fresher for longer.
If there's lots of leftover food, many guests will be happy to take home a container of food. One of the great things about Xmas is waking up on Boxing Day to leftovers – and not having to worry about cooking.
For people who can't face leftovers on Boxing Day, there's the freezer (the best weapon against food wastage). Meat can be frozen once in its uncooked state and again in its cooked state (just don't store them together). Milk, bread, and even cheese can be frozen too.
If you are inspired to cook, turn those leftovers into easy, tasty meals like leftover-laden pizzas or fresh wraps.
Compost for Christmas
Most of the food that gets thrown out in New Zealand is fruit and vegetables, which also happen to be perfect food items for composting or a worm farm. So if you're not already doing it, it's the perfect time to start a compost bin or worm farm to keep those food scraps out of landfill.