It’s hard to believe that just over 100 years ago, fridges in the home just didn’t exist. Back then, food was either consumed shortly after entering the household or stored in a cellar to keep cool. For some, it was pickled, salted, or if the climate was cold enough, stored outside in the ice or snow.
Fast forward to today, and the fridge-freezer is the household belly for food storage. A handy holding space for leftovers, frozen meals, fruit and veg, sauces, butter, meat, milks, juice and more. In some households (especially mine), it’s the go-to space for storing pointless waste. We cram it with forgotten leftovers, vegetables that sit untouched until they turn limp and inedible and plastic-wrapped products preserved so heavily that they can sit on a fridge shelf for months and months uneaten. It’s all out of sight, out of mind, until the day we decide to take on the impossible and terrifying task of “cleaning out the fridge”. Eek!
In a world where it seems almost impossible to avoid plastic or food waste, there are some simple and easy steps to take when creating a low or zero-waste fridge. Just picture it: a happy, plastic-free fridge that sparkles and makes you sing with joy each time you open it… it is possible!
Shop at your local farmers market (if one is nearby)
Head to your local farmers market for the freshest, local, plastic-free produce. Bring your own produce bags to fill with in-season fruit & veg and nuts, a bread bag for a loaf of bread (use a pillowcase if you don’t own one – can also be frozen if you choose to freeze your bread) and reusable containers to place meat, fish, olives, hummus and cheese in. Some stalls at farmers markets also invite customers to return storage items for a discount such as milk bottles, jars and egg cartons.
Create a weekly meal plan
Food waste generally comes down to poor meal planning. Before endeavoring on your weekly shop, write a weekly meal plan – this can include breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks, and from there, write your shopping list. If living with others, invite your partner, flatmates or family members to contribute to creating the meal plan, and plan to share cooking when possible.
Make double dinners
When cooking a reheatable meal such as a soup or stew, make double or even triple the amount so it can be frozen and eaten at a later date. This is a wonderful to way to ensure all perishable ingredients are utilised in just one cooking session.
Use reusable storage alternatives
Store leftovers in reusable stainless steel containers, glass tubs or beeswax wraps. When placing bowls or plates of leftovers in the fridge, cover them with reusable lids or wraps instead of cling wrap or tin foil.
A wonderful way to keep fruit and vegetables fresher for longer is to place them into a dampened produce bag or pillowcase inside the fridge. You can also slice up carrots and other veges and store them in a jar of water to keep fresher for longer.
When shopping in a supermarket or general store, try to:
Head straight to the produce section. Bring reusable produce bags to place fruit, veg and nuts in, and avoid plastic-wrapped produce where possible. If you forget your produce bags, no drama – let your fruit and veg free-ball around the trolley! Purchase meat, fish, cheese, olives etc from the deli counter and bring your own reusable containers and jars to store your purchases in. If you get a “no” from staff when requesting to do this, don’t get upset, use it as an opportunity to start a conversation. The more we speak up, the more likely we’ll initiate change.
Compost perished food items
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a commercial composting facility, place all perishable food items in your green bin, ready for collection. Depending on your local council guidelines, this may include fruit, veg, grains, egg shells, meat bones and even animal fat. If this is unavailable to you or you prefer to compost yourself, set up a composting system in your home and compost fruit, vegetables and grains either via a compost bin in the garden or a worm farm.