Day 3

Welcome to Day 3!

Now that you’ve rejuvenated your compost bin, let’s see if we can pimp it out. It’s time for our first declutter challenge! I’m talking about:

                                                                      ~ Your fridge ~

If you watched War on Waste last night, you might recall that a fifth of all food bought in Australia is thrown away, with in excess of $3000 for an average two person household being spent on food that ends up in landfill.

Since we’re dedicated to waste prevention, let’s make sure that our fridge is set up to maximise our food intake and minimise the amount of food we need to purchase, the amount of packaging required to store the food, and the amount of embodied energy that goes into creating the food in the first place.

Just because the food is composted or the container is recycled, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been wasted. Composting food scraps closes the loop, but if you’re composting whole fruit and vegetables, you might need to rethink the amount of produce you are purchasing. We’re also going to talk about recyclables in a later post, but for the moment, let’s talk about the food content in the containers.

How should my fridge look?
Food should be visible and accessible. If you’re sharing a fridge with others, take it from a seasoned sharehouseholder – nominate your own shelves and stick to them. You might have one communal shelf, but you need to know where your food is at all times, and who it belongs to. I remember cleaning out a fridge that contained food from several generations of housesmates that was years out of date because everyone had assumed it belonged to someone else.

When it comes to cleaning out your fridge, set a date and time that your fridge will be cleaned out and stipulate that anything unclaimed will be dealt with at your discretion. You might like to implement a routine clearing of your fridge, just to keep it maintained and fresh. Your fridge should encourage you to cook, not to go buy take away!

Use By vs Best Before
It’s probable that you’ll find quite a few things that are past their use by/best before date, but let’s pause here for a moment to consider what this means.
‘Best before’ means that the product is at optimal taste/texture before that date. ‘Use by’ is a safety guideline indicating when a product is likely to have gone off. However, this is not always the case. Consider this:

I bought a 2L bottle of milk almost three weeks ago at a reduced price as the use by date was 2 days from the date I purchased it. I’ve only just finished it and got about 10 breakfasts out it! Maybe because the milk was organic, maybe because my fridge thermostat was set quite low, or maybe also because having just moved, there was hardly anything in my fridge, so all that cold air was just dedicated to cooling its milk master, particularly as I generally only opened the fridge door to access the milk.

What does this tell us?
– Buy good quality products from smaller stores. They’re less likely to have sat out on a loading dock for long periods which means they’ll last longer and end up saving you money.
– Make sure your thermostat is set to 3 degrees for your fridge and -18 degrees for your freezer.
– The fewer items in your fridge, the cooler the inside of the fridge will be. All items decompose, and as they do so they emit heat.
– Minimise the amount of time you keep your fridge door open and check your seals.

Location, location, location
The location of items in your fridge is important because heat distribution determines how cold certain parts of your fridge will be – good to know before you allocate shelf space! Here’s a handy site that explains where items should be kept in a fridge, and has a nice visual too:

Who eats this, anyway?
If you find that there are certain items in your fridge that no one seems to want, but they’re still good to go, don’t just throw them away. You could bring them into work and make a donation area in the fridge so that other people can take them and use them. This not only saves the items being tipped out or binned, but also saves items from being purchased by others unnecessarily. Like the compost, take ownership of the maintenance of your donation area so that it stays fresh.

To avoid food waste in the future, take note of how much you and your household want to eat, and how much you can comfortably eat. When it comes to perishables, a 2L bottle of milk may work out cheaper if you compare volume to the dollar, yet if you only get through a little over a litre before it goes off, then you haven’t really maximised the amount you have spent. But make sure you do the sniff test before you tip it out!

Buy smaller amounts
This is where bulk stores come in handy. Rather than purchasing pre-packaged, low cost produce that you might end up throwing a good portion of away, spend the same on a smaller amount of food that is tailored to your needs and get a better quality product that won’t end up directly in your compost uneaten. You don’t want to pay a store to throw away their food!

Don’t use glad wrap or foil to cover your food!
You can use a tub, a saucepan lid, an upside down plate, or a tea towel, depending on how tightly sealed you need your item to be.

Finally, a little tip to leave your new fridge sweet smelling – put a little saucer of ground coffee at the back of your fridge to absorb all the smells, and start afresh!


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