We are huge advocates for reducing food waste. It is one of the most impactful individual actions you can take and it’s good for your budget. We are all about saving money here because this current global food system makes it very difficult. In lots of countries fresh produce is crazy expensive too and we aim to reduce this as much as possible no matter how much we earn. So much of our budgets are spent on food that could be spent on other things instead (particularly paying down debt, having more experiences and donating more to charity).
To that end we love making a game of reducing food waste to see what we can do and push ourselves. Some of us are often on two-minute noodle budgets ourselves so this has been a real help.
These nine challenges aren’t easy but they save money, save food, save waste and let us all think about what food we’re using and how we’re using it. Our brains can switch and we can then incorporate the new skills we learn in everyday cooking and planning.
We’ve got lots of tips for each of these so if you have any questions pop them in the comments. We’d also love if you shared if you’ve done any of these or come back to let everyone know how you went.
You can find our food challenge post on Instagram here for sharing and adding your comment and experience. Tell us all about it!
🍊 Tiny spend
Challenge 1: Limit your spend to only spend $25 / £20 / €20 for a week of nutritious lunches, dinners and snacks for 2 people. This is a tiny amount in most places so it’s going to need some extreme meal planning and creativity! Multiply that ratio as needed for your household. If you’re single (like so many of us!) you get the same budget as 2 as that difference is small. Set aside an hour to do your meal planning first. We’re impartial to good old pen and paper but Notion or Asana are also awesome for creating mea plans.
🍉 Raid your kitchen
Challenge 2: Time to use only what you have in your fridge and pantry at the start of the week and get creative. Don’t buy anything for the week!
🍌 No scraps allowed
Challenge 3: No food scraps allowed! Use every bit of everything you cook with as much as humanly possible. The more we keep this in our minds the more we realize how much of a food item we’re wasting too. Some of our favorite learnings are:
- Many herb stems (basil and coriander are our favorite) are excellent to chop up and blend or fry into spaces
- Citrus peels are great for making home-made cleaning products
- Pumpkin seeds are lovely roasted into a salad
- Egg shells can be used for seed planting
- Cauliflower leaves can be tossed with oil and salt for roasting
We must admit, we’re yet to find a good solution for onion peels. A lot of worms don’t love many of them. They’re fine in the compost but as for an actual solution for them, we’re not sure yet!
🍏 Find it
Challenge 4: If you don’t have something on hand, find it instead of buying it. We recommend checking with your neighbors, heading to a local food pantry, asking a restaurant or cafe for leftovers, finding a sharing app, Facebook group or local site for produce and items people are offering for free, and harvesting from your community garden.
🥝 Dumpster dive + forage
Challenge 5: Dumpster dive and forage alongside your pantry staples for the week. We recommend checking your local area for dumpsters, finding a wild/urban food map for your village, city or town that you can locate some ideas on, start learning about locally grown foods to spot them along your daily routes, and taking a walk or bike ride for produce through your area.
Dumpster diving has a lot of connotations to it – and for some it’s an absolute necessity in order to eat, something we really need to resolve – but it’s also an incredible lesson, a challenge and a way to reduce waste and spend.
We highly recommend following Matt at @anurbanharvester who has been diving for over three years and shares his hauls with a whole lot of information. Matts three biggest learnings:
🥕 There is an extremely uneven distribution of resources, especially good quality, nutritious foods on this planet.
🍞 There is a huge overproduction of processed foods with a huge amount of this ending up in dumpsters (especially highly processed bread).
💰 Supermarket food waste is just as much of an economic issue as an environmental one. Companies are setting prices that are higher in relation to demand – we should be spending less!
If you’re thinking of trying dumpster diving Matt’s tips are:
- A flashlight, pair of gloves, swiss army knife (or your keys as a sharp tool) will help you out!
- Look up local legislation and be smart. Don’t underestimate the importance civil disobedience can have though.
- Be polite if you come across workers and leave swiftly.
- Take pre-caution with foods like meat & seafood. Take a look online for tips on this and use your common sense.
🥒 Commercial leftovers
Challenge 6: In the past year there been an explosion of apps that will allow you collect food from local restaurants and cafes at the end of the day. If there’s a food rescue app where you are, order and eat the leftovers for 2 meals per day. Pick up what you can for big discounts, spread it out over multiple meal times where possible and use leftovers in your fridge to supplement for extras.
🍅 Fridge success
Challenge 7: Set your fridge up for success and use the following system this week. This is designed to help you keep your waste to an absolute minimum and it will help far beyond this challenge!
- Pop in a box labelled use me first.
- Use glass containers or food pockets to store fresh herbs & leafy greens.
- Fill up a large container with water to keep vegetables crisp.
Challenge 8: Keep your fridge and freezer minimal and keep your pantry for staples. The challenge is designed to go through some of your collecting goods and make it a manageable stock of items you can clearly see and use throughout the months. We know most of us secretly have some old jars well beyond their end of life! This week we’d like to recommend:
- Eating down to only 5 sauces left as bottles or jars in your fridge
- Wittle your fridge down to only 3 other bought jars of items
- Keep lots of room in your freezer for left-overs, browning produce and big sale items
🐛 Start your worm garden
Challenge 9: Nearly any space can have a worm garden and we would highly encourage it. There are small ones available for balconies, bigger ones for the garden and ones that grow herbs on the table from the worms composting in the middle. You can also make your own on the cheap and ask around for worms. Your local Buy Nothing groups, sharing groups and local buying sites such as Gumtree or Craigslist will likely have options for you. A couple of us used an old wine barrel to nail a wire netting about a third from the bottom (keeping the worms and food waste above this) and add a tap outlet at the bottom so the worm juice could be extracted.
An extra note
We have the privilege to access fresh foods whilst far too many people don’t and life (and these challenges) are far more difficult if not downright impossible. We need to all be working on increasing accessibility, assisting people in food deserts and creating regenerative farming practises.