Nicky is former editor of Life & Style online.

Nicky Park: Minimising festive food waste (+recipes)

So much of the world's food is going in to landfill.
Photo / File
So much of the world's food is going in to landfill. Photo / File

Nearly half of all the food produced on the planet is wasted. That means it's thrown in the bin and tipped in to landfill where it continues to produce methane gas, ruining the environment.

Not only that, there are people around the world going hungry, and our well earned dollars are going to waste on food that couldn't fit in our belly before it turned bad.

The massive issue of food waste has been airing for a while. And according to Dr Miranda Mirosa, from the department of food science at the University of Otago, Kiwis are totally aware and feeling bad about it.

But it's time to bring it to the front of our brains because it's Christmas. This is the time of year where gluttony is permitted. Where we present our best platters, heaving with family favourites, succulent meats and delectable desserts. And this is wonderful. I love cooking for people - dishing up a pasta salad they rave about forever or dazzling them with my new punch recipe.

I feel happy cooking up a storm for my friends, I collect those sounds people make when something tastes gooooood, and I like to make people happy with my hosting.

However, it's easy to go overboard. I don't think I'm alone in admitting there's been ham on the bone stuffed in the fridge until February, salads turning smelly and uneaten trifle getting turfed (probably because trifle is not nice).

Dr Mirosa says in New Zealand, we waste between 60 and 65kgs of food per person each year. That's not too much compared to the rest of the world, but it's still an issue. And Kiwis have a conscience.

"Most people do care," she says.

"It is something that most people do feel is wrong. When we talk to people they do say they are concerned about the food that they waste, they do think it's a problem."

A recent Auckland survey revealed about 80 per cent of people think that wasting food - that throwing their uneaten products in the bin - is wrong and they feel like it's a waste of money. Dr Mirosa says she's heard about some people admitting to covering up their the food in their trash in case other people saw their shame.

Most food waste can be blamed on households (not businesses as a lot of people seem to point the finger at). The most common stuff to get tossed is fruit and vegetables, bread and dairy.

"Culturally, New Zealanders do to tend to be a bit more frugal and do have more access to things like alternatives to use up food, rather than letting it go to waste," Dr Mirosa says.

"There is a food waste hierarchy: If you can't eat the food, give it to other people, then give it to animals and then the compost and then to landfill," she explains.

But the frustration remains: If we know it's an issue, and we feel bad about it, then why do we still buy too much tucker, eat what we can, then throw the rest away?

"There's still the pressure to be generous and show abundance," Dr Mirosa says.

Plus, over the holidays we tend to relax and ditch our usual wholesome habits, she says.

"We know we're harming the environment, we know that there's massive human costs to what we're doing, a lot of people are struggling financially ...."

So this summer, I reckon we should join the Love Food Hate Waste conga line. I'm going to plan portions, store safely and use up every last morsel. What can't be eaten by me or my mates will go to animals, and then in to feeding our garden.

Check out this Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar for other tips and hints to cut back on food waste.

We've scoured Food Hub for the best recipes to make the most of your Christmas leftovers (way better than eating ham sandwiches until Easter):

Day after roast salad.
Photo / FoodHub
Day after roast salad. Photo / FoodHub

Day-after roast salad
Quesadillas after a roast
Turkey katsu sushi
Roast turkey, asparagus and pomegranate salad with macadamia dressing
Turkey and ham parcels
Grilled ham and peach salad

Do you have any tips to cut down on food waste? What are your favourite ways use up Christmas leftovers? Share them in the comments section below.

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Nicky is former editor of Life & Style online.

Nicky lives to wine, dine and thrive. Nicky crafted her writing skills as a cadet for an Australian news wire where amongst the coverage of sport, news, finance and courts she found a favourite in features. A stint as a foreign correspondent sent the chipper Aussie across the Tasman, covering the big issues of the Pacific Islands. Nicky relishes in opportunities to mix and mingle with interesting people, feast on delicious food, visit new places and write all about it. She believes everyone should "make the most of their minutes, learn lots and live their best life".

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