Seasons of gifting or seasons of wasting?
Singapore is a food and festive paradise. While we don't see it, the increasing amount of annual food wastage is scary.
As Singaporeans, we are no strangers to the topic of food wastage. Our government have ran countless campaigns such as the Clean Plate Campaign or Project Green Table that Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment announced back in June 2022.
Singapore is a food paradise and naturally, the amount of food wastage is not decreasing too. While we don’t see it physically, the numbers mounting up to the amount of food wastage in Singapore alone is quite a scary number.
The amount of food wastage generated in Singapore has grown by 20% over the past 10 years. In 2019, Singapore generated around 744 million kg of food waste. That is equivalent to 2 bowls of rice per person per day, or around 51,000 double decker buses. As a tiny island like Singapore, we are generating food wastage amounts comparable to larger countries like Korea and Japan.
How is that even possible?
Could it be due to the lack of awareness? Or is it just the lack of vested interest by Singaporeans? Or maybe it’s the combination of both.
That’s a topic of discussion for another day. With the upcoming festivities, let’s spend some time to talk about some quick fixes we can take to reduce food wastage during the festive period.
How much festive food waste does Singapore contribute?
Here’s a rough gauge for you. As a multi-cultural society, Singapore has about 20 cultural festivals ongoing annually. Each Singaporean just has to discard one plate worth of food at each festival and we will generate a whopping 112 million plates of food waste!
Despite the countless efforts to reduce food wastes, it just doesn’t seem enough.
More can be done for sure, maybe even taking extreme measures such as imposing a maximum amount of food you can order instead of a minimum order.
But let’s admit it, such initiatives take ages to implement, let alone generating positive results.
As individuals, we do have the power to make changes within our three foot world. As we continue to enjoy the festivities, here are three easy steps we can take to make a small contribution to food wastage. And truth be told, the lesser we waste, the lesser we spend too.
Downsizing portion sizes
Because we are gracious hosts and also as part of Singapore’s foodie culture that we cannot let our guests leave hungry; we tend to over-order for our guests.
And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll have a couple pieces left, or the legendary paiseh piece.
What if we told you that you don’t have to do that, and that it is perfectly fine to order just enough.
Not only does downsizing serving portions reduce food waste and food costs, it also reduces the festive gains on your waistlines!
The trick to this is to spend a couple of minutes understanding the dietary preferences of your guests. Here’s a quick set of questions you can copy and paste to all your group chats when you’re planning the menu!
If all else fails, you can encourage your guests to finish the food that they put on their plates so that it makes the cleaning process easier.
Encourage the ‘dabao’ culture
Who isn’t familiar with the phrase “If you can’t finish your food, simply dabao it?”
Studies show that people are more likely to take away leftover food when they know that such actions would help to reduce food waste and save them money on food as well.
So what happens when you have too much excess cooked food? You can prepare a few takeaway containers and invite your lovely guests to ‘dabao’ some of the leftover food back home.
Encouraging the dabao culture would not only prevent the leftover food from being thrown away, but it would also help your guests to reduce food costs.
Practise good storing habits
Some guests may be unwilling to dabao the food back. What else can you do then?
You can make sure that the food is well stored so that it doesn’t go bad over the next few days. When it comes to leftover cooked food, always store them in the fridge or freezer compartment overnight. It is never good to leave your cooked food out in the open for too long or dispose them after the party is over.
Different food items have different refrigerated shelf lives. So it is essential to familiarise yourself with it. Here are some duration guidelines on how long you can refrigerate your food for and still be able to consume it afterwards.
Upcycle the raw ingredients that you have
What is ‘Upcycling’? Upcycling food means using ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verified supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.
To summarise, upcycling food is finding ways to convert the spare food ingredients into something useful like other food items or fertilizers.
So what about upcycling that we can do? Let’s use a whole fish as an example. You are planning to prepare a whole fish to serve to your guests, but you will not need the fish head, bone, fins and tails. So what can you do with those spare ingredients? You can use the fish bones and tails into soup. You can use the fish head to cook fish head curry.
This is just one out of many examples of how you can upcycle spare ingredients in your house. There are too many to list them down one by one. So here are more examples of upcycling food recipes.
Upcycling food is proven to provide proteins, fiber, and nutrients that might otherwise have gone to waste. So instead of throwing away the parts of the raw ingredient, you can fully utilise the whole food item and minimise food wastage.
We get it, it is hard to really buy less. You will hear the murmurs from your guests if your portions can’t offer them a second helping. So rather than asking you to cut down or buy lesser food, why not try a different way? Don’t throw away excess food since those foods are also a monetary cost being lost. You don’t see it physically, but it’s the truth.
Food waste is a huge problem that has been present for a long time and it has detrimental effects towards the environment and food security issues throughout the world. So we as consumers can do our part to reduce food wastage and encourage others to do the same.