Etiquette once dictated that diners cleared their plate before leaving the table. A habit handed down from generations who lived through the Great Depression and two World Wars when food was scarce and money even more so. When I was a little girl it was always for the sake of the starving children in Africa that I was encouraged to finish my Brussels sprout.
With portion sizes at restaurants (and really in most homes) typically being more food than a body needs it’s either our waistline or the environment that are made to suffer.
In recent years, in the battle of the bulge, we’ve changed out tune to eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Which ends up being good for your body but, with all the extra food from your over-sized plate being binned, it’s bad for the environment.
Reuters reported on one Australian restaurant looking to change all that. Wafu, a Japanese restaurant in a Sydney suburb, is offering diners a 30 per cent discount when they eat everything on their plate, including that salad garnish.
However, Wafu isn’t looking to overload our plates and then watch us force down every mouthful, instead the restaurant is asking patrons to be honest about how much food they eat and then only order enough to satisfy their appetite. And reduce waste.
This move has been commended by some patron and condemned by others.
Sources estimate that 30 to 40 per cent of food in the US is thrown out at a cost of $48.2 billion a year*. (It’s an interesting number to throw around next time people try to convince you there’s a global food shortage).
Restaurants like Wafu are leading the way in terms of meeting their commitment to a sustainable future. They describe themselves as serving ‘guilt-free’ Japanese.
As not all restaurants are prepared to offer the same incentive and with so much food going from the plate to the trash – what we do?
To help you take an active role in minimizing waste here’s a quick how to guide.
- Plan your meals for the week.
By thinking ahead you’re more likely to only buy what you need. Going shopping without an idea of what you might want and you come home with a lot of ‘maybe I’ll use this’, or ‘I always wanted to try that’ items.
- Don’t buy more fruit and vegetables than you can eat
People think that they’ll eat more vegetables if they’re around more vegetables. If eating fresh produce doesn’t come naturally for you don’t force it. Start slowly with fruit and veg you know you like and introduce new items slowly.
- When tips 1 & 2 fail, make soup.
The old dead things that are living in your vegetable crisper can be given new life as a home made soup stock. Just cut them up, throw them in a pot, cover with water and bring to a vigorous boil. Then turn the element to a simmer and leave it there for 8-12 hours. Voila, gorgeous stock for use with rice, couscous, soup, sauces, or whatever you want.
- Know your body.
We all have a pretty good idea of how much our bodies need to get by. The difference between a comfortable, energy boosting meal and the gluttony that brings on a sore belly and difficult nights sleep. Only order what you need.
- Try tapas or Japanese for smaller dishes
Mediterranean, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese dim sum all have small dishes that tables order to share and build up to a meal. By ordering just a little your body’s got time to decide whether or not it’s full and you can always order another quick and tasty dish as you go. If you’re at a Western restaurant, order one main less than there are people with some extra plates and spread it around.
If you’re not that hungry offer to share a main course with someone at your table. Remember you can always order more later if you’re still hungry. This way you’re reducing waste and saving money. .
- Take it home with you
If you’re really going to eat it, ask to have it wrapped up. Or, even better, you can be super prepared and have a re-usable container with you, just in case.
Go freegan. The freegan movement promotes sustainability by living on what others throw out. By going through dumpsters at supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants or farmers markets, freegans are able to Usually what they eat is past it’s sell by date, but is still within its use by date.
What other ways can you reduce the amount of food you waste? If you’ve got too much, you could always offer what you’re not going to eat to a person living on the streets who may really appreciate it. (Be considerate here – it’s unlikely that they want your half eaten veggie dog). But by giving a little thought not just to what you eat but what you throw away you can probably come up with new ideas of you own to share.
*as seen on treehugger.com