Week five: How to cook with care to make a difference

Food waste ultimately comes down to buying and cooking too much. Week five of the Six-week Food Waste Challenge aims to reduce food waste through portion control and clever food preparation.

Portion control

Exercising portion control when you are cooking is an important strategy in minimising household food waste. Much of household waste is caused by people cooking too much which leads to wasted food, time and money. 

Learn how to cook and serve an appropriate amount of food for each person.

Portion control tips:

  • adjust recipe proportions to ensure you cook just the right amount for the number of people you’re feeding
  • use smaller plates and dishes, as research shows waste is drastically reduced on a smaller plate size
  • allow people to serve themselves so they can dish up only what they need
  • if you do cook too much, freeze the leftovers if you won't eat them the following day.

Need help understanding recommended portion sizes? Download our free printable portion size cheat sheet (PDF - 3.49Mb).

Preparing your meals

One of the bonuses of meal planning is that you don't need to start from scratch every night. You've already answered the question - 'what's for dinner?' and have the ingredients in your fridge, freezer or pantry. If you also prepare some ingredients in advance, you can save time when it comes to cooking. Reducing the amount of time it takes to cook a meal, can make it easier to stick to your meal plan.

Food preparation tips

Wash and chop produce when you get home from the shop and store it in clear, airtight containers. Label the containers with the contents and date.

Pre-cook or marinate
Pre-cooking proteins (e.g. browning minced meat or searing chicken) or marinating meat before freezing can save valuable time when it comes to cooking. You can also cook quiches, frittatas, rice and pasta in advance and store them in the fridge or freezer.

Freezing foods can significantly increase an item's life and keep it from being wasted. Most frozen foods taste just as delicious once thawed as they do when they are fresh. Foods unsuitable for freezing include fried foods, milk-based products such as yoghurt, and vegetables with a high water content such as lettuce, cabbage or cucumbers.

Batch cook
Batch cooking meals can help you save time. Spending an afternoon making and freezing pasta sauces or complete dinners (e.g. lasagne, soups, casseroles) can save time on busy days. Cook up extra roast vegetables to freeze and serve with pre-marinated cooked meat for a super quick meal. Snack items such as muffins and slices can be cooked in advance and frozen in portions.


Let's talk about eating. 

If you're cooking for others, let them serve themselves.

If someone is cooking for you and you don't feel hungry, let your host know you'd like a small portion (or an entree sized meal if you are eating in a cafe or restaurant).

If you've hosted a dinner party and have leftover food, send portions home with your guests to have for lunch the next day.

If you're at home and hungry, check your fridge and freezer for leftovers before eating traditional snack foods.

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Last updated:9 July 2020