Free the dinner table

Guest post by Susanne Thiebe, Professional Organiser and owner of LessMess Professional Organisers.

Read Susanne's thoughts on food waste and the importance of family meals.

According to Food Wise, a national campaign run by not-for-profit organisation DoSomething, $8 billion a year is wasted in Australia on food that’s bought but doesn’t get eaten.

With a projected population of over 23,500,000 for June 2014 that is $340 wasted per person, per year. For an average family of four: $1360 wasted per year. A big enough amount of money to start thinking and changing something. A considerable amount of production cost, packaging and transport wasted. What’s the ecological footprint of that sum and what can we do about it?

I tried to get information about the ecological footprint, but found that too hard to calculate, as even experts are not agreeing on what needs to be taken into consideration when coming up with a meaningful ecco footprint number. But I do have a few ideas about why we do it and what can be done about it:

I think everybody is guilty of throwing some food out – but it should be the exception, not the rule. Nobody does it intentionally and there are varied reasons for why it gets to that point.
  • People have very high standards when going shopping and all good intentions to “home cook this week”. And then never get around to it.
  • Lack of planning ahead and impulse buying.
  • Some people can cook and would love to do it, but are so overwhelmed with the clutter on the bench top and dinner table that they would rather feed the kids baked beans in front of the TV.
Sometimes it is the second generation eating like this. A lot of my clients tell me that they never learned. When Jamie Oliver filmed his Food Revolution in America he made a comment about his utter surprise about kids who had never, at the age of 10, used knife and/or fork. For them food is always finger food!

I think we have to distinguish between eating as the task of putting food into one’s mouth so that you don’t starve, and eating as in family dinners, sharing stories and food. Food needs to be appreciated – kids have to develop a relationship with food, they have to learn about food. But it’s not just lack of cooking skills and time and ability to use a knife and fork. I am a Professional Organiser and come across a lot of families that basically don’t have a dinner table they can use.

And that’s not because they don’t have that piece of furniture, but because it’s so full of clutter that nobody eats at it.

So mums feed the kids in front of the TV, that’s easy and very non-confrontational. As far as I am concerned, you might as well serve Play-dough! And when dad comes home, the parents do the same, balancing their plate on their knees.

No wonder kids grow up with some sort of eating disorder, either too much or too little, because who would go to the effort of cooking nice food if nobody really gets what’s eaten, distracted by watching TV or bored because they eat on their own

By being mindful of these reasons, there are easy ways to work against that over consumerism:
  • Meal plan.
  • Shop with a shopping list.
  • Organise your pantry – every half year!!!!
  •  Ask for help and learn.
  • Always unpack the dishwasher – this one sounds a bit out of line, but if you treat the dishwasher as a cupboard for dirty dishes rather than clean ones – you are going to have to clean away mountains of dirty plates before starting to cook all that delicious produce you bought.
This is a guest post (not sponsored). Read more about LessMess Professional Organisers here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for publishing. It's a topic I am very passionate about because I really think it has far reaching consequences.