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How to reduce food waste when you have young children

It’s probably no surprise that households with young children are likely to waste a lot more food than average.

Meal times can be fraught no matter the age of your children and often, despite your best efforts, more food may end up in the bin than in your kid’s tummies.

In New Zealand, the average household throws away $563 of food in a year – but if you have children, that figure can be much higher.

Here are a few tricks that you can try with young children to minimise how much food is being wasted:

Start small

When introducing a new food to a child, start with a very small amount. Studies have shown that many children have to try a food up to 15 times before they will eat it. Instead of serving them a whole portion of something just, give them a piece from your plate. If they like it then you can give them more next time.

Be realistic

Be realistic about how much food your child will actually eat. Don’t overload a young child’s plate as it can overwhelm them. If they’re still hungry once they have finished what’s on their plate, they will be sure to let you know and you can offer them more. The same applies when giving them snacks – give them half a banana or apple to start with. Then you can either give them the rest if they are still hungry or store it in the fridge for later.

Save even small amounts

Don’t discount small amount of leftovers - even a couple of tablespoons of something or half a sausage can be added to another meal or eaten as a snack. While it may not seem like a lot, it all adds up in terms of food waste and money.

Keep leftovers visible

Store leftovers in transparent containers so that you can easily see what they are when you open the fridge to find your child some food. Alternatively, have colourful containers that you only use for your child’s leftovers, so you will always know that it is something suitable for them when searching the fridge.

Feed them what you’re eating

It is easier to modify your meal to make it baby or child-friendly than going to the effort of making something separate for your child that may or may not get eaten. Simply adapt what you are having for dinner. It may mean serving them some pasta without the sauce, pureeing the vegetables or leaving the chilli powder out of the recipe. 

Be freezer friendly

If you make your own food or are freezing leftovers, freeze it in realistic serving sizes so that you only have to defrost the amount needed for the one meal. Large ice cube trays are the perfect size.

Be a good role model

One of the best ways to teach your children about the value of food is to lead by example. If your child sees you throwing away a brown banana or not finishing your dinner they will learn that it is ok to waste food, even if you are telling them otherwise. 

For more tips on how you can reduce food waste visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz