Got leftovers? Cook at work and save on waste

What could you do with a quarter of a pumpkin, a leftover piece of fish and a few pineapple slices?

Don't let it go to waste! Take it to work, get your workmates to do the same and cook it up in a pot-luck lunchtime feast.

That's the concept behind the Cookluck Club.

It's a new initiative by Youth Food Movement Australia which encourages workplaces to pool their leftovers to avoid food wastage and promote team bonding by cooking in the work kitchen.

The Sydney arm of the volunteer organisation do this every day and members take turns creating interesting recipes.

"You end up saving so much food from being wasted because you use all those random bits that you don't know what to do with," communications manager Zo Zhou said.

"Combined with all your friends' bits and pieces, you can make something pretty spectacular.

"It saves things from going in the bin."

The team supplements its leftovers by having a food box delivered each week with fresh fruits and vegetables.

For one lunch, Ms Zhou used pineapple, beetroot, baby spinach, cucumber and cabbage to make a salad, while someone's small piece of fish, pumpkin, carrot and leftover soup was turned into a stir-fry.

Grated potato was made into a delicious crispy potato rosti with the office sandwich press.

"Workplaces need to be open to letting their employees do this," Ms Zhou said.

"You can cook even with your existing microwave, sandwich press and a toaster.

"If it starts to take off, maybe it is worth investing in something like an electric wok because it ends up being this centre of lunch."

Over-catering creates waste

One of the biggest areas of food waste in the workplace is over-catering, Ms Zhou said.

"People are always worried about under-catering than over-catering.

"They might get catering for a meeting and usually only half gets eaten ... and most of the time it gets chucked.

"Rarely do workplaces take that food and give it to an organisation like Oz Harvest or people who need it.

"The solution to that is provide containers and people can take stuff home."

Australians throw out about $8 billion worth of food every year, according to data from the NSW Government.

For each person, that's around 20 per cent of their purchased food or the equivalent of about $1,000 a year.

Some of the reasons for that wastage include not knowing what to do with leftovers, cooking too much, buying takeaway, and not checking the pantry before a trip to the supermarket.

"There's a lot of focus on the problems and stuff like, 'just eat your leftovers people', but how can we make it rewarding and fun for people?" Ms Zhou said.

"Rather than starting with telling people what they should do, we thought of an activity that people want to do already [like cooking with their friends] and built food saving into that."

Tips for cooking at work

  • A balanced meal has carbs, protein and vegetables
  • Pick a dominant flavour — sweet or savoury
  • If you have earthy ingredients like spinach or beetroot, balance it with something sweet or sour
  • Stockpile basics like canned beans, crackers, sliced bread in the freezer, herbs, olive oil and vinegar for dressing