So you know food waste is costing you, our farmers and the environment, but you’re sick of being spoon fed solutions that are good in theory, but don’t work when shit gets real.

Enter Youth Food Movement Australia’s SpoonLed series, food waste advice from young people like yourself. We’re thinking outside to box to bring you the best solutions that actually work and are freakin delicious, from our mates and Sydney & Parramatta events. Read on to give food waste the flip.

So you need lunch at work (or uni), but “there’s nothing in the fridge/pantry.” Or is there?

Over the last three months, we ate our way through random spare bits and pieces in our fridges and pantries for lunch in our quest to bring our food waste A-game to work. What we initially thought was “nothing” came together for some pretty creative and epic lunches. In the process, we saved a ton of food, time, and money. We also got away from our desks, fitted in bonding time over lunch, and totally upped our cooking game with nothing but a kettle, microwave, sandwich press and tiny kitchenette.

Here’s how to whip up your own lust-worthy impromptu lunches, whether you’re at work, uni, or using a shared kitchen.

Re-defining “nothing”

When you make lunch with what’s already in the fridge or pantry, it forces you to broaden your eating and cooking horizons in the best possible way. Rather than looking at lunch as specific “dishes” or recipes, you start seeing them as a much simpler mash up of:

  1. Veg/fruit.
  2. Carbs.
  3. Protein.

If you have one of each, you essentially have lunch sorted. Of course, it helps to have a few staple items in your drawer to fill in gaps for things like impromptu salads or upcycling curries:

  • Stockpile carbs and proteins that keep and don’t require cooking. Our fave carbs include crackers, corn chips, and sliced bread if you have a freezer and toaster. You can either eat these torn up and mixed in (like a fattoush or panzanella), or on the side. Cous cous is also your friend. Canned chickpeas, beans or lentils are our go-to proteins as they go with pretty much anything. Break them up a little with a fork so your dressing gets right in there.
  • Keep a stash of olive oil and your fave vinegar (like a good balsamic or red wine vinegar), or your fave dressing. To mix things up, don’t forget you can upcycle your leftover soup or dip into dressings!

What will really make things interesting though is getting your workmates involved. Did someone say team bonding?

Cookluck at work

One of our earlier lunches featuring an impromptu salad (with dressing upcycled from leftover soup!), microwaved scrambled eggs, and leftover pastas.

Teaming up

One of the best things about this experiment was teaming up with 3-4 other workmates to rescue the food in their fridges and pantries too. Essentially, lunches turned into super fast “cooklucks” – like a potluck, but everyone brings random ingredients or leftovers to upcycle, rather than a dish. With a group, we had a better variety of “bits and pieces” and leftovers to work with, and could rotate creative cooking duties.

If someone literally had “nothing” to bring, they could opt out, pitch in something from a nearby grocery or cafe or make it up for it next time. Alternatively, if someone really has a time sensitive something to be gobbled down before it’s outta date – say about-to-turn ricotta – then it’s also a great way to say bye to guilt and share the load.

Having one or two people make lunch each day (while the rest of the team sorted out washing up) also meant that everyone got some free time at the start or end of lunch.

The other awesome bonus was picking up OMG-worthy cooking hacks from each other, like these microwave scrambled eggs:

All you need are a few eggs, milk, salt & pepper, and some grated cheese (well, you don’t need the cheese, but who are we to say no to cheese?). Beat with a fork and nuke in 20-30 second increments until they’re set as you like. We had these on toast, or just as a nice side as our protein component. If you wanna get really fancy you can experiment with different power settings, or try these other ways to microwave eggs for brekkie (or lunch!).

Still hungry? Check out these other ways to flip off food waste at work.

Top image & video by Kit Baker

Cookluck image by Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo is the National Communications Manager and will basically never shut up about vegetables.