how to avoid food waste when on erasmus 2Short notes before the actual article. For those who don’t know: I’ve been living in Prague for the last four months as I did my compulsory internship in a company here. I learned a lot about design, magazines and running a business – but also about the big food waste problem of Erasmus flat shares and the time when everybody’s leaving. Read on.

When the last of my flatmates left Prague one week before I did, I was left behind with tons of food that nobody would eat. So I came up with the goal to waste as less as possible – and literally eat up everything. Eat up – or give it away to other living creatures. And here is how I did it. (Plus some other useful tips!)

#1. Plan two weeks ahead.

As soon as you know your leaving-date put a red dot in your calendar, two weeks before that day. Two weeks, or maybe three weeks if you plan to eat out more often. (These are your last days, I know the struggle!) It would have been so much easier for me if I had considered that before. One week – or five days, to be exact – was much too less for that big goal. I ended up eating A LOT these last days. ;)

#2. Don’t buy anything but fruits or vegetables in your last two weeks.

Check on your flatmates that leave before you if they have too much remaining stuff such as pasta, chickpeas or other dry groceries. And eat your stuff first, of course! Feeling like rice today? Oh no, you gotta eat this pasta!

How to avoid food waste when on Erasmus: Three basic recipes – over night oats#3. Two, well, three basic recipes.

Take all your cooking vegetables (such as zucchini, sweet potatoes or eggplants) and roast them with couscous/noodles/rice/whatever.
Take all your salad veggies (such as cucumber, tomatoes, pickles) and eat them with cooked chickpeas/lentils/whatever as a cold dish. Take the remaining grains from yesterday, too.
Anything I forgot? Ah, make porridge out of all those oats/buckwheat/nuts/(plant-)milks and cover it with fruits, dried berries and raisins. So, that should be it. By the way. Also rice works as oat-replacement if you cook it long enough.

#4. Have friends around. (Or not, if they seduce you to eat out.)

Large groups of people are the perfect reason to cook the whole remaining pasta, to soak the chickpeas or to bake a cake. But please don’t invite them if they want to have the whole city-experience for their very first time. You won’t get a chance to cook anything.

how to avoid food waste when on erasmus#5. Try to experiment. I used porridge sun flower seeds for pasta. And my raisins, too.

If you like something in your oatmeal why not liking it with your pasta? Especially dried fruits, seeds and nuts (including nut butters) work perfectly in any kind of dish. And a special insiders’ tip: The oil of hazelnut butter in salads is just perfection.

#6. Grind rice and buckwheat to flour.

If you are one of these lucky girls or guys who is a proud owner of a grinder (even in their Erasmus-student-flat) you can easily grind all your grains and rice to flour and bake something with it. (Maybe a blender would also work?) I wish I could have done something like that!

#7. Let’s get to the last steps and the “I can’t eat all this stuff!”. So… Leave things for next students.

If you know that there will be more people like you coming, why not just leaving some dry things for them? I remember the moment when I saw all the spices, salt and sugar that have been left behind and were not basically ours. Wonderful! You could also freeze fruits (but without skin, please, if you can’t eat it!) or bread if not using it.

#8. If you aren’t allowed to leave stuff, hide it.

Some landlords are just crazy. (Trust me: I know what I’m talking about.) One condition for us to get our deposit back was to leave behind as less as possible.
But what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over, right? So I hid some hair spray, shower gel and even coke from my flatmates between the washing-up liquid. The landlord hasn’t recognized it – but the new rentees will as soon as they start discovering their new flat.

How to avoid food waste when on Erasmus: Take your food in jars with you #9. And if you reallyreallyreallyreally like something… Take jars full of food with you.

Perfect for a long bus ride or a never-ending airport-story: Take-away oatmeal or salads in jars. And if you still have space in your suitcase: These jars will also store your beloved soy flour and cocoa-powder. Your vests, jackets and towels will protect the glass.

#10. Sad story. There is something you have to throw away? Give it to charity. Or place it at a clearly visible spot near a rubbish bin.

There is food – such as milk or vegetables – that won’t last until the next student comes. You can’t freeze it, either.
Maybe there is a food-distribution-place somewhere around the city (such as “Fairteiler” in Graz) or a charity-club that takes food-donations. If you can’t find anything like that, consider placing it somewhere near a trash bin (on a shady place!) so that homeless people can easily find it. Just maybe not the best idea for milk at 35°.

My conclusion, my food waste.

So how did my story turn out? In the end I accomplished using (estimated) 80% of the food that was there at the beginning of the week, left 10% at a save place and gave 5% away. Amount of food waste: 5% (opened dairy things of all kind that I don’t eat and would have gone off before new people coming).
I used points 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10. I bought tortillas in the last week for eating up the falafel-mix (of the former flatmate of my former flatmate), so I certainly failed at #2. I did #4 but it was my boyfriend who visited me, having too many Czech crowns for eating in all the time. (And I have to admit I didn’t want to! ;) I would have loved to try out #6 but I just didn’t have the resources for that. (Oh blender, I’m so happy to have you again right now!)

So, I hope you enjoyed this little guide against food waste and considered it helpful (at least a little bit). Hope you all enjoy your time abroad!

PS: I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts about this topic! :)


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Idea, Words, Photographs: Diana Ranegger