Waste not, want not!

 If there’s one thing that makes me sad and mad, it is when I see food being wasted.

I don’t know from where I got this hang up. Certainly not just from those haunting images of bulging eyed Biafrian kids starving to death.

Perhaps it was from a story my mother never tires of telling. When she was a young woman and the Japanese had over-run Singapore, she chanced upon one piece of the many human flotsam left behind on the island, hugging a dead bloated rat.

This was in the vicinity of “Gek Sing Gio” (somewhere near the current Thieves Market off Rochor Road: remember my mum used to live in Sam Leong Road as described here )

She had a bundle of Japanese notes in those dying days of Japanese rule when the currency was about to go bananas. She offered him that whole bundle but he rejected her offer, which she interpreted as the money not being enough to buy an egg whereas the dead rat would be a more substantial feed for a starving man 😦

Whatever the real cause of my hang up, I find myself having to finish every bit of food!

At home, I allow no wastage. All left-over food has to be eaten with the misery shared equally by the full household, as I don’t believe that only the maid deserves leftovers.

Outside, if i can’t finishh what I’ve ordered, I ask for the balance to be tar pau.

I remember causing many a raised eye-brow when, as a newly elected member of the Tanglin Club, I asked for the remnants of my meal to be packed.

As that was in the mid-1990s and TC was still somewhat behind the times, the wait staff told me the club didn’t have containers for left-overs. Actually in those days, there was very little take-aways available.

When I insisted, the staff pacified me by offering tin-foil! OK, not exactly ideal when there was gravy involved!

Times have changed, and nowadays, no one at the club is scandalised when unfinished food is asked to be doggy-bagged. In any case, the club now does a roaring trade in take-aways so it can never claim not to have plastic containers or paper boxes!

Given my own quirk re food, I am more than delighted to note there are like-minded people out there, as reflected in the suggestion (see below) of the ST poll, triggered by a reader’s letter to the newspaper calling for moves to stop restaurant from wasting food.

What I would like to see, but wasn’t there, is a suggestion to start with not wasting food at home!

Mar 22, 2011


ST poll: 10 ways to minimise food wastage

AS food prices soar and millions around the world continue to suffer from food shortages, is it time for Singapore to relook its favourite pastime?

Our reader Seow Joo Heng wrote in to The Straits Times Forum on Monday, speaking out against food wastage in restaurants here.

He called on restaurants to cut down on conventional buffets and consider charging diners based on the weight of the food they order – a pricing system practised by restaurants in Brazil – rather than a flat fee.

Mr Seow’s idea polarised straitstimes.com readers, attracting both ridicule and praise on Facebook and Twitter.

Those who supported Mr Seow’s call to action weighed in with their own ideas on what can be done to minimise food wastage.

Here are 10 of the best.

1. ‘Caterers should encourage and assist in the packaging of leftover food, and lessen the stigma associated with diners who take leftover food home.” – Low Khim Heng

2. “Having lived through countless government campaigns since the 1960s, the one campaign sorely missing, but of dire importance, is the message never to waste food. My family and I would readily support any restaurant taking steps to minimise waste.’ – Errol Goodenough

3. “Food sold in bigger quantities should not be made so much cheaper that it compels people to buy more than they need. For example, if a loaf of bread costs $1.80, half a loaf should be priced at $0.90 and not at, say, $1.20. This is especially important as household sizes get smaller.’ – Yvonne Cheong

4. ‘At hawker centres and food courts, introduce Women’s Bowls or Women’s Sets. Many women are weight-conscious and normally eat less than half the portion of rice or noodles they are served.’ – Anonymous

5. ‘As a country that the rest of the world often looks up to, I hope the Singapore authorities will not condone any eating competition. It’s a grotesque, immoral and utterly unethical act.’ – Anonymous

6. ‘All children should be trained to finish all the food on their plate. It is more difficult to change the mindset and habits of grown-ups.’ – Alfred Tan Tian En (aged 9)

7. ‘Always carry a plastic bag or food container in your bag so that you can pack unfinished food to bring back for your next meal, or use it to feed stray animals.’ – Sue Kam

8. ‘Offer ‘semi-buffets’ where there is a ‘main dish’ followed by a small buffet. For such semi-buffets, the customer will already be half-full from the main dish and the restaurant will not need to prepare such a varied selection for the buffet spread, hence reducing wastage.’ – Ida Gan

9. ‘Like in Japanese ramen shops, food court stalls may consider offering 3/4 portions or 1/2 portions for each type of food at a 10-30 per cent discount. This way, the stalls are able to reduce food wastage without compromising their profit margin.’ – Koh Wei Kiang

10. ‘Eat slowly.’ – Anonymous


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