Australians waste about eight billion dollars of food every year. That amounts to the average household throwing out over $1000 in uneaten groceries. But it's not just money being wasted, there's the energy that goes into producing all that food, and the four million tonnes of landfill it creates. So reducing what you buy and what you waste is not just good for your family, but good for the environment as well.
With that in mind, I've spent the last few weeks testing various meal planners, grocery lists and pantry item apps, to figure out the easiest way to reduce our household waste. As you might guess, there are hundreds of apps for the task, each with their own benefits and quirks, and behind them, various business models at play.
The most popular apps in the field are the free recipe apps, with Yummly and Big Oven being the standouts here. Both apps are beautifully designed, and have thousands of recipes built in for you to browse and collect.
Once you get started, you can then create shopping lists based on recipes you've saved. Yummly wins here by collating the ingredients across all of your recipes, and by producing a much cleaner looking list, broken down into aisles for faster shopping.
While Yummly and Big Oven have more recipes inside than you could ever eat in a lifetime, neither app has great support for importing your own recipes. While they allow you to bookmark your favourite recipes from GoodFood or SBS Food, the ingredients won't appear in those automatically generated shopping lists.
One great feature of both apps is the ability to use up your leftovers. Yummly again has advantage, allowing you to pick as many ingredients you can find in your fridge or pantry, and matching recipes to them. Big Oven is limited to just three leftovers, and this feature is only available via a browser, not in the mobile apps. Yummly has no subscription fees, instead the app is filled with Amazon links to kitchen equipment, although the ads are generally relevant to the recipes and tastefully presented. Big Oven's subscription service unlocks a few extra features, like meal planning, more recipes, and nutritional information.
After some further investigating, and recommendations from Twitter, I settled on the excellent Paprika App, available on Android, iOS, Windows and Mac. Paprika costs just a few dollars for the mobile versions, but unlike Yummly or Big Oven, you can import recipes from just about any website or blog, and the app will suck in the ingredients and cooking instructions, then catalogue them for you.
Paprika can even automatically convert the recipe to metric, or scale it up or down depending on the size of your family. From there you can create a weekly meal plan to view and share in-app, or export to the calendar app of your choice. Once you have your meal plan in place, you can create a collated shopping list so you're only buying what you need.
Paprika allows you to catalogue the items in your fridge and pantry too, and while this is a pretty boring manual process, it's worth doing. List 2 kilograms of rice in your pantry, and if you add a recipe that calls for rice Paprika is smart enough not to add that to your shopping list. Instead, it'll remove that amount from your pantry stock. You can even set the use by dates of every item, so at a glance you'll know what to use first.
The interface isn't as slick as the free apps, and manual setup will turn some people away, but if you're serious about reducing food waste in your kitchen Paprika is the best app to get you started.