Today we’re chatting with Sarah Widjaja from The Source Bulk Foods about reducing food waste at home and how she got started with zero waste shopping. Sarah and the team in Singapore were early adopters of Stasher and are comrades in the mission to reduce food waste and plastic food packaging.
The Source Bulk Foods is Australia’s largest bulk foods and zero-waste retailer with over 65 locally-owned stores across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, and now, Singapore.
Shopping at The Source is akin to dropping by a friendly neighborhood grocer, where customers are received with a warm, genuine welcome and are encouraged to buy and use only what is needed.
Find your nearest store or shop online at : https://thesourcebulkfoods.com.sg/
We'd love to hear about your journey into the world of zero-waste bulkfoods shopping. How were you first introduced to The Source and what struck you the most about this retail concept?
I was first introduced to The Source Bulk Foods when I was living in Sydney in 2013 - my sister lived down the road from one of the original stores. The whole concept of bulk food shopping was new to me at the time and I fell in love with the experience of being able to buy just what you need, which allowed me to try and experiment different products. As someone who loves to bake and cook, that was such a relief to me because it meant that I wouldn’t have to purchase big packets of ingredients at the supermarket that I had to risk wasting if I didn’t like them or use them all before they expired.
Consumer choices have a huge impact on our planet for good or bad. As awareness of this continues to grow, how does The Source play its part in promoting a more sustainable future for Singapore?
The Source Bulk Food’s zero-waste ethos is a two-pronged approach. First of all, our aim is to eliminate as much packaging waste as possible, while educating customers that food is just as fresh without the plastic it comes in. Unfortunately, less than 5% of plastic waste in Singapore gets recycled; the rest simply goes to landfill or gets incinerated. We encourage everyone to reuse the containers they have at home when they shop with us and you won’t find any packaging in our stores.
Secondly, we want to combat the problem of food waste. Each household in Singapore disposes of, on average, 1.5kg of food waste every day - more than half of which is avoidable food waste. “Avoidable” means that these food items could have been consumed if better managed (e.g. leftovers, expired or stale food). Avoidable food waste can be prevented by buying and cooking only what is needed, which is the whole concept of our store: buy as much or as little as you need. There is no minimum purchase, so if you only need a cup of flour and a teaspoon of cinnamon to complete your recipe, then that’s all you need to buy with zero risk of it sitting in your pantry to go stale or mouldy!
Running a business that is actively trying to re-shape the future of our planet can seem like an uphill battle. How do you stay inspired and focused?
Admittedly, I was more attracted to The Source from a health and wellness standpoint. As a nutritionist, I get very passionate about educating people about different types of foods and ingredients - something I’m fortunate to be able to do everyday in the store. But since joining and growing The Source family, and in my conversations with our customers, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and zero-waste living, specifically in Singapore. The team I get to work with and the people I get to meet on a daily basis serve as huge source (no pun intended) of inspiration for me.
Even though I was born here, I haven’t lived here my whole life and I often feel detached from my “Singaporean” identity; but being able to make a difference, even just in something small like changing the way people in Singapore shop, has made me feel more connected to our society here. As cliche as it may sound, when you're focused on growing something bigger than yourself, it makes it easier to get out of bed to work each day.
Outside of your work with The Source and in your daily life, what other steps do you take to live more sustainably?
My sustainable practices recently have revolved around consuming only what I need - this doesn’t only pertain to food, but also clothes and other products. Nowadays we’ve got products from all over the world available at our fingertips, it’s hard not to want to buy new things all the time. But I always stop and ask myself, “Do I really need this right now?” and “Will I use it or will it go to waste somehow?"
I also try to make more conscious decisions when buying personal care products to make sure they are all-natural and cruelty-free, so not only am I protecting my own body, but the environment as well.
Do you have any tips for those seeking to reduce food waste but are not sure where to start?
It’s not always easy to plan meals for a whole week, especially if you’re feeding a whole family, but batch cooking has been a big game changer for me - cook once, eat twice or three times! This way you know you’re going to use up the ingredients you buy for a specific dish and you’re not stocking up on a bunch of different produce with the plans of cooking a new dish every night.
At the end of the week, do a fridge clean-out dinner. Take all the scraps of leftover veggies, cooked meat, etc. you have lying in the fridge and turn it into a super tasty one-pan dish like a stew, curry, or fried rice where you can just throw everything together.
Being conscious of how much food we’re actually consuming each week (not how much we think we’re going to consume) is a huge step in managing food waste. Buy only what you need.
Lastly, we've got to ask... What do you stash in your Stasher?
At the moment, I’m loving sliced veggies (that I’ll dip into hummus), popcorn, and our banana chips from The Source ;)