These aren’t really the rules, they are the rules to making the rules. Lets call them a list of things to consider as we did … eventually.

1. What is your pain point for your penalty?
You will know it when you get squirmy, or angry, or sad when it comes time to go to your wallet. But the amount shouldn’t send you broke either. With this in mind, it might take a couple of tries to get it right. If it’s too easy to turf that left over rice, then jack the price up. If you’re “secretly” dipping back into your jar to pay your rent, maybe you should take the penalty price down a notch. If you’re doing it in a share house, and you’re on different incomes, then agree on what works either as a team or perhaps as a separate price for each individual.

2. What habit are you really trying to break?
Do you buy more than you need? Are you passively anti-leftovers? Are you just not that creative in the kitchen? Do you get super excited at farmers markets? Through our experience and also talking about it with others, we have found that people tend to have a main habit that leads them to wasting food. We suggest you figure out what that is for you pretty early on and make curbing that habit your underlying project to your waste jar project. Being more mindful to what causes us to waste food is key.

3. What other rules do you already have in place?
Whether you call them rules or not is beside the point, but we all have some boundaries within our eating habits. Maybe you’re vegan, or intolerant to certain foods. Maybe you don’t eat after 8pm at night. Maybe you just really don’t like eggs, or honey, or potato. Maybe you’ve got a particular dress you need to fit into in a few months time. None of these rules should be compromised as you embark on reducing your food waste. Get a little creative, talk about it with friends, read some of our blog posts – there will be a way to keep all current rules in check.

4. Is eating out and eating in the same thing?
This is our most contested question. Is the left over food restaurant throws out because you didn’t finish any different to the meal you didn’t finish at home? Just because you didn’t hear the thud of the food hitting the bottom of the bin, should you feel any different about the waste? Sure, you can’t control the portions … or can you? We have decided that it’s all the same. You can ask for half portions, you can select where you eat out based on their food waste mindfulness.

5. Don’t be a mathematician
This isn’t meant to be a complicated project, so don’t turn it into one by trying to price your wasted foods based on size or original cost. There should be no discount because you ‘had a go’ at saving it. The penalty amount should be fixed.

6. I can’t waste that half bottle of wine.
Now let’s make this clear, we are in no way encouraging you get smash drunk because you can’t waste that bottle of alcohol. But more than that, this is a perfect example of where we say “Think first…” If you’re not going to finish that beer, then don’t have it, or simply be prepared to call it an expensive beer. (Wine on the other hand can be frozen or used in cooking later.) The same goes for your food too. If you order that upsize of chips, are you going to eat them all? Think first.

7. Not everything can be turned into an omelette.
If you’re not careful, you may fall into the trap of repeating the same solution over and over. The risk here is that the boredom can make you resort back to old ways. When being mindful of your waste habits, also be mindful of your new patterns. This might be an ironic thing to consider but are your new habits sustainable?