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Friday, 11 January 2013

The Food Waste Scandal

It is good to see that the horrendous amount of food that we waste is a hot topic in the press this week. This is something that we have to act on to keep the conversation going until we actually do something about reducing the appalling waste that is a global concern. It is hitting the headlines because of a new study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. They say "it is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced never reaches a human stomach. Furthermore, this figure does not reflect the fact that large amounts of land, energy, fertilisers and water have also been lost in the production of foodstuffs which simply end up as waste. This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands."

When I was researching my book about reducing waste, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free,  I read Tristram Stuart's Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.  Reading Stuart's book and writing the Reducing Food Waste section of my book, made me realise how much food we waste in my family, even though we have long tried not to.

 I'd carefully store leftovers in the fridge so as not to waste, only to forget about them.  'Why throw it away now when you can put it in the fridge and throw it away on Thursday?' was a common family joke. But in writing some of the shocking figures about food waste that you can find in my book and will be hearing in the news this week, we became only too aware that we could do a lot better.

So, we started our 'Waste Not' campaign.

Plan you meals
First of all, we went back to planning our meals, like I used to when the children were little. In planning (see Tip 3 from 101 Ways...), I'd always make sure I included something that either cooked from frozen or from store cupboard ingredients as we'd often find we'd all be out on occasions.

Portion Control
Secondly, we made an effort to portion control.  You don't need to cut up and cook a whole head of broccoli and/or cauliflower for a family meal for 6 people.  I know roughly who eats what in our family so I started cutting a set number of florets for each person - and that's often only one of each..  That way we had some left for in the week or we'd use the rest the next week.  We cut down on the amount of meat we bought for a joint.  We'd long had a habit of cooking enough for unexpected guests.  But in fact, you can always do a bit more veg from the store cupboard if you do have extras.  We managed to get the portions under control.  My husband said, 'Oh dear, I didn't cook enough' the first few times it all got eaten in one sitting.  But we just kept reminding ourselves that we were reducing waste.

Do You Need to Peel?
We also made sure we wasted as little of what we were preparing as possible. So, if carrots didn't need peeling, we didn't peel them.  If they did need peeling, we'd put the peelings and the ends in the stock pot to boil up for soups (see Tip 6).  We'd cook up the outer leaves of the cauliflower instead of having cabbage. And we always eat the stalk of the broccoli raw.  Just peel off the outer bit, which tends to be woody, and cut into strips.  Taste it for yourself! It is delicious and nutritious.

Leftovers for Lunch
I started checking the freezer for small portions of frozen leftovers that I could have for lunch while I was at home writing, instead of always making a sandwich.

Bag a Bargain
When we were shopping for something to eat on the day, we started to check the reduced items in supermarkets, .  Not only did we feel we were reducing food waste, we were bagging a bargain at the same time.

Finish Up What's in the Freezer
So for 2013, we are going to keep up the good work. Money is tight this month - it took a five month break from work to sit down and write my book! - so we have decided to use up the stocks in the freezer as well as continuing to reduce waste and squeeze every ounce of goodness out of any food we buy.  That way we will be able to let our finances recover as well as making sure we don't end up with stuff that's been in the freezer for five years that we no longer fancy using.

So, January is going to be the month for 'Wait and See Pie', 'Surprise Stew' and 'I'll Decide What's for Tea When I've Defrosted It'.

So far, we've had turkey curry and turkey, bacon and leek in white wine sauce. And it wasn't even this year's turkey - our portion control is now so good we used up all the turkey within 3 days, except for a bit of stock we froze for soup.

The turkey curry was an adaptation of Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall's chicken curry recipe from  The River Cottage Family Cookbook and the turkey, bacon and leek dish was made using a b├ęchamel sauce.

Tonight's delight will be Jamie Oliver's Prawns with Chilli, Parsley, Ginger and Garlic on Toast (Happy Days with the Naked Chef - remember that one?) as I found two packets of prawns at the back of the freezer from when we'd bought them on BOGOF probably! Bon appetit!