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Monday, 30 September 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 2

On to the next step...

Week 2.  Go through the filing cabinet and bookshelves and extract all those files you no longer need but still have because they contain confidential or sensitive information or have simply been kept for nostalgic reasons.  Set up your shredder and get shredding.

If you don't have a shredder, then you could try to borrow one from a friend, from work or perhaps  from a local share club such as or

Shredded paper can be recycled.  However, some councils don't accept shredded paper in the kerbside recycling collections.  This can be for a number of reasons:

  • The shredded paper can be problematic for MRFs (Materials Recovery Facilities).  The machinery is designed to recognise and sort different types of paper and card.  But small scraps and shredded paper can be hard to distinguish.  Shredded paper can also jam up the machinery.
  • Shredded paper can be easily wind blown and therefore cause litter in the streets.
  • Each time paper is recycled the fibres get shorter and eventually become too short to knit together.  Shredding paper is said to shorten the fibres which means it can only make lower grade paper products.

Other councils can accept small amounts.  It is helpful to wrap your shredded paper in a piece of newspaper to stop it blowing away.  Small quantities of shredded paper can be sealed inside envelopes. Wrapping the paper in plastic bags is far from ideal as the plastic bags need to be split open and again this can cause litter.

When I was out with my local collection team last year, we came across a back bin bag, which we could see had some shredded paper coming out of the top.  However, it was impossible to tell whether it was entirely full of shredded paper or not, without splitting it open in the street.  Even though my local council do accept shredded paper, the policy is not to open a black sack in the street because of the likelihood of causing litter, as shredded paper and other materials are likely to blow away.  The team seemed reluctant, but they had limited time, and had to decide to leave it behind for the landfill collection.  I asked what could have been done.  They suggested putting the shredded paper directly into the recycling boxes with a lid, or labelling the bag.

What to shred.
Unless your document is a confidential report, you don't need to shred the whole thing.  Separating and shredding just the bits that are confidential will save time and effort.  It is also easier to manage paper that hasn't been shredded.

What if you can't recycle your shredded paper?
Shredded paper is good for the compost.  That's where I usually put my regular small amounts.
It can also be used for animal bedding.  There are more ways to use your shredded paper on the My Zero Waste Blog.

From 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free

Onto the task...

I've pulled out a pile of old files, including

  • Minutes of Parish Council Meetings. - these don't need shredding as they are public documents, so they are going straight in the recycling bin as they are.
  • Customer's data from past studies and reports.  I've shredded these as I can't judge whether the information is still sensitive.
  • Very old bank statements.  I've cut off the personal information from the top and shredded it.  The rest went into the recycling unshredded.
  • Old company accounts.  HMRC recommend you keep accounts information for a minimum of six years.  Some information, such as dividend vouchers and bank interest certificates have to be kept for longer.  Documents like public liability insurance certificates have to be kept much longer and it can be up to 40 years in some cases.  I've decided to keep my company accounts for six years, which means I'll be recycling anything that relates to years prior to 2007.  Most of this will be shredded.
  • Various extracts from novels and short stories from the days when I used to edit on paper. These days I rarely need to print anything in order to edit it, as the screen quality is good enough to make it easy on the eye and editing on screen gives an array of useful editing tools, such as the ability to track changes, highlight text, add comments etc.  None of this needs to be shredded, so it is going straight in the recycling box.
  • Presentations and course notes from my M.A. and various other writing courses - interesting, but I have no need to keep them!  Straight into the recycling box too.

The total weight of this paper is 12,966g, so far.  And there's more to go.

I have minimised what actually needs to be shredded, in order to preserve as much value from my paper as possible.  I've gained lots of shelf space and have a pile of files to put away for future use or give to my daughters and their friends for their school work.

In two weeks I've recycled just over 21 kilos of paper. That means I'm more than a third of my way to my target of one tree!

By the way, next week's task will be a lot easier :)

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Paperless Office

My office is a sea of paperwork going back 20 years.

I'm aiming to reduce the amount of paper I'm storing by around 75% before the end of the year.  Want to join me?  The plan is to part with all that old paper work you don't need and get it into your recycling bin.  Making paper out of recycled paper uses 45% less energy than making it from the virgin wood pulp.  Recycling one tonne of paper saves around 17 trees.  As paper is pretty heavy, I reckon I can save at least one tree all on my own.

I'm going to weigh the paper I recycle, because I do crazy things like that, so I'll let you know if I've saved a tree by Christmas!

Over the coming weeks I'll post my 12 steps to reducing your paper mountain by 75%

Are you ready... here's a nice easy one to get you started!

Week 1.  Pull out all your old magazines.  You can either give these away or put them in your recycling box/bank.  Every magazine you recycle, makes about enough carbon saving to watch the next six episodes of Downton Abbey!

This week I've recycled:

12 x Writer magazines
4 parenting magazines
4 copies of Woman and Home
3 travel magazines
2 copies of Golfer magazine
2 copies of  RSPB's Birds
1 copy of Good Housekeeping
1 weekend Observer magazine
1 Guardian weekly guide
1 copy of Time magazine (from 1996!)
1 copy of l'Equipe
1 copy of Marie Claire
1 brochure from Oxford University's Continuing Education Department

Yes, I'm a bit of a magazine hoarder, I confess, but I'm sure this is not unusual.  These magazines have a combined weight of 8843 grammes.

If I really want to save a tree by Christmas, then I'd actually need to recycle 58,823.5 grammes in total.  So I've still got just under 50kg to go.  Hmm!  I wonder..?

For next week, you'll need a shredder.  If you don't have one, then maybe you can borrow one from a friend or from work.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Best Before Dates on Eggs

I was reading the waste and recycling section of a local council website today in preparation for visiting one of the primary schools in their area.  In their food waste guidelines they give some explanation of 'Use By' and 'Best Before' dates.

The website quite rightly explained that it is the 'Use By' dates that you need to pay attention to, but 'Best Before' dates don't imply a health risk after that date.  However, I was surprised to read this:

Most foods can be eaten after the ‘best before’ date, except for eggs. Never eat eggs after their best before date, or other products after their ‘use by’ date.

I didn't think this information about eggs was correct.  Having grown up with free-range chickens at home I've always gone by the float/sink rule.  You submerse your eggs in a bowl of water and if they sink, then they are good to eat but if they float then they are not.  Floating eggs go straight out onto the compost heap, because they'll stink if they break.

Food Aware tweeted me some information about eggs and their best before dates. The most recent information from the Food Standards Agency is that eggs can be used a few days after the 'best before' date...

'providing the eggs are cooked thoroughly until yolk and white are both solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked, such as a cake. After the 'best before' date, the quality of the egg will deteriorate and if any salmonella bacteria are present, they could multiply to high levels and could make you ill.'

Did you know that you can also freeze eggs.  So if you have some eggs that you've had a while you can beat them and store them the freezer until you need them - great if you have eggs unused before holidays, for instance.  Frozen egg whites are particularly good for meringues as they whisk up well.

Here's the Food Standards Agency's information on Use By/Best Before Dates:

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Serendipity Fig Rolls

I've just tasted the best fig roll ever.

And it was an accident.

I have long been wondering what to do with a jar of fig jam I was given.  It didn't quite work as jam on its own as it was just a bit too sweet.

Having just come back from a weekend at a friend's house, where I'd had a slice of home-made fig roll, I decided that while the oven was on for Sunday roast dinner, I'd see if I could turn my fig jam into fig rolls.

My friend's recipe was shortcrust pastry spread with fig paste (from the figs in her garden) and rolled.  It was lovely.

I weighed out my 100g of unsalted butter, and poured in the flour.  But in my recent cook-in with Senior Daughter to try to use up the jars that had been breeding in the fridge, I somehow must have switched over the self raising and the plain flour.  They're stored in two different crock pots and I must admit I usually check I've got the right one, but must have been a little over excited at at the thought of saying goodbye to another jar.  I just dolloped in the flour and had nearly put in my 200g when I noticed the bag was self-raising flour not plain flour.  Ah well, I decided not to worry about it and just give it a whirl.


Here's the accidental recipe...

Rub together 100g unsalted butter (cut up into small pieces) with 200g of self-raising flour until it looks like bread crumbs.  Sprinkle in a table spoon of granulated sugar for the texture.  Bind together into a dough by adding around 100 ml of water about a third at a time and using a knife to gently squish together the wet pastry into the dry crumb mix.

Using a little more flour to stop the pastry from sticking to the pastry mat and the rolling pin, roll out into a rough triangle.  Spread with fig jam and then roll up along the longest side.

Then cook for twenty minutes to half an hour until the pastry is cooked.  My cooking times are always a little vague as I use a wood fired Rayburn.  It always cooks it but the temperature varies according to what else is in the oven, what kind of wood we're burning and how much air we give it.  It kind of proves that you don't really need to worry too much about times and temperatures. Just put it in and check after 15 minutes, then again after another 10 and it will probably be done. Mine needed 5 minutes more today - you can tell by the colour and texture if it is done.

My Serendipity Fig Rolls

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Plastic Bag Tax

Bring it on!

From 2015, shops will be required by law to charge 5p to customers for a 'single use' plastic bag.

Ok, so I know they are not actually single use, in that we often use plastic bags for other things than just to get our shopping home.  But the point is, by having this system of being able to use brand new bags each time we shop it's creating a huge environmental problem.

A while ago, Sainsbury's removed their 'single use' plastic bags from the tills and just had the 'Bag for Life' bags available which cost 10p.  But for reasons I'm not party to (but probably involving being scared to lose customers to supermarkets that didn't follow suit) they stopped the initiative and back came the plastic bags, cluttering up the till area and cramping our packing space.

It is just so much nicer in France where there are no bags at all in the packing area of the till.  And people, funnily enough, don't seem to forget their shopping bags.   Well, if your only alternative is to go to the customer service desk, queue up behind all the people who need their complicated enquiries answered, and wait to be served, so you can purchase a sturdy and quite pricey shopping bag, then you're unlikely to forget a second time, right?

Now, I've heard people arguing for the need to get a constant weekly supply of shopping bags, just in case they run out at home.  Well, I've used reusable shopping bags for at least 5 years now - probably nearer ten - and, d'you know what?  I still have a whole stash of single use carrier bags in my recycling cupboard - despite twice taking several bags to my local charity shop.  All these bags are just the ones left by other people bringing stuff into my house in single use plastic bags.

Maybe once the tax comes into place, my plastic bag holder will become redundant, but I guess they mount up because I don't find a use for them very often.

You've got two years to practise!  The law doesn't come in until the autumn of 2015.  All you need to do, is follow two tips from my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free.

Simples, says the Meerkat!

For more waste reduction tips that save you a fortune too, you could buy the book!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Recharging your batteries

Do you get through an endless supply of batteries?  We certainly seem to in our house.  About a year ago, I was just about to pick up yet another pack of AAs when I noticed just below it that you could buy a pack of rechargeable batteries and a charger for just under twice the price of one pack of batteries, so I decided to swap to that.  Now when my mouse is squeaking for new batteries I use the rechargeable ones.  I realised that I’ve saved myself about £20 in just a year.  Not sure why I didn’t think of it years ago!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Best Food Waste Bin Ever

Yesterday I spent the day talking rubbish!  I do a lot of that.

I was at the RWM Exhibition - which is all about Resource Efficiency and Waste Management Solutions.  My Dustbin Diet mantra is 're-thinking rubbish as resources' and at RWM more than anywhere, that mantra is very apt.

I was researching a topic very important to me and that's recycling the stuff that many people think can't be recycled and in my explorations around the vast exhibition hall I was able to add to my list of things that get recycled or reused in and around the UK. Look out for the book next year!

One thing that caught my attention towards the end of the day was this fabulous food waste bin.

500L Food Waste Bin by Storm Environmental Ltd at RWM 2013

I'd love a mini one of these as my kitchen food waste caddy, wouldn't you?

Earlier in the day, I'd attended a session about behaviour and habit in relation to waste reduction, and we heard about a project looking into reasons why people still put their food waste into their landfill bin rather than using the food waste caddies their council provide.  One of the reasons given was that the food waste containers are ugly and spoilt the look of their lovely kitchen.

This brought to mind one of the outcomes of my first Dustbin Diet course at The Marlborough School in Woodstock.  The students suggested that instead of ugly recycling containers hidden away in dark corners of the room or school site, recycling collection points should be bright and colourful and a pleasure to use.

Wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Recycling your mascara

I don't do landfill.

But even in West Oxfordshire, where there is a fantastic kerbside collection for most packaging, there are still sometimes things that can't be collected by the local council for recycling.

So, what to do with them?

I have a policy that, unless I really feel I need something, I will avoid it if I don't know how I can recycle or reuse it at the end of its life.

But, I have a family and I have friends, and thats' not a rule that is always at the forefront of the mind of everybody who has cause to dispose of something while in my house.

So, I have a little collection in my 'recycling cupboard' of things I don't know what to do with.

One of those things, until recently was cosmetics packaging.  The problem with cosmetics packaging is that it is often made of mixed materials, and often made in part of hard plastic, two things that make it hard to recycle.

So I was excited to find out that the cosmetics company Origins have set up a recycling scheme at their cosmetics counters.  The great thing about their scheme is that you can recycle any cosmetics packaging through them, not just their own packaging.

So, I used the locator on their website to find out where their nearest collection point was and then planned to go there yesterday after a meeting I had nearby.  I had a fairly large bag of various packages - my own, Senior Daughter's, Junior Daughter's and JD's best friend.  So I felt the extra mile to pop in to the town centre was well worth it, and I was rewarded with a free sample of Origins products, Recyclebank rewards (and a warm, smug feeling from doing my bit for the planet).  I'd recommend it!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Day 7 of Zero Waste Week

Day 6 waste:

A big fat zero!

BUT...  I made a flask of tea, so I think the tea bag must be still in the flask.  Whoops.

We did eat, I promise!

At various times, Junior Daughter, Senior Daughter and I all had a portion of the reheated lasagne, which was a big success.  I'm so glad I wrote down what I put into it for this blog, as it is certainly going to be made again. Though, I'm told it could have more tomato and less cheese for JD's taste (despite being the best veggie lasagne she's ever eaten).

The Iceberg lettuce is still keeping it's colour.  There's not much left now but it is 8 days since I first cut into it.  Each time I've used a bit, I've changed the water - I'm treating it better than I treat my cut flowers!  It seems to work.

The best 'use it up' last night was three quarters of a bottle of rosé wine.  I was on my own, so I needed a plan, because I wouldn't have drunk it own my own! But a quick text, found me a willing helper, and I trekked off down the lane with bottle of wine and a torch.  It is Zero Waste Week, after all.

We are out to dinner tonight with family, so we offered to bring pudding.  I've got a jar of mincemeat to use up.  It is still in date, but I always think uncooked mincemeat looks a bit iffy, so I'm going to make the pastry, cook one mincemeat tart and then if it doesn't taste nice, I'll use the pastry for jam tarts.

Lunch was a cooking experiment: omelette and salad.  Senior Daughter is investigating cheap, fast, healthy meals for her forthcoming second year at uni, so she made a cheese and spring onion omelette for the two of us. We finished up the iceberg lettuce with hardly any waste, thanks to our new @myzerowaste way of storing salad in water like cut flowers.  We added cucumber and grated carrot. JD slept.

Food waste from lunch

*** Later ***

As it was the day of reckoning for my collection of jars and the weather was a bit iffy, we had a cook-in this afternoon, to use up what we could before the big chuck out.

JD joined us after her sleep catch-up and made a ham omelette with an interesting addition of paprika.

The tester mince pie was a success, so we made a mince and apple tart to take for tonight's dinner.  We tried the remaining jar of unidentified chutney and concluded it had a bit of excess vinegar which I poured off.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.  That's probably why it didn't get eaten.  SD came up with a plan.  I made more pastry, SD caramelised some onions  and I grated cheese.  JD did maths.  The caramelised onion and cheese tart is now sliced up into a tupperware for lunches and snacks.
Green tomato chutney (we think), cheddar cheese and caramelised onion tart
Tart recipe: short crust pastry (100g butter, 200g flour and around three table spoons of water - if you want to make it yourself), one nearly full jar of unidentified chutney, 125g grated cheese, 3 small onions (and a bit of brown sugar to caramelise them).

Roll out the pastry into a rough rectangle, spread over the chutney, sprinkle on the grated cheese and then sprinkle the caramelised onion over that.  Cook at around 200°C for about 20 minutes.

While I was puzzling over some kind of sweet and sour mustardy chutney looking thing, JD came up with the idea of using it with some chicken and rice.  So we put that to one side for tomorrow night.

Senior Daughter also made some flapjack, using up a packet of dates and some seeds.  When rummaging for the dates and seeds we found a packet of mixed seeds had spilled and there was a spillage of couscous in the drawer too.

We took everything out of the drawer and went through what was there and then tipped out the spillage to the birds.  I didn't think to weigh it, but it was about a handful.

I already knew I needed better storage for dry goods such as pasta, couscous, rice, seeds and dried fruit,  so I've been gradually collecting up glass storage jars.  I keep these on the kitchen window sill where I can see them, and that means I always know what I've got in stock and what I need to replace when I shop, as I get a daily visual reminder.  And I think it looks nice too!

Improving storage has helped me reduce food waste

We made a cherry and coconut loaf cake to use up the last of a packet of coconut which still hadn't made it to a storage jar.

Cherry and coconut loaf cake

The remaining jars amount to a salad dressing, which we've realised my dad might use up, a jar of mint sauce, so we'll put some lamb chops on the menu for when Mr Pitt returns and a jar of red current sauce, which we're going to have with baked camembert to account for the one that's on the use it up shelf.

Oh, and there's the guacamole.  Sorry, but that's going in the (food waste) bin!

Food waste day 7.

52g eggs shells
8g stub of the lettuce
16g onion peel
22g remains of half a lemon
44g tea bags
a bit of stringy skin from the outside of the spring onions (too light for the scales)

also... going to the garden for the wildlife
20g carrot peel and an apple core
a handful of seeds and couscous

240g guacamole

That brings us to a weekly total of an almost full food caddy.  My food waste goes on my compost heap so, the food caddy has been topped up along the way with kitchen roll, the packet from some sugar, bits of dust/cat hair swept up from the floor etc.  These bits make up the 'brown' material needed along with the 'green' material for the compost.

So, it's still food waste, but it isn't really being wasted.  By this time next year it will be well on the way to being usable compost and might be growing the following year's veg.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Day 6 of Zero Waste Week

Yesterday's waste audit:
10g olive stones
12g tea bags
126g (two) banana skins

I don't think we'll be seeing any recipe suggestions for those.

But, of course, it's not this kind of food waste that we need to reduce!  It's the tube of guacamole, that's been in the fridge a while, that I can't eat, because it contains cream which I have an allergy to.  And probably because I can't eat it, no one else fancies it, and I couldn't hide it in soups or sauces that we were eating as a family - or I wouldn't have been able to eat those either.

What we should have done is give it away unopened to a food bank, the moment we realised the mistake.  But, when we bought it, I didn't even know we had a food bank local to us.  I've since found it that it had just opened up.

It's estimated that in the UK the average family wastes around a quarter of the food they buy, unnecessarily.  And that costs us collectively £12 billion pounds a year.

I've been having a think about the reasons behind avoidable food waste and this is what I've come up with:

1. Forgetting what we've bought.
2. Not thinking about portion control.
3. Unexpected / spur of the moment outings
4. Lack of communication between family members about plans.
5. Not reading the ingredients before purchasing something.
6. Allowing open stuff to creep to the back of the fridge / cupboards, and then not checking thoroughly before opening a new packet / jar.

This is what I'm planning to do about it...

1.a) More planning e.g looking what we've got before doing the shopping.
   b) Shopping list on fridge for when we use the last of something - if it isn't on the list don't buy it!
   c) Keeping open stuff in a prominent 'use it up' location - front of top shelf of fridge or bottom shelf of eye level cupboards
   d) Once a month rummage to bring stuff going out of date to the 'use it up' shelf.
2.  Being more aware of portion sizes, and working out which cooking dishes are best sized for various numbers of people.
3.  Planning at least two store cupboard meals per week to allow for last minute invitations/outings.
4.  Family calendar on wall in kitchen or on the fridge.
5. Taking any purchasing mistakes immediately to the local food bank or giving away to friends / family.
6.  The once a month rummage/ 'use it up' shelf will take care of this one!

By the way, the lasagne was reported to be the best veggie lasagne Junior Daughter had ever eaten, and the other meal we had today was a corned beef and lime pickle bap with a bit of shredded lettuce!  Some things are just too good not to have again.

Butternut Squash, Philadelphia and Sage Lasagne

* Source: WRAP, Nov 2011,

Friday, 6 September 2013

Day 5 of Zero Waste Week

Yesterday lunchtime I had ambitions to get below the 100 grammes on my food waste tally.

Fail! :( 

I'm blaming the squash again.  I'd forgotten about the butternut squash lasagne.

Thursday's food waste:

124g butternut squash skin
58g tea bags
the stalk of a cucumber too tiny to register on the scales

There were also 46g of butternut squash seeds that I put out for the birds.

Total 228g including the bird food.

On the plus side though, the corned beef and lime pickle sandwiches were a big hit.

We had them mid afternoon when Junior Daughter got home from school along with her best friend.  I offered corned beef sandwiches and announced that I was having lime pickle with mine.  They know I'm on a 'use it up' binge.  I brought the corned beef, lime pickle and also the jar of Branston pickle from the fridge.

"I thought we were having lime pickle," comments Junior Daughter.
"I am, but that doesn't mean you have to."
"Lime pickle sounds good," agreed JD and BF.

I can report that corned beef and lime pickle sandwiches are more than good.  Next time I'm tempted to buy a jar of lime pickle, I don't think it will be any trouble to use up!

My made up 'Use it Up Lasagne' recipe consists of this:
layers of:
green pesto (it was lurking at the back of the fridge unopened and going out of date)
steamed butternut squash
Philadelphia cheese
tomato salsa
butternut squash
bechamel sauce (butter, flour, milk, black pepper)

Abandoned by the rest of the family to their various engagements, I decided that I'd keep the lasagne whole for Saturday evening and just have a plate of the rest of the ingredients without the pasta.

Here's my lasagne-less butternut squash, sage and Philadelphia cheese dinner.

I can recommend it!  I hope the lasagne is as good.

As for today's Zero Waste Week recommendations, it was all about juggling differing dietary requirements and I've got a case for that this week, certainly.  Batch cooking was on the menu.  I guess that's what my lasagne was all about.  It will be an in and out meal day tomorrow, so the lasagne is there ready and waiting, and I'm hoping that Senior Daughter will then be able to take back a couple of portions, frozen, when she returns to uni.

And as for new food ventures in my 'use up the jars' effort, caper purée was on my hit list.  On the side of the jar it suggests using it in a quick pasta sauce.  A tin of chopped tomatoes, stir in the caper purée and add some sliced black olives.  I tried it out and it was delicious and Junior Daughter enjoyed it too.

I made another new discovery today.  I made JD two pieces of toast and butter this morning, but she only ate one - which is unusual.  We dashed out of the door leaving the second piece (already buttered) behind.  When I got back I decided to experiment with reviving cold toast.  I got out a pancake pan, popped the toast in and sprinkled it with cinnamon. It was delicious. So my breakfast this morning was yoghurt, 'cinnamon revived toast' and banana.

All in all a pretty successful use it up day, I'd say.

Day Four of Zero Waste Week

Yesterday's waste audit looks like this:

30g of chocolate butter icing (lurking in the fridge for more than a year we reckoned)
3 chocolate buttons and 2 squares of chocolate hidden in the depths of the fridge for who know's how long!
Peel and ends of one carrot (I sometimes keep these for stock making or feed them to the rabbits)
6 tea bags
1 small pat of butter that's been inhabiting my cheese drawer unnoticed for way too long

Total weight: 138 grammes

Today I'm going for under a hundred grammes.  Doable, d'you think?

The Twittersphere has planned my lunch for me today.  And it's all about using up those lurkers still.

I have some corned beef and a cucumber in my fridge - again purchased for the cancelled cricket tea last Sunday, but I try to only buy stuff I'd use up anyway, because, let's face it, being a game that gets a little dangerous in the wet, cricket matches do get cancelled.

I'm planning corned beef and lime pickle sandwiches to finish my jar of lime pickle that's been hanging around a while. I've made a cucumber raita style thing which I'll make using the 4 small tubs of garlic and herb dip that has made its way into my fridge from various Domino Pizza-fests that my daughters have hosted.  Recipe as follows:

4 tubs of Domino's garlic and herb dip
Half a cucumber sliced and quartered.
Generous amount of freshly ground blank pepper.

The dip was delicious but I ate it all myself, as I needed a snack due to Junior Daughter finishing school later than expected.  That wasn't the plan, but at least I've discovered a new recipe for using up those tubs of dip!

Tonight will see another jar being used up as I'm adding an ingredient to my butternut squash and Philadelphia lasagne - the jar of sage leaves (picked from the garden prior to the sage bush having a much needed trim).

Getting there!  Here's what I've used up this week...

Bon appétit!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Day Three of Zero Waste Week

Sum total of waste on day three:

458g of manky cheese from the fridge clear out
94g of tea bags.

Once a cheese.
Yesterday's meal of Onion (and cheese soup) with pesto croutons went down well.  Not a scrap left (probably for fear of having it served up for breakfast).  But I did have to confess to the addition of the bits of ageing cheese, mainly because I didn't cut it up small enough!

So, lesson learnt.  Add the ageing cheese cut up into small bits at the earlier stage before you whizz it.  Then maybe they'll never know.

The family were dubious about the cheese, but they all went back for second helpings of soup.  I got a bit of unmelted cheese rind donated to my bowl though.  The pesto croutons will have to be repeated.  They were excellent.

Onto day three...

My bananas have long been in solitary confinement away from the rest of the fruit.  And I can't remember the last time I threw away a black banana.  Mine go into Banana Bread - I usually use the recipe from Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' but I'm never particularly careful about the actual ingredients (the fruit and nuts part).  I just throw in what needs using up usually and it is always delicious.

So onto the rest of the day three challenge...

1. Food Hygiene

I cleaned out the bits of the fridge that I didn't do yesterday as I extracted the lurkers, and I continued the use it up, by making pasta and turning a jar of tomato salsa into the sauce.  I added some blue cheese into mine too.  I think blue cheese in pasta sauce is excellent but Senior Daughter pointed out that really you'd have to like blue cheese!

This evening we are going out for dinner, but I have plans bubbling away to use up another jar of salsa and the tomato puree tomorrow in a butternut squash and Philadelphia cheese lasagne.

What to do with the rest... any ideas?

The remaining lurkers have until the end of the week!
2. The White Board

I have a black board I used to use to plan meals on, but I stopped using it when Junior Daughter and/or Friends decided to plan the week's meals for me.

It read something like this

Monday - nothing

Tuesday - leftovers

Wednesday - nothing

Thursday - crisp sandwiches

Friday - out

Saturday - nothing

Sunday - roast

There it remained as the years passed by until one day it was mysteriously wiped clean.

Maybe it's time to start using it again, but it's main purpose would have to be to write down who's in and who's out each evening as that's what causes us the biggest headache for meal planning.

However, what today's email really inspired me to do was to use the magnetic 'Shopping List' that's stuck on the front of the fridge to write down each time I use up the last of a jar of sauce.  If it's not on the list it doesn't get bought.  That way I might not end up with two jars of open salsa, two jars of mustard, two jars of mint sauce etc.

Will it work, I wonder?

3. Turn it on its head.

Well, I have now made sure most of my jars are stowed in the place designed for them in the door.  That frees up the top shelf, which has become my 'Use it Up' shelf.  The next shelf down is for things that need to be used up this month, and then further down are the long life things such as chorizo and the jars that are too big for the door, e.g pickle and mayo.

The veg, fruit and salad are still at the bottom, but only while they have lots of life in them.  I'll move them to the top shelf as they need using up.

I feel cleansed and organised, and I haven't bought a single food item this week!

Bon appétit, my fellow zero heroes! 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Day Two of Zero Waste Week

Yesterday's food waste amounted to this:

2 banana skins
4 tea bags
The ends of some green beans
Skin and ends of 4 onions
Skin of half a squash.

It weighed 524 grammes - I blame the squash!

Day One - Food Waste 524 grammes
Today, we're challenged to 'Use Our Loaf' and also to check out what's lurking behind the yoghurt pot!

So, for me, Day Two started with 2 pieces of toast & butter for Junior Daughter before she heads off to her first day in Sixth Form.  I decided to have toast too, to make a bit of progress on our excess bread (from Sunday's cancelled cricket tea).  With it, I finished up my mother-in-law's grape jelly (which I fished out from the back of the fridge) and I'm now chomping my way through the remaining blueberries from Friday's party.

I checked on my half Iceberg Lettuce which is now resting in a tub of water - cut side down -  and it hasn't gone brown yet.  If you haven't signed up for the daily emails then you can check out Day One here:

Yesterday I made an onion soup, and we usually have this French style with croutons and grated cheese.  So one way to use up some of the bread crusts would be to turn them into croutons for tonight's dinner.  I was also fairly sure that the cheese drawer would be where most of my use it up stuff would be found.

The rest of my spare bread was already safely stowed in the freezer.  I find this is a great way to store extra bread as it only takes a few minutes to defrost just the amount that you need.

Of the ingredients that needed using up yesterday, the only things that didn't go into yesterday's dinner or tonight's soup was some leftover dip from Friday's party and two beef burgers from Sunday night.  I had burger shaped rolls stored in the freezer (from the cancelled cricket tea on Sunday) so I took out two of those to defrost and have with our burgers.

The lettuce was still in good order so there was no waste.  I used the two outer leaves to add to the burgers and I used up the tomato relish on mine and Senior Daughter had some barbecue sauce on hers.  It made a great sandwich.  We had some sliced cucumber with it and I used my cucumber to dip into the leftover guacamole.

Onto the zone behind the yoghurt pot.  Scary!  I decided I'd have to pull everything out of the fridge and see what was lurking at the back.  Most of my lurkers are jars of conserve and pickle or various long life sauces, but I know my worst offence is the cheese drawer.

I'm really the only person in my family who likes cheese other than cheddar or parmesan. For a long time,  I've only bought other cheese when we've had dinner parties.  But still it gets left over.  So now my new rule with cheese is to buy a selection of different cheddars for a dinner party with maybe just a goat's cheese or blue cheese, which is easy to use up in pasta.  I have cut my waste by doing that, but there's bits of cheese in my fridge that are verging on veteran.

Brace yourself, here's the photographic evidence of the fridge clear out today!

I had a collection of cheeses that ranged (from right to left in the picture above) from the pefectly fine, through edible in sauces/soup to definitely straight in the food waste caddy.

The fresh and healthy cheese went back into the nice clean cheese drawer along with the cheddar and butter.  Then I started work on the rest.  I cut up the bits of camembert - there wasn't much left and put it into my onion soup.  I grated up some of the smoked cheddar and put the rind into the soup.  I also snuck in the dodgy cheese slice that was left behind by friends rather a long time ago, but as it's so processed anyway, I figured it'd probably outlive most of my family before going off, so in it went!

But, sad to say, I had to add 408 grammes of manky cheese to my food waste caddy.  Just think how much that would have cost me!  Still, it will serve as a reminder to never again buy a cheese I'm not likely to use up, if my dinner guests don't eat it all.  Who am I trying to impress anyway?  No need - here's to my cheddary future!

As for the rest of the lurkers - just look at that collection of jars!  I've got to get using up some of that.

I went through the jars and put back in the fridge the recent and frequently used stuff like, mayo, pickles, mustard, ketchup, horseradish etc.  But that still left me with a dubious collection.

What did I manage to use up?  Not a lot as yet.  Well, I had about an inch of green pesto left in a jar so I combined that with the remaining oil from my sun dried tomatoes and decided the croutons would be pesto croutons.  Lush!
Day Two dinner - onion (and cheese) soup with pesto croutons.

Other than than I put everything to one side to deal with another day.  But, urged on by my Zero Waste Week email, I made a tough decision that if it was not gone by the end of the week, it was out - forget the aspiration and admit it's never going to happen!

Now, I just need to get creative and find something to create with all those saucy ingredients... roll on Day Three!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Zero Waste Week

Did you know that this week is national Zero Waste Week.  The zero waste week campaign is now in its sixth year and each year tackles a different theme .  This year's campaign tackles the problem of food waste and it starts today.

You can sign up to get a daily email about how to reduce your food waste.  There are some good tips in there (I know because I edited the emails!).  You sign up on this website:  Every day, you'll get an email with some tips on how to reduce food waste and there's a challenge you can take part in too.

I've signed up even though I already know what's in the emails.  As an editor you have to keep your backside firmly glued to the chair and concentrate on how the words work together, and whether they get the message across as efficiently as they can. Every time I sat down to edit one of the daily emails I was tempted to go running to my fridge to see what I had that needed using up.  That's why I've signed up.

Given that food prices have rocketed in recent years, it seems a great thing to focus on when you want to reduce your waste.  Because let's face it, if you are throwing away food that could have been eaten, that's pretty much like throwing away money.  And, that's pretty much always in short supply!

The savings from looking at how you deal with food waste are two-fold.

Most people end up throwing away a quarter of the food they buy. So, firstly, there's the simple fact that if you make the most of the food you buy and don't throw it away, you can cut your food budget by a quarter.  If you spend £60 a week on food then you could be saving £15 of that every week by making sure you use all the food you buy.

Secondly, the more food you waste, the more it costs your local council to deal with it.  And that cost is part of what YOU have to pay for in your council tax!

Many local councils now provide households with a kitchen caddy and a food waste bin. If you have one and don't use it read on...

When I met with the head of waste management at my local council he explained the huge financial advantage of householders using their food caddies rather than their landfill bins.  For every tonne of food waste diverted from landfill to be taken to our local anaerobic digestion plant gives a saving of around £50.  This is because sending waste to landfill incurs a tax, called Landfill Tax.  This is currently set at £72 a tonne and is set to rise to £80 a tonne in April 2104.  In addition to the landfill tax, the council has to pay a gate fee of around £21.  So, the average cost of sending a tonne of waste to landfill in the UK is currently £93*.  The cost of sending food waste to anaerobic digestion is on average £41.  Did you know that on average one household generates around a third of a tonne of food waste every year.  So that's only three households that share that cost and YES, of course, it goes straight onto your council tax bill!

It would be nice, wouldn't it, if those who still send food waste to landfill had to pay more in council tax than those of us who avoid food waste and compost the unavoidable bits, or dispose of them in their food waste bin.  That doesn't happen anywhere in the UK yet, as far as I'm aware, but maybe it will come!

 We can all do our bit to reduce our council tax bill:

  • by reducing the amount of food we waste,
  • by disposing of the unavoidable food waste in a compost bin or the local council's food waste bin,
  • by encouraging friends, family and neighbours to do the same!
So, if you haven't already signed up to Zero Waste Week, why not give it a go.  And don't forget to talk about what you learn, the things you try out and the money you save!

I plan to photograph and weigh my food waste caddy every day.  I hope it won't look too grim so I can post it on here!

Monday lunchtime, the food waste caddy contains
 two banana skins and three tea bags.

My fridge is rammed full of food, so it will be a challenge this week.  But we'll see.  Bring on the Zero Waste Week challenge!