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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Invitation to contribute your food waste recipes for my next book

I will be writing to fellow Food Waste Champions over the next few weeks inviting contributions for my next book all about food waste.

When I interviewed the head of waste management at my local council while researching my book 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free he said as a parting comment following our lengthy and inspiring chat:

"Start with food waste.  It's food waste that is the most important thing that we need to reduce."

Well in a way, I did. The first chapter of my book is all about food waste.  That was in 2012.  At the time, the latest published figures showed that in the UK alone household were wasting 8,000,000 tonnes of food and drink in a year.  That means one third of a tonne wasted on average by every household in Britain.

Some facts and figures from my first book

Then, of course, there's all the waste before it gets to our homes, which raises the total to 15 million tonnes. Yet still one in eight people in the world go to bed hungry. We have a serious problem here. And we know it.

How did this happen and what are we going to do about it?

This is going to be the subject of my next book and I am going to enlist the help of the many wonderful people who are working to change this and revolutionize our food industry and our food habits.

If you are one of those people, I will be getting in touch soon. If you know someone who could contribute who you think I may not yet know, please tell me and put me in touch. If you could contribute please let me know. You don't need to wait for an invitation, just get in touch. I will be collecting 101 ways to reduce your food waste. There will be yummy recipes and top tips. Let's do it. Get your top tip ready to share.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016


Last week I was invited to speak at the Discovery Communities Live event at The Silk Mill in Derby - an event organised by YearHere in conjunction with Sainsbury's #WasteLessSaveMore campaign and the town of Swadlincote.

I decided that the most appropriate thing I could talk about was my experience of taking part in Zero Waste Week back in September 2013, when it was all about reducing food waste.  So I took a look back at my blog posts for the week to remind me about why I took part, what I did and what I learnt from it.

It was an enlightening experience reading back over past blog posts and it really highlighted how much my family has changed behaviour over the years and managed to create lasting waste reduction habits. I wish I'd counted the number of times I asked myself: "Did we really do that?"

One of my fellow speakers, Chris King, who is photographing and documenting the people and organisations who are tackling the food waste problem, asked me what was the worst food waste I've ever seen and immediately I thought about one of the images in the slides I was going to show to accompany my talk - my cheese drawer from 2013.

The seriously mature cheese collection in my fridge
 at the start of Zero Waste Week 2013
One of the things I found so useful about Zero Waste Week, was that it got me thinking about why I wasted food.  I realised that I was the only person in my family who ate any cheese other than cheddar so decided there was no point in buying an array of cheeses when I had friends for dinner as the cheese would generally end up like the picture above. So I changed my buying habits and bought a couple of different cheddars for my cheese selection. It was a simple decision to make. Several years later I find that Senior Daughter has developed a taste for Brie and Camembert, so now I can add another variety knowing it won't get wasted. But still, I keep it simple and just offer a very limited choice.

Another big change I made to my buying habits also revolves around parties.  If we had a summer get-together we used to invite people to bring whatever meat they wanted to cook on the barbecue. Generally what would happen is that every couple/family would bring meat enough for three families - either because they couldn't decide what they fancied to eat - or they were overtaken with a generosity of spirit - or maybe both.  It was a food waste disaster every time - well in fact more than that - it was a waste disaster altogether alien to our Zero Waste  lifestyle.  Again we learnt to simplify the offer.  We now provide just sausages and burgers - locally made from local meat.  We tell guests they don't need to bring anything, which saves them time and money, and saves me from the abundance of packaging and wasted food.  I take my cake boxes to the butchers so what I buy goes straight into those with no plastic bags. The burgers get cooked from frozen a few at a time as and when there are people wanting them.  The sausages are bought fresh, so that any spares can be frozen (in family sized quantities and used from the freezer). Again we only cook a few at a time. This way very little extra is cooked - and it is usually all eaten during the evening or put away for breakfast the next day.  Simple and high quality is the rule and it works.

Several people said this picture resonated with them after my talk.
It was clearly food for thought!

As with a lot of times when I talk at events I am often asked what my children think of my/our Zero Waste lifestyle and the Discovery Communities Live event was no exception.  It is really now that my children are making their own way and their own lives that I am really seeing the impact of life without a bin. We regularly have discussions about how to use up ingredients and I frequently get photos of their creations as they make the most of their food. I really hope that the work of Swadlincote and the other towns that have been working on innovative food waste projects as part of the #WasteLessSaveMore campaign can reach families and young people to inspire the kinds of conversations I am lucky enough to have with my daughters. We must engage with our teenagers on the subject of wasting less over the next few years. We need to move away from seeing food as a low value disposable commodity stacked high on a supermarket shelf, to something of great importance to our health and social well-being, that deserves the time for a conversation about where it has come from, who has made it and how, and at what cost to the planet.  We need to love our food and care about how it is produced and we need to be doing that whether we are 9, 19 or 90.  Let's take time to talk about what we put on our table and why.  A great place to start (or just to carry on the conversation) could be to sign up to join Zero Waste Week 2016 and involve the whole family.  Lots of people who were at the Discovery Communities Live event last Tuesday have signed up already.  I hope lots more will do so over the coming weeks and months, so we can carry on the conversations started and turn some of those conversations into actions.

There were many innovative ideas shared at the event, lots of ideas that were taken away by food waste reduction champions, by people from local councils, by entrepreneurs and by representatives from Sainsbury's.  The highlight of the day, for me, was the delicious food on offer made from food that would be otherwise wasted.  The Real Junk Food Project made a wonderful lunch from food that would have been wasted.  There were several delicious samples from food producers who were taking otherwise waste produce and creating something yummy from it.

Here's some of the delicious food and drink available at the 'Discovery Zone' - all products that are made from ingredients that might have otherwise been wasted.  All this shows just how much we could be doing to make the most of the food we produce and the carbon footprint that it takes.