Want to tackle climate change, but not sure how to do your part? Reducing food wastage is a great way to start. In this blog, Sophie Foreman, Restless Development’s Advocacy and Capacity-Building Coordinator, using her love of cooking to outline six techniques for reducing food wastage and to save you some pennies.
“Waste not, want not” – *cue dramatic eye roll*. A familiar saying while I was growing up, pushing the last remaining peas around my dinner plate, trying to hide them in my mash potato. Or maybe I was ‘too ill’ to eat any more mushrooms but definitely had room for pudding.
Whilst wasting a few peas every Wednesday night (fish fingers, chips and peas anybody?) isn’t going to have a massive environmental effect on the planet, the way we’re currently wasting food in our homes at scale, will.
Approximately one third of the food produced for human consumption every year (1.3 billion tonnes) gets wasted. While most of that is through the farming, production and processing, we are still responsible domestically. Consumer waste per person is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, compared to 6-11kg a year in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia.
This is clearly a massive global problem as food wastage that ends up in landfill produces large amounts of methane: a substance more damaging to the earth’s atmosphere than CO2. Not only that, but by throwing out food, you’re also throwing out all the resources (grass, water, energy) that went into growing it in the first place.
So what can we do?
We all have a mouldy bag of salad sitting at the back of the fridge (I can testify the Restless Development office does!) or a half eaten loaf of bread going stale. Luckily for you, hope is on the horizon! It is possible to become budget friendly AND planet friendly and I’ve got a few tips to help you be a Waste-reduction Warrior (patent pending), and hopefully save you a few pennies:
1. (Re-)Grow your own veg
Did you know there are plenty of vegetables that you can regrow using the stalks, leaves and stones without needing a garden?
- Potatoes: Has your potato started sprouting weird bobbly bits? Great! Cut it into pieces around 2 inches square, ensuring each piece has at least one or two bobbly bits. Plant them in soil 8 inches deep with the eye facing upward, and cover it with around 4 inches of soil, leaving the other 4 inches empty.
- Leeks and spring onions: Keep the ends of leeks and spring onions. Put in a glass of water, root down, and in a week or so, you’ll have a new plant. Change the water every few days.
- Garlic: When your garlic starts sprouting, plant a clove, root down into soil. Then it will start growing a whole new bulb!
- Avocado: For the more technical and patient, you can grow an avocado tree from its stone (I cannot claim liability for any cocktail stick-based injuries!).
2. Shun that freezer stigma
If you’ve got fresh fruit that’s starting to go off, pop it up it in a ziplock bag and freeze ready to add to smoothies.
Alternatively, buy frozen fruit and veg instead of fresh. It retains its nutrients better as it’s often frozen straight after being picked. Frozen fruit is cheaper and works amazingly for smoothies or porridge.
If you’ve not woken up to the benefit of frozen chopped onions yet, you’ve not lived! No crying, no chopping and you can put them in the pan pan straight from frozen. A-thank you!
3. Batch bake your bum off
Cooking for one? You can still buy the bulk supermarket packets and save money without having to eat chilli con carne for five days in a row. You can either portion up raw ingredients (like meat) and freeze for a later date OR make up a big pot, and save in portions in the freezer. Things that work well for this:
- Fishcakes: Freeze on a plate first so they don’t all stick together, then transfer to a container.
- Any one pot dish: Like soup, curry, chilli or bolognese
- Breakfast muffins: A great way for using up leftover fruit and veg. Just take one out of the freezer the night before. A great recipe here.
4. Use the weird bits
N-o-t-h-i-n-g is wasted, remember? Good. Here’s some more things not to waste:
- Broccoli stalk: Just peel the stalk, chop off the end and cut like a carrot. Cooks for the same time as the broccoli head.
- Butternut squash seeds: Roast these in oil, salt and pepper and add to your salads.
- Potato peel: Clean the potatoes before you peel them. Then you can use the peel to make some awesome oven baked crispy peel.
- Parmesan rind: Adds great flavour to soups and pasta sauces – just take out before you eat!
5. Recipes to clear your fridge out to
Just a couple of favourites where anything goes.
- Soup: Obvious! But you can make most veg, herbs and leftover meat work together by combining with stock, onions and (a cheeky tip from me) add some thai curry paste. Another top tip: If you’re adding leftover leaves (herbs, spinach, watercress or kale) put these in right at the end before blitzing.
- Frittata: My ultimate fridge hoover for random bits and bobs. Cook everything that needs cooking in a frying pan (bits of broccoli, leftover onion, chorizo. Add some chopped, cooked potatoes and six whisked and seasoned eggs to the pan. Cover with some grated cheese and cook on the hob for 5 mins, then transfer to the oven for about 20 mins until cooked through. Lunch for the week sorted!
Are you noticing things are starting to turn, but you don’t have time to use them up? Here’s a few handy ways I use food up.
- Make pickle, relishes and jams: Rubies in the Rubble are a great UK-based social enterprise who do this from supermarket leftovers!
- Chillies starting to go wrinkly?: Hang them from the stalk by a piece of string. In a few days you’ll have dried chillies that will last for ages and can be crumbled straight into your cooking. Or…keep them whole, heat them on the stove, add a generous amount of oil and allow to infuse. Once cooled, pour into a bottle and you’ve got yourself some chilli oil to pour over pizza and pasta!
- Stale bread: So much you can do! Crumble it, bake it and store it in an airtight container = breadcrumbs for a few weeks. You can make bread and butter pudding OR you can make this awesome Italian panzanella salad. Here’s a recipe from my mate (I wish!) Jamie Oliver.
- Bananas = banana bread! The real Queen of England, Mary Berry bakes a corker here! Or you could also chop it up and add it to your ziplock smoothie bags (see point 1).
- Store food properly in the first place. A tip for herbs – treat soft herbs (parsley, mint, coriander) well when you bring them home. Take them out of the packet and keep them in a glass of water in the fridge, or the stems wrapped in damp kitchen roll. With the hard herbs (thyme, oregano), treat them the same as the chillies. Dry them out or turn them into a tasty oil. More tips here.
There are SO many other ways to use prevent food wastage, save some money and help the planet. Do you guys have any more tips? Comment below!