The amount of food I waste has always been something that has made me feel uncomfortable. Not that I throw out bags full of food or anything, but most of it just seems such needless, avoidable waste. I used to feel like I was trapped in a sort of cycle where at the end of each week I’d discard leftover food and think; “okay, right, bit of a fail this week, I’ll definitely get a handle on it next week though”, and I’d feel guilty, I’d spend ages checking my shopping list to make sure it was adequate and well thought out… and then life would get in the way again and I’d end up forgetting about that bag of lettuce, or reaching for my avocado only to realise it was a big ol’ squishy mess. From rotas changing days after they were “finalised”, to last-minute plans with friends, I think we’ve all encountered a bunch of reasons why Taco-Tuesday might get disrupted. And obviously, I’m human, I still make mistakes, but this year I’ve been making a concerted effort to cut down on the amount of food I waste, and I thought I’d share some of the things that are helping me do that:
1. Baking with fruit that is “past it”
While this has definitely been causing me to eat more cake – I’m a huge fan of baking with over-ripe fruit. I’m still only making a couple of different things – but already I’ve noticed that it has basically eliminated the fruits in question from ever being wasted again! The first recipe, and my favourite thing that I bake, is the Banana Butterscotch Muffin recipe from Nigella Lawson. I tweak this a bit because I can never find the butterscotch morsels, and so I just use chocolate (white, milk and dark are all great in there), I also never fancy the faff of all the little muffin cases, so I just make one giant muffin loaf in a tin – works perfectly!
The other thing I’m prone to baking is a good old simple crumble (which I don’t have a recipe for); apples or berries that are going past it can easily be baked into a delicious after-dinner pudding.
The best thing about both of these recipes, is that the other baking supplies needed are things I keep on hand anyway – so it’s not a case of “oh, I have some bananas I need to bake with… better head out to 3 supermarkets and see if I can find these 12 ingredients I’ve never heard of”.
2. Preparing my fruit and vegetables when they arrive
I know you’ll probably have heard this one before, but I’d heard it at least 100 times before I took the advice – so I’m saying it anyway in case you’re like me!
While I don’t peel/wash/prepare every single plant-based product as soon as it crosses my kitchen threshold (well, actually, our kitchen is so small we have to store most of our food – including our fridge – in the living room, but that would have been a less clear statement), I do find for a lot of things it really is the best option. Broccoli is chopped, red onions are diced, and berries are washed and put into glass dishes. It really does encourage me to reach for things – I will 100% always chose strawberries as a snack if I don’t have to faff about with a knife and a chopping board every time, and I will always add red onion and bell peppers to my eggs if I can just tip them out of a dish and into the pan.
3. Going vegetarian
This method works two fold for me. Firstly, I was always a bit stressy about cooking with meat: wiping surfaces and dishes like mad, trying to be completely confident a chicken is cooked through and wondering if I really could eat those sausages in the fridge that I cooked two days ago. Removing meat from my diet means I no longer throw out salmon that “maybe smells a bit too fishy”, or pork chops one day past there expiration date, because it’s not worth the risk. The other benefit of a vegetarian diet, for me, has been that I’ve relaxed the structure of my meals a lot. What I mean by that, is that when I was eating meat I was cooking very distinct, complete meals – bolgnase one night, chicken curry the next – and so it was less appealing to eat the mish-mash of leftovers a couple of nights later. Now that my diet is largely plant-based, it’s so much easier to recombine some roasted veggies from last night with a bit of couscouse to make a new, tasty dish.
4. Eating several meals a week at Kinning Park Complex who use “surplus food” to prepare their meals
I initially wasn’t going to include this point in here, because I thought it was too specific and nobody else would have access to a place like this. While, unfortunately, not enough places like this *do* exist, one of the charities that Kinning Park Complex work with is Fare Share – and they are a national charity here in the UK helping get surplus food to more than 1,000 locations around the country, so it’s definitely worth looking into. For me, eating my meals at Kinning Park Complex not only gives me the ability to support a cause that I believe in, in helping reduce food waste, but it’s also allowed me to try so many different types of food, and to enjoy them in the company of amazing people from all over the world.
5. Making pizzas from scratch
Those who know me will probably know that pizza is my favourite food. Hands down. No Contest. Fortunately, not only have I been able to continue eating pizza now that I’ve transitioned to being a vegetarian – if anything, it’s actually *better* now that I have a fridge extra-full with veggies. Got two leftover mushrooms at the end of the week? A handful of sweetcorn? A morsel of feta? Chuck them all on a pizza. I’ve been enjoying making dough and sauce from scratch – to get things *exactly* the way I want them – but of course, you can also use a cheese and tomato store bought pizza and just top it yourself if that’s easier. This option might not sound like much, but as I said at the start of the post – food waste isn’t always about whole bags of this or tubs of that – it’s about all the little bits we just never get round to finishing, and honestly, most things can be put on a pizza!
There we go, that’s five of the steps I’ve taken recently to try and reduce the amount of food I’m wasting. Some are more elaborate than others, and some are healthier than others *cough* I have a banana muffin loaf in the oven as I’m typing this *cough*, but I hope that you found this post useful all the same. If you have any tips or tricks for reducing food waste, please do share them down in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!