Our month of joining the Reduce Food Waste Bandwagon has paid off. Publicising our decision to reduce food waste has been a great motivator and we’ve learnt from the experience.
Firstly there is lots of food we can easily waste; part jars, leftovers, stale bread, imperfect fruit. Secondly we don’t actually waste that much. I’m pleasantly surprised! Our main bad behavior is overzealous fruit purchasing when things are cheap and potato peel. I did think about freezing peel to add to veggie soups but I know I’m never going to want to eat such a soup. Instead we’ve been more vigorous about cooking peel for the dogs, cat and hens. We don’t always peel our potatoes. But, sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind, forget about fibre and vitamin C and eat some creamy mash!
We compost anything the animals won’t eat. So the only food waste that exits Casa Dirty Boots and heads for landfill are occasional cooked bones. That’s not perfect but its not bad. Those cooked bones have always first been used to make some stock for our freezer and completely scraped of any scrap of sustenance. And we should use reusable shopping bags when we buy the food we need so say goodbye to plastic shopping bags.
Ways to Reduce Food Waste
- Decide from today that you will reduce food waste.
- Tell people you are reducing food waste – they will encourage and check up on your progress (or blog about it – it worked for me!). And, if you tell people they may have some extra uses for any food you may waste – their pets and their compost heaps all need feeding too.
- Agree a time-frame during which you will monitor closely how you do.
- During that time record what you waste and what you save.
- Get yourself a compost bin/heap/pile and use it!
- Clean out your cupboards, freezer and fridge. Throw those things already past consumption and make plans for those things coming close to it. I found some rather tasty treats such as a stash of dried figs and extra sun-dried tomatoes I’d forgotten all about.
- Exercise portion control. I’ve always cooked enough for extra people but by being firm with myself and measuring more ingredients I’m getting much better at just cooking enough for us. It might mean weighing things more often to work out how much you really need to prepare, but do the work now and you’ll cook correct portions for ever.
- Be decisive. Any leftovers should be allocated a role – will you eat them tomorrow for lunch? If yes fine, if maybe, forget it. Maybe tends to mean no, so freeze them.
- Use up leftovers. By this I mean beware of developing a freezer full of part meals you never get round to eating. Whenever I put something in ours I take something else out.
- Be realistic. If you didn’t enjoy the new stew recipe first time around are you ever going to eat all those leftovers of it? Call it a mistake and ditch it – to dogs, compost heap or wherever, then move on.
- Don’t neglect pets. Our cat loved my recent chick pea stew disaster so I saved on some pet food. I wouldn’t give animals lots of processed foods but anything homemade tends to be low in sugar and salt and perfectly acceptable. If you’re worried, label the leftovers ‘for pets’ and just give them a small amount, substituting for a little of their usual food over several days.
- Check what is actually in your cupboards, freezer and fridge before you go shopping. This was one of my faults particularly when we relied more on store bought produce. Don’t assume you need tomatoes because you usually do. Take five minutes and check. Which leads me on to:
- Take a list when shopping. That way you won’t buy things you don’t actually need yet.
- Don’t buy special offers on perishables without first deciding what you will do with them. If the apples are really cheap today don’t buy them unless you need them or are happy to make some chutney, sauce or a pie with them this week.
- Get creative. Repeatedly eating leftovers is pretty boring. Think of ways to reuse leftovers differently. Rice salads are good in omelets, frittatas, soups and tians. Anything tomato sauce based, tends to be a good candidate for chilli. Fish can go into fish cakes. Dried bread is great in sauces such as romesco.
- Don’t eat too repetitively. If you’re forced to eat the same thing for days on end (no matter how good it is) you’ll feel hard done by and maybe that this whole ‘reduce food waste’ bandwagon is pretty tough. Generally if I can’t completely recreate a leftover food item I don’t eat it the following day. Eat it two days later. That way you’ve enjoyed lots of other lovely food in between and can thoroughly enjoy your second serving of curry or whatever.
- Keep checking your fridge and cupboards regularly for items needing to be consumed soon.
- Label things. Much as I convince myself I’ll remember what something is, once it is buried in the deep freeze it is too easy to lose track. While you’re at, date the labels too.
- Don’t worry too much. Have ‘lazy days‘ where you just eat whatever you feel like. On the weekend I don’t worry about this all so much, and tend to just make the food I want to enjoy. Then on the ‘good days’ you can be ruthless about finding a recipe to use up whatever mixture of food you need to consume soon.
- Turn this into a lifestyle. I have always hated wasting food but I have always wasted it. Part jars of beans and opened tins of tomatoes have always been things I’ve lost track of in our fridge. The new and improved Mrs Dirty Boots will not let the fridge beat her! This is all turning into automatic behaviour – part of preparing food and clearing up. We don’t need to think about it so much.
For us, the most important thing has been just making the decision to reduce food waste. I didn’t really know how much food we wasted – I didn’t think we were too bad, but until I started noting down things I had no real idea. Now I know how much food we wasted at the start and how much food we hope to waste in future (none, for the record).
It’s so easy to lose track of things but this experience made me ‘put my mind’ to the job of stopping our food waste. I had a time-frame and a method of monitoring progress (here).
I am pretty confident that I won’t return to my habit of thinking maybe or probably we’ll eat such and such before it walks away! I definitely will be keeping to the rule that the morning after I created some leftovers I’ll decide to definitely use them today/tomorrow or stash them in the freezer.
We will continue to boil up any veggie scraps such as cabbage stems and potato peels. And, I shall continue to see feeding the animals such things as not a waste. We’ll carry on grinding baked eggshells for the animals too. But, I won’t fall back into the habit of giving the animals most of our leftovers. I will continue reducing leftovers available and ensuring we use all but the most ghastly ourselves.
Mostly though, I’ll know that reducing food waste is perfectly possible, all you need to do is make the decision to do so.
For a more self sufficient future