Not quite using it up for zero waste week
Welcome to the second part of our zero waste week food waste challenge. Earlier this week we introduced you to Sarah, our Waste Minimisation Co-ordinator, who has spent the last week keeping track of what she does every day to make the most of her food shop.
She’s already shared with you how she shopped and stored her shopping to try and avoid food waste.In this article she tells us about the portion problem and a few oops moments for the week.
Remember, it’s not too late for you to sign up on the Zero Waste Week website, challenging yourself to save money by reducing food waste! Even if you’re reading this on 8th September make a pledge today and do something next week.
Over to Sarah…
My portion problem
You know from mealtimes in your home how everyone has a different sized appetite and the amount they eat changes from day to day. Sometimes it feels like you can’t win when you’re the one cooking or the person who clears up at the end of the dinner when you see food left on plates or the “I’m still hungry” or “Too full to move” grumbles emerge.
The majority of food is thrown away because too much is prepared, too much is cooked or too much is served. This week presented me with a couple of dilemmas about preparing and cooking too much. It’s so easy to say ‘prevention is better than cure’ and that is really and truly the best thing to do but the best laid plans don’t always work out!
Day 1 of my zero waste week left us with far too much curry and rice leftover. Homemade curry is one of my favourite dishes because the amount of herbs and spices can be adapted to my own (quite wimpy) taste buds – I spend a lot of time in restaurants checking how spicy the curry is before ordering. However, because my husband and I have different favourites for curry he cooked up a medium spicy chicken curry for him and a mild salmon one for me
The result – lots and lots of extra curry. We did know there would be extra but didn’t appreciate just how many extra portions of curry needed to be frozen. I am a bit of a plastic container hoarder – we’ve got ice cream tubs, specially bought containers that stack nicely in freezer drawers and containers that in their former life delivered takeaway to our door. It’s also just as well that we’ve managed to fit in an extra under the counter freezer otherwise every meal during zero waste week would have been curry!
It’s really easy to freeze meals you make yourself. Whether you’ve got curry, spaghetti bolognaise, lasagne, risotto or almost anything else just divide it in to portions, put it in a container which you have labelled and once it has cooled down store in the freezer. If you leave it as one big amount it takes longer to defrost and once it has thawed you can’t re-freeze it so have to eat it for however many days or throw it away. Forgetting to write on the box what’s inside could also create waste as you defrost what you think is casserole but end up eating curry with your vegetables. My mum enjoys tell me the story of the home-made chicken pie that turned out to be fruit, doesn’t sound too bad to me but it could ruin your dinner party plans!
So that’s the curry taken care of but what about the rice? Here’s the prevention tip – measure out rice using mugs and drinking glasses. One standard mug filled with dry rice should feed 4 adults with average appetites, but this might not suit you. Use trial and error to find out what size mug or glass works for you and if you don’t get it right first, second or third time then freeze the extra!
Spaghetti is another food that’s difficult to measure. Until I started promoting Love Food Hate Waste and found out that spaghetti measurers exist I used to take a handful from the packet, put it in the pan and then decided it wasn’t enough so added more. You’ve guessed what I’m going to say now haven’t you, because you’ve probably done it once or twice! Lots of extra spaghetti that we couldn’t eat and was thrown away. Whilst I now know that spaghetti can be used instead of noodles, I think that a measurer is the better plan, anyone who comes to see us at events or invites us to give a talk to their group can get one for free from us .
I always have spaghetti or linguine in the house because, like pasta, you can add it to any sauce for a quick and easy dinner. The spaghetti measurer came out this week as I used some of the mince I’d bought to make bolognaise for one dinner and 2 lunches (this was deliberately planned in advance!). I used the 2 person portion measure for 2 of us and there was enough spaghetti left over for my lunch later in the week even though when we normally use it that amount is perfect. Guess we weren’t feeling very hungry that day – goes to show the importance of asking ‘how hungry are you?’ before starting to cook.
My eating out portion confession
I get particularly annoyed when I leave food when we eat out because it’s really easy to see how much I’ve paid and can work out how much money has been wasted as well as seeing the food. It’s very rare to be able to ask for smaller portions in restaurants, everyone gets the same size meal and the portions seem to vary between places.
On Friday I ate out with the rest of the waste prevention team and I couldn’t finish the rice with my meal. When dinner arrived I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat it all and did ask anyone if they wanted some rice, but was told I had to eat everything, if I didn’t I would be setting a bad example for everyone. I did the walk of shame in the restaurant because I didn’t ask to take my half portion of rice home – you can usually ask to take unfinished meals home – a total of £1.50 of food wasted.
A few oops moments from the week
Accidents do happen and this week brought a few I’m confessing to.
At the supermarket checkout I realised I’d left my re-usable bags in the car. I keep them in the car so I don’t forget to take them with me but on this occasion that didn’t help. After getting a rather strange look from the couple behind me in the queue I put all the shopping back in the trolley without bags and stood in the car park to pack it in.
After the first few days my meal planning stopped, back into my bad habits, so for lunch on Friday we had a use it up lunch of crackers, almost mouldy cottage cheese, naan bread (with the 2 bits of mould removed) and the Easter eggs I still haven’t finished.
A bunch of coriander had a bit of an accident in our fridge, bought for the curry there was no way we could eat the whole amount, I don’t think we’ve ever been able to use up everything in one of those packets. By the end of the week it was looking a little slimy (no I didn’t add any kitchen towel this time) and by Monday it looked a little worse but it’s now hanging up to dry out after we watched the new Jamie Oliver series Save with Jamie on Channel 4 and he gave a few tips to avoid throwing away herbs.
Our fridge was a bit too cold this week, you should keep a fridge cooler than 5oC but it appears closer to zero isn’t good for cucumbers. This lovely photo shows the colour it went before I’d had chance to eat any of it. Even though it looked bad I decided to try it because I didn’t want to confess to throwing it all away and happily it tasted fine.
And now it’s over
I should have kept a food waste diary (download your own – 7 day food waste diary) for the week so I can see exactly what parts of food left the house. As well as trying not to throw away any food I also made sure I kept the peelings separate to go on our new compost heap and that is looking quite healthy with banana skins and apple cores.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my week and find some of the tips helpful. It would be great to hear tips from you so please get in touch – send West London Waste an email, post on our Facebook page or tweet us @westlondonwaste.