Using it up for Zero Waste Week
Last week we told you about our pledge to support Zero Waste Week (2 – 8th September), our pledge was to tell everyone we can about zero waste and reducing food waste. We could just give you lots of tips on Twitter (and we will do that), but we also want to bring you a personal view of food waste.
Sarah, our Waste Minimisation Co-ordinator spent the last week keeping track of what she does every day to make the most of her food shop. You’ll journey with her to the shops, explore the fridge, the store cupboards and find out about her limited cooking skills. All to find out how well she did making sure food doesn’t end up in the bin at home.
It’s not too late for you to make a pledge, sign up on the Zero Waste Week website! Even if you’re reading this on 8th September make a pledge today and do something next week.
My personal food waste challenge
For the last 3 years I’ve been learning lots about Love Food Hate Waste. I know I use some of the tips I’ve learned from my job, from the West London residents met at events and I’ve learned lots from my friends and family too. In fact, I never realised how much my friends loved cooking until I started sharing the storage tips and recipe ideas I’d seen at work which they seemed to already know and were surprised I didn’t! But I also know there are more things I could do.
Preparing for no food waste!
I was determined to start the week being organised and applying as many of the things I know I should do as possible. The first step was the shopping. It’s been over a week since I last visited the shops and whilst I am the one who does the buying and carries it home I am not the person who cooks most of the meals. A list is the best way we’ve found to make sure we don’t eat the same thing every day and have all the ingredients we need for the ‘Chef’ – though it doesn’t always work resulting in some rather random meal combinations! Our list is an online one, I tend to add items to it as I finish them but before heading out I also have to ask the two other adults in the house, check the cupboards and fridge. As a special effort for this week we had a quick plan of our meals ( 7 day meal planner (1823 downloads) ) for the next few days and added stuff to the list. We don’t normally do that – though I know we should.
On Saturday I headed out with my list and I was determined to stick to it. I use a variety of shops, including a local butcher and greengrocer, and my local supermarket. By the time I got to the checkout in the last shop, the list had more items on it than when I left home (including some that only got added remotely just before I got to the checkout), I’d found at least 5 items that we needed but hadn’t figured out we’d needed when making the list but I had only bought 4 items not on the list – I’m still rather proud of that!
Thinking consciously about food waste did influence how I shopped a bit more than usual though:
- When buying bagged salad leaves I spotted the bags had different use by dates on them and sorted through them to find the one that was furthest in the future. Fresh salad and veg are the most wasted foods, it’s surprising how much salad fits in a bag and I do get a bit bored of salad for 5 days in a row so that extra day is very helpful.
- Usually I can’t be bothered to fight my way through the reduced items section, but this week I made a special effort and was rewarded with 7 pieces of fish (which was on my list) at very reduced price – 50p cheaper than buying 6 pieces bagged together so a total saving of £2.25. All of them were put in the freezer when the shopping was unpacked, to be defrosted when we want to eat them.
- I couldn’t resist buy one get one free (or reduced price on the second one) offers on granola bars, pizza and frozen veggie meals. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of these offers as long as you know you’ll eat the second one and know how to store it to keep it fresh. In this case the granola bars have a best before date and they last ages and both the pizzas and ready meals will be kept in the freezer until an evening when we’re all too tired to cook.
It’s an occupational hazard for me to spot things in shops that raise awareness of food waste and I found 3 things on this trip. A sign by the frozen chicken in the supermarket about leftovers, the recipes and tips in the supermarket magazine and the butcher is always telling me dishes we could cook with what I buy and he has a ready supply of recipe leaflets – which I keep refusing because I’ve already got copies.
I’m always tempted to sit down straight away after shopping and leave the unpacking to later but to reduce food waste that’s not an option. Also during the week I had to make sure I didn’t leave things on the side and put them away including the leftovers. A few of the things I did to store the food to help it last longer:
- I bought 1 kilogram of minced beef and 500g chicken, these were divided into smaller amounts (250g each for the chicken and around 300g for the beef) and some portions frozen. The recipes I use seem to require 500g of meat, meat is expensive so I try to add extra veg and use less meat and freeze it in smaller portions to make sure I do.
- Most of the fruit and veg went in the fridge because it keeps longer, except for the bananas which would go brown quickly in the fridge. One of my favourite facts is that keeping apples in the fridge they’ll keep for an extra 2 weeks, I don’t like cold apples though so when I take them to work I have to take them out of the fridge the night before.
- I bought some reduced price veg at the greengrocers, most of the cherry tomatoes were okay to eat but a few had been squashed and were going mouldy, these needed to be removed before the mould spread and were put on our newly created compost heap. Stored in a sealed plastic container (a washed out ice cream tub) in the fridge the 26 cherry tomatoes bought for 25p only had another 3 casualties until they were finished up on Thursday.
- When the salad leaves were opened on Tuesday, I added a small bit of kitchen towel to the open bag to absorb some of the moisture to help stop the leaves go slimy. Most of us have had a bad experience with leaves in plastic packaging going slimy quite quickly, whether it’s herbs or salad they never last as long as I think they should. A lot of work has been done by food manufacturers to develop special plastic packaging that helps food last longer rather but I still don’t know how to identify that packaging so I leave the food in the bag but add the kitchen roll just in case.
- Naan bread and 2 loaves were on my list this week. I know not to store bread in the fridge as this makes it go stale but we don’t have a bread bin either so our bread is kept in the freezer. Bread is taken out and toasted straight from the freezer, if we want sandwiches they’re made on frozen bread or slices are taken out to defrost the night before.
- Another occupational hazard is being given presents that relate to work. Over the last few years I’ve unwrapped potato and onion storage bags, plastic storage containers and an onion saver (I’ll explain later in the week). The potatoes I buy are put in the potato bag, it’s a thick bag that’s it lined with black fabric to keep out light. We don’t eat many potatoes so they tend to sprout before we get round to eating them, keeping them in this bag helps then last longer as it keeps them in a cool, dark place.
That’s enough about my shopping habits! But planning is a great first step to help you reduce food waste. With only 4 tomatoes as waste from the shopping trip the week isn’t off to a perfect start but I’m quite pleased about saving £5.26 on food with the reduced price items and special offers. They’ll be more savings during the week as well I hope!
To find out how the rest of the week went, check back in a few days to find out about the oops moments and a few other tips to avoid another trip to the shops because my food budget is in the bin with the food waste.