Catchy title huh? The season of excessive consumption is now upon us (Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!), so I thought it would be timely to share my top tips to reduce food waste at this time, every time, and at any time of the year. Not only does reducing food waste have environmental and lots of other benefits it also saves money, which means more funds for the cookbook jar. Wohoo! And, because I don’t have any pictures of wasted food (after all, why would I?!) I’ve accompanied this post with a picture of lots of lovely, fresh, vibrant vegetables that I took a couple of years ago at the San Francisco Ferry Building Market. I was so completely bowled over by the overwhelming choice and lushness of fresh food that I took lots of pictures of vegetables. You should be thankful I have only included one here.
I should point out that these are the things I do and they’ve worked out pretty well for me so far. You can get lots more ideas from the Love Food Hate Waste website: https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/
- Make friends with your freezer
In the fight against food waste your freezer is going to be one of your biggest allies. You’ll see my old friend the freezer cropping up a few more times in this list. Spend some time getting to know it. What does it like, what doesn’t it like, how can it help you? In the early days of our relationship I’m afraid I had to get myself a manual; freezers can be complicated creatures. I’ve referred to my ‘How to freeze’ book on many occasions and it’s got me out of a few pickles. Did you know you can freeze mushrooms raw (after a brief wipe to remove the dirt) and then throw them into a soup or stew straight from the freezer? Some things don’t freeze so well; milk for one does not take kindly to freezing. Freezing creates ice crystals which burst the milk fat globules making it watery on defrosting which will affect its ability to do what you want it to. Find out what you can freeze, how you can freeze it and then how you can use it afterwards.
- Plan your meals and eat your plan
I’m a planner. I don’t usually improvise on my food shop. Actually I rarely improvise (not at all in fact). So, I decide what I’m making which involves a happy, contented browse through the books. I check what I’ve already got in the kitchen and I make my shopping list of things I need. I love meal planning. It genuinely makes me happy to look through recipes and plan what delicious meals I’m going to cook during the week. Of course sometimes plans change, in which case my other super awesome strategies (see especially no. 4) show their strength.
- Be a savvy shopper
I avoid impulse buys unless I know what I’m going to do with it or it’s going straight in the freezer or it has a good shelf life like cans of beans. Although why you would want to impulse buy beans I don’t know. I used to do a weekly shop, as in 7 days worth of food at a time. But plans change during the week, we might eat out, one meal might stretch for two days or perhaps I just wanted marmite on toast for tea. Inevitably, I’d have a surplus of food at the end of the week, and I would find myself in a race against time. I’m actually quite pleased to see a bare and (almost) empty fridge. If it starts to get a bit full I start breaking out in cold sweats every time I go in there for the milk to make a cup of tea. Now I shop little and often, 3 or 4 days at a time, sometimes not even that if I’m not very organised. If plans change I incorporate anything that’s left over into meals for the next few days. It all starts in the shop. Sensible shopping means less waste.
- Become the master in your own kitchen!
You must be an efficient force to be reckoned with! You don’t leave food lying around for a couple of days before deciding what to do with it. Bread goes straight in the freezer. I toast it from frozen and if I need it out for sandwiches I get a couple of slices out to defrost the day before. Know your dates! Don’t let things get past their best so that it’s too late to freeze. Avoid panic freezing if at all possible. Sensible and clever portioning is essential! If you’re going to freeze things you need to make sure you freeze in handy meal size portions. If you freeze it together you cook it together unless you can figure out how to prise it apart without breaking anything or requiring medical assistance. It’s no good freezing together enough food to feed ten people when you just need to feed four.
- Love your leftovers
Sometimes I intentionally make more than I need for one meal so I can freeze the other half, use the whole of something instead of the half the recipe requires or save on cooking for the next day. As much as I like, no love, to cook sometimes it’s nice to have a break from it every now and again. And sometimes it’s a happy coincidence that I have leftovers. Love your leftovers! If I buy a whole celeriac but will only use half of it I make sure I have some ideas lined up for what I can do with the rest. This strategy is more useful for food that spoils quickly like bags of green things or open packets of stuff. If I don’t have any ideas at the time I’ll freeze and, with the item held in suspended animation, I can peruse ideas at my leisure and just take my time. No rushing, just how I like it.
If you’ve got any great tips that work for you I’d love to hear them. I’m always on the look out for ideas to reduce food waste and grow the cookbook fund.