Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Great Food Scrap Challenge

Ohmigod just been watching the BBC’s Great British Waste Menu all about the food we waste. It is something very close to my heart as I am a useless chef but a great scrap cook. I’d like to say it’s because I am an organised and talented person but actually it’s because I am a lazy forgetful housewife who hates shopping. The number of times I just run out of food is depressing and all that’s left are the copious quantities of overgrown courgettes from the garden and eggs from the chickens plus veg and fruit of dubious origin in the back of the fridge. I kid you not but we’ve survived on just that for a whole week until the kids begged me for meat, we then killed a chicken…
The programme was great but the thoughts I took away from it were scary and I found it difficult to get my head round it. It’s all very well saying that £10bn of food is wasted every year in this country or that that families throw out 8.3 million tonnes of food waste annually. When the figures are so big it gets difficult to grasp.
The average British Household throws away £680 worth of food each year. I wanted to know what that meant so I asked Dear Charlie, who is good at numbers, in that he can work it out quicker than me (I would have got there in the end but I might not have been able to do this post for a few days…).
Now if you tack on the fact that that money is from your taxed income it actually equates to closer to £850 of your salary if you are a normal taxpayer. The average family income is some £21,500 a year. The amount of food the average family wastes equates to 4 per cent of their annual salary. Just think if you didn’t waste any food at all then you’d have an immediate “pay rise” of 4 per cent and how chuffed would you feel about that in the current economic climate!
The thing is although I loved the programme I can see why people waste food and I think it’s down to these three things:
1. People are time poor or at least feel it: how many mothers, for it is usually them, also have to hold down full time jobs? Grief! When do they get the time to shop let alone cook?
2. People don’t know how to cook, let alone shop for food: Home economics though taught in schools to a varying degree doesn’t give our children the wherewith all to understand even the basics. It is often considered a joke by pupils or something that only the ‘thickos’ do. What is so scary is that it is so crucial for everyone. And skills and recipes for frugal cooking are being lost. We are in fact losing sight of what food is really all about. To appreciate it you really do have to reconnect with the processes from growing to killing. Perhaps then we would not be so fussy about what it looks like!
3. Labelling is downright confusing. With all the media hype about food poisoning, complicated best before, use by and sell by dates it’s no wonder people just say stuff it better safe than sorry…

So I’d thought I’d share some of my top tips to stop the old wastage and save a few pennies…
1. Do a meal planner every week!
2. Forget labels and taste/smell your food to see if it’s off.
3. Use your freezer so if you have food you haven’t eaten in your fridge and it may go off pop in to freeze! Don’t forget to label your food for the freezer or you land up like me going for a lucky dip which although exciting doesn’t necessarily make you popular with the kids when you serve them garlic chicken and pears….instead of fish fingers and chips!
Here’s a couple of great websites to check out and inspire too…
http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/
http://therubbishdiet.blogspot.com/
http://www.wrap.org.uk/

9 comments:

Almost Mrs Average said...

What a programme! I've been following the work of Tristram Stuart (the bin diver who focused on waste in the supply chain) and it is totally incredible what he has uncovered. It's really about time this has been broadcast in a documentary and it was a great way of going about it to highlight the amount of waste the nation is creating both in the home and via retail.

Thanks so much for the link to my blog too. Your point about being time poor is so accurate. Over the summer holidays, due to being so busy and having sudden changes in schedules, I've made more than the odd faux pas myself. When I started the Rubbish Diet blog, the hardest thing that I found was actually cooking for a family where everyone had differing tastes and a varied range of dislikes. I think this hits many families too, so we'd have a bit of this left and a bit of that as well as a load of plate waste. I've never totally resolved that whole likes and dislikes thing...I either narrowed the menu to just include the things that everyone liked or simply served the kids slightly different food to that which my husband and I ate. I don't like doing that in particular, but at least the positive outcome has been they waste less on such occasions and the kids get intrigued enough to taste what we're having (grass is greener and all that). And if they like it, they get the option to have some on their plate, which is gradually widening their tastes and acceptance of different foods.

Do you fancy joining in with National Zero Waste Week by the way? Starts on 6th Sept. More info at www.myzerowaste.com. I'll also be talking about it and last night's on BBC Radio Suffolk on Saturday 7.35am?

Now I didn't know you were half Welsh. I'm just about to hop on a train from Bury St Edmunds to take the kids to see my mum in South Wales. It's time to remind them that they're half Welsh too ;0)

Bridget said...

I love your blog on last nights programme! What an absolute travesty, all that food going to waste. In my view the supermarkets have a lot to do with all the waste, and the strange idea that the consumer will only buy perfect looking fruit and veg. I'm sure if they put the stuff on the shelf it would sell. I hate the fact that our town does not have a proper butcher and you have to buy meat in packets in the supermarket, unsure of what the cuts are.

I don't get the time poor thing, as my Mum always worked and still found time to cook a meal (albeit not so apetising!) but I also cook from scratch every day and always have done, working full time and bringing up a family. You just have to get your priorities right and don't pander to differing tastes. I know it sounds cruel, but it works and if you can't afford to pander then there is no choice but to eat what is put in front of you.

I also agree with your domestic science theory too! Much of what I do today I remember from my domestic science lessons, how I make pastry, how I make a cake, how to make a piece of toast and boil and egg :):) But joke aside, there were some important lessons to be learnt about food in my day.

Once again, a great blog!!!

Expat mum said...

I am the Queen of leftovers for the simple reason that I hate waste. I'm getting very good at throwing meals together that are a combo of new stuff (rice or pasta) and remnants from a previous meal. Even the dog gets to sample them!

Preseli Mags said...

I missed the programme as I was away, so I'm delighted to read this. I hate wasting food and get really upset when people take the breast off a roast chicken and then throw the rest away. "Best before" dates, "sell by" and "use by" are just a guide too, but people seem to be slaves to them. Excellent post.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

You're right , of course ! We all throw far too much away . Part of the problem for a couple like us , children having left home , is that everything comes in huge packets .I don't always need a one and a half kilo bag of apples or a kilo of carrots .
Still , soup making uses up the rest of the celery or leeks and there's always apple crumble , baked apples , apple cake ..... The possibilities are endless as is Husband's appetite !

Iota said...

I was brought up to think that wasting food was one of the worst crimes. I still hate doing it. I agree re all the 'use by' dates - we're losing the skills developed over centuries, of sniffing and tasting.

As you would have guessed, it's MUCH worse here in the US. Children aren't taught to make any judgement about what to put on their plate. They pile them high, take a few bites, and then chuck the rest, and that it totally acceptable. I no longer try and persuade my kids to 'eat up everything on their plate', as we had to do as kids, as the biggest issue for them is obesity, but even so. I try an teach them to take only what they will need.

Because fridges and kitchen cupboard space is so huge, people buy in bulk, and throw away in bulk too. I hate to see it. It's really bad.

It's so awful, in a world where some people don't have enough to eat. THat's what I hate.

TheMadHouse said...

I adored this programme and have become really good at using all the things I have in the fridge. Needs must and when money is tight you do what you can. I am lucky that I have the time to cook from scratch, but our meal planner is key in my kitchen. I try and not buy too much. I used to throw out loads now it is hardly anything. We often have pot luck of fridge dinner, where I cook what is left and we share it out. Also I freeze things a lot too. I think that it is a skill that is being lost. We need to focus and not waste scarce resources which is what food should be. I think seeing it piled high in the supermarkets takes away from this

Posie Rosie said...

I missed the programme, but can relate to all that you are saying. Wow am so impressed that you could make the courgettes and eggs go so far, my kids are all so 'particular' it drives me up the wall, healthy eaters but all with very different tastes. I quite often end up cooking several meals a night, my fault entirely. As I don't live near to a shop I squirrel away in the cupboards so often have plenty in, but lack the inspiration, especially when my 'creations' are met with lots of 'yuks' from the younger members of the squad...
We tend to feed the scraps to the dogs, veg left overs to the horses and the hens get any old bread, hate throwing food in the bin.
Posie

SuperLittleMen said...

Just come across your blog and found this post very relevant. I have recently realised I am wasting far too much and it wasnt the way I was brought up, so have been on a big drive to use what I have in. Since my husband has been relocated with his job and during the week it is just me and the 2 boys, I am throwing all kinds of things together from just what I have and am amazed at how tasty it is and best of all how much my shopping bill has gone down (embarrassed to say by over half). i think my OH turning his nose up at so many things as he was brought up as a meat and 2 veg man and only ate curry for the first time at 22, and simply leaving it, over the years has knocked my confidence in doing this. No more I say and your blog has just emphasized why, I cant beleive how much we waste as a country. Tonight I decided to Spag ball, only to discover that I didnt have any tinned tomatoes or sauce. normally I would have nipped to the shop but it was too much hassle with the 2 boys so instead used stock, tomato puree, tomato ketchup and the few tomatoes I had in the fridge which I skinned, and it was once of the nicest spag bols I have done in a long time. really enjoyed this post.

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