Guest Blog - Reducing Your Food Waste by Sarah Alder, Kitchen Titbits
'Oh, I just chucked half a cabbage I bought last week. I didn’t think about making that.'
'I didn’t know you could freeze pitta. I ate two and threw the rest away.'
'I was going to cook [name your dish] and then something came up, so I ended up just binning the ingredients.'
'I’ve got loads of bits and pieces in the fridge but no idea what to do with it all. I’ll probably end up just going shopping again.'
Sound familiar? Many of us are guilty of food waste, in fact, according to recent figures £15 billion of household food is needlessly wasted in the UK each a year. Just think of the impact this is having on your bank balance. With a little effort and thought, you could not only be financially better off but help the environment too. Win, win!
So, what can you easily do to reduce your food waste? You could go all out and attempt zero food waste, using every last morsel, but I said what can you easily do? Let’s start, right now, with a few steps in the right direction.
Using up leftovers and ingredients
When faced with bits and pieces to use up, it’s good to start thinking outside the box. With a bit of imagination, leftovers can be even more delicious than the first time round and scraps of veg left in the fridge can be turned into hearty soups, fulfilling frittatas or summery salads and wintry slaws. Use up as much as you can before doing another shop.
Also think about using up every part of or as much of an ingredient as is edible. Do you need to peel potatoes or carrots, for example, or could you just give them a scrub? What about broccoli or cauliflower stalks? Could you slice them finely and add to stir fries or use them for soups and stews? Or, how about once you've squeezed a lemon or lime for your recipe, drop it in a jug or glass with some water, or even use some mint stalks and the ends of a cucumber.
Storing food appropriately; in labelled airtight containers, herbs wrapped in damp tea towels, cheese wrapped in wax paper, or freezing, will ensure the food you buy lasts a reasonable amount of time.
Spend a little time after doing your shopping to portion up meat, fish or bread before freezing. Going for smaller portions gives you most flexibility when you want to use it and reduces the risk of waste.
Freeze anything you can’t use as soon as you can. The remainder of a tin of blitzed tomatoes, chopped chillies, ginger, herbs, cheese, milk, leftover meat or additional portions of curries, chillies etc. You’d be surprised at just how much can freeze.
You can buy some frozen fish and seafood at a fraction of the price of fresh. For dishes such as fish pies and fishcakes, frozen white fish, salmon and smoked haddock work brilliantly.
Not all fruit and vegetables freeze well, but as with the fish, there are some you can get away with, you just need to think about how best to use them.
Vegetables: think fritters, chowders/soups, cauliflower and broccoli cheese, pasta bakes, stir-fries and curries.
Fruit: berries for porridge, pancakes and desserts, peeled and sliced overripe bananas can be turned into ice cream, muffins or smoothies, stew apples and pears for a pie or crumble, puree strawberries ready to pour over ice cream or stir through natural yoghurt.
The right amount
Get to know what a portion size looks like, how much you can eat and how much the people you’re feeding can eat then you know how much to buy and how much to prepare. Unless you are deliberately making more than you need so you have leftovers or are batch cooking, shop for and cook the right amount.
Food waste audit
If you’d like to see just how much food is going to waste in your house and put in place some steps to reduce it, then you might think about doing a food waste audit. Over a period of seven days, whenever you throw food out that could have been eaten, make a note of it – what was the food, how much of it did you throw out, why did you throw it out and can you estimate the cost of the food you threw out? At the end of the week, see if you can identify some trends in your audit and plan to make some changes.
Getting into the habit of making a meal plan will help you save time and money as well as reduce stress and waste. Planning ahead makes it easier to think about the ingredients that need using up. All you need to do then is make a shopping list and stick to it!
Once you’ve made a start, and the changes you make become second nature, it’ll be easy to build on what you’re doing to take it even further.
Thank you to Jane for allowing me to share this post with you and to give you a flavour of what Kitchen Titbits is all about. I’m looking forward to collaborating with Jane on a herbal tea making workshop in November. The event will bring together her holistic approach to good health and tea making knowledge with my food waste reduction know-how. Tickets for the event are now available.
For more help, recipe inspiration and ideas for reducing your food waste and saving money on your food bills, you can find me Kitchentitbits over on Facebook as @KitchenTitbits.Sarah or on Instagram and Twitter as @kitchentitbits
Why I Cycle
I started cycling in 2011 when I still lived in London. My wonderful Dad was dying from terminal skin cancer and I found the months leading up to and following his death very difficult. Put simply my Dad was my best friend and I couldn’t understand a world where he didn’t exist. Unsurprisingly, I often had a hard time keeping things together. Whenever I was left to my own thoughts I would break down and cry. This mostly happened when I was commuting to and from work on the bus or the tube which meant that I was constantly trying to pull myself together and not draw attention to myself.
So I got to thinking about how I could overcome this daily tearful commute and my answer was to buy a bicycle and start cycling to and from work. I learnt to ride when I was a child during the summer holidays when we’d visit my great aunt in Norfolk and every summer I’d spend a few days wobbling around on an old bicycle with my cousins but outside of those few occasions I never rode a bike let alone owned one.
As you might imagine, I approached my new commute with some trepidation. Luckily I only lived about 3.5miles from my office so I set off on the first day from my house feeling excited and terrified in equal measure. The first journey took me about an hour as I think I did as much walking as cycling; I was nowhere confident enough to attempt to turn right so was constantly getting off my bike and walking across zebra and pelican crossings and then waiting for ages before having the courage to rejoin the traffic. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how sore my bum would be after riding a bike. It was agony getting back on my bike to go home, it almost put me off cycling altogether but I persevered after all it was either crying on public transport or a bruised bum so I opted for the latter.
It only took a month or so for my confidence to grow and soon I was turning right and making it all the way up steep hills without having to get off and walk. It wasn’t without a few hiccups along the way – there was the morning that I stopped at a red light next to a bus when I suddenly felt myself slowly falling to my left and in so doing knocked another cyclist off their bike much to the amusement of the passengers on the bus. I realised that I had simply forgotten to put my feet on the ground when I stopped and had slowly and uncontrollably crashed to the ground. Luckily no one was hurt, other than my ego. Then there was the time I got on my bike to return home; I hopped on, started to cycle and cried aloud several times, ‘ow!, ow!’. I couldn’t understand why my knees were bashing the handle bars as I pedalled, this had never happened before. . . then I realised that my front wheel was facing in the wrong direction at which point I became really confused as to why the bike wasn’t going backwards if the wheel was facing the wrong way... Yes, sometimes I can be that stupid. On a positive note it made me laugh out loud which was a vast improvement to bursting into tears.
In the years since then I have continued to cycle whenever possible and I’ve found that as well as keeping me fit, it has helped to combat stress. Before I became a full time therapist I was a project manager in the NHS and I found that cycling was a great way to leave the stresses of work behind; as soon as I got on my bike my mind was focussed on my journey and no longer brooding on the ups and downs of work.
What I love most about my cycle rides is that I get to see the world from a different viewpoint; through parks and playing fields, alongside rivers and allotments, in-between houses and down old railway lines all of which give me the opportunity to soak up the beauty of nature. It never fails to lift my spirits no matter what time of year or whatever the weather I’m always struck by the beauty of the natural world from glorious blue skies to thunderous cloud formations, the first signs of spring to the myriad colours of autumn, blossom strewn paths to icy puddles, dancing dragonflies and drowsy bees, chattering sparrows and the screech of a buzzard soaring overhead, all of which lift my mood and give me a sense of joy and perspective.
I realise that cycling isn’t for everyone but if you’re grieving or experiencing stress then I’d recommend trying to build more exercise into your daily routine, whether that’s getting off the bus or the train a couple of stops early or going for a walk in your lunch break. And even if you’re not lucky enough to be near a park, a river or woodland always take a few moments to look for the beauty in the world, it’s there even in the harshest of concrete jungles. xx