“Waste not, want not” was a mantra I grew up with thanks to both my grandmothers. These women had lived through the lean mean WWII years, eking out rations and not wasting a scrap of food. They also grew up in a time when they had a closer relationship with food production as most of what they ate was created by their own fair hands and often grown in the garden. I really enjoy cooking from scratch and I am dipping my toes into growing my own vegetables this year. These processes really bring home to me how long everything takes and how much care and nurture is required – slugs are currently my enemy! This connection to food production makes me very loathe to throw anything in the bin and forces me to be inventive with leftovers. We can pretty much buy what we fancy food-wise, all beautifully presented in a package at the local supermarket. If you are not the cooking from scratch kind you would be quite unaware of the time and labour involved and I think this is one of the reasons that we have become fonder of feeding our bin rather than ourselves! Now if we take this attitude out of a domestic setting, the horrific truth is we are wasting around 15 million tonnes of perfectly edible food in Britain every year! When we have people going hungry this is just madness and immoral. Thankfully a revolution is afoot intercepting perfectly edible food destined for the rubbish dump and placing it with people who have a need. Fare Share and The Real Junk Food Project are a couple of examples of charities putting the “waste not, want not” proverb to practice, and initiatives such as Jamie Oliver’s The Kitchen Garden Project are inspiring young children to grow and cook, building back that relationship between food production and the tummy! It is going to take time but awareness is growing and hopefully many more countries will take the lead from France, which recently made it illegal for supermarkets to spoil unwanted food but instead donate it to charities.
If you are new to this thinking or are worried about food waste in your own home or even keen to save a bit on the food bill here are a few great tips from the past and present to help you keep food out of the bin. Join the revolution!
1. “Food must be chosen carefully in relation to needs, and what the market offers. Day-to-day information about prices, bargains and gluts can be found in newspapers and given on the radio. It is important to buy the right amount of food and so avoid ‘left-overs’. Over-cooking, which is wasteful, should be avoided” – from The School in Wartime, Memorandum no. 19, published by the Board of Education, 1940.
2. “If there is a slice of cold toast left, use it to thicken soup. When the soup is quite hot, put in the slice of toast and boil together. If there are small unbroken pieces of toast left after boiling, beat with a fork and blend with the rest of the ingredients.” From a Ministry of Food leaflet, January 1944.
3. ‘Freeze brown bananas to be used in banana cakes and muffins.’ A tip gleaned from a New Zealand play centre mum, 1999.
4. Use leftover bread in salads – tear bread and bake at 180°c for 15-20mins until golden brown. Use in olive oil rich salads. Rose Prince, The Pocket Bakery.
5. Leftover potatoes – whole new or large sliced – are perfect for frittatas. If you have just one cup of leftover spag bol this makes a great addition to a Frittata too.
6. Add leftover vegetables to soups or make the leftover classic ‘Bubble and Squeak’ which is traditionally made with green cabbage and mashed potatoes, but these days anything goes!
7. Freeze leftover wine…..if you ever have any or maybe if it has just started to turn….. in small containers. Very useful for marinades or for recipes that need a bit of a spruce up! This tip came from Nigella Lawson.
8. Freezers are the best friend to someone avoiding food waste. Remember to cool hot food before freezing, put leftovers in suitable container, label clearly (need to remember my own advice on this!) and don’t forget to use your frozen goodies.
9. Tip from my Mum – add leftover baked beans to a shepherd’s pie. I actually now make mine with baked beans as I love this combination so much. Heinz Five Beans are my favourite. Shepherd’s pie and cottage pie are both Sunday roast by-products. The leftover roast lamb or beef was minced using an old fashioned mincer to make a filling with onion, gravy and carrots and then topped with mashed potato.
10. Chutneys, relishes and jams are a brilliant way for dealing with a glut of fruit or vegetables. Diana Henry’s Salt, Sugar, and Smoke book is a great investment.
11. Leftover curry and rice can make excellent pie filler. Mix the two together and cool or freeze for a later date. Try a large round or small filo or rough puff pies or shape as pasties or sausage rolls.
12. Get stuffing! Marrow, pepper, aubergine can all be stuffed with leftovers. Couscous, bulgur wheat, quinoa with roasted vegetables or left over meats topped with bread crumbs and cheese make for a quick meal.
13. Leftover mashed potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, swede, swede and carrots make great pie toppers. Mashed potato can be made into delicious fish cakes.
14. Roasted vegetables or fruit are a great way of dealing with a glut. Try Lynda’s Roasted Summer Fruit Salad. I often freeze large batches of roasted peppers to add to pasta dishes, pies or salads when in a hurry or to boost flavour. Roasted vegetables are a great quiche filler too.
15. Share……if you have too much don’t throw it in the bin. Share with your friends, work colleagues and neighbours. My WI Cake Club shares spare cakes from our club night with our community 🙂