Waste not, want not
Pickles, lemon peel kitchen cleaner and fridge 'shelfies' can halve your food waste
Nose-to-tail cooking became terribly trendy a few years ago, but with the amount of food currently being wasted in households and food outlets every year, the need for the rest of us to tackle our food waste has never been so important.
Some of Britain’s biggest food retailers pledged earlier in May to halve food waste by 2030 by selling smaller portions and offering large discounts on food sold after its best before date. Food waste champion Ben Elliot said Britain was in the midst of a “food waste epidemic”, with food worth £20bn (R363bn) thrown away annually, averaging £500 (R9,086) per household.
According to the campaigning waste charity Wrap, that amounts to UK households throwing away seven million tons of edible food every year, including 4.4 million apples, 20 million slices of bread, and 3.1 million glasses of milk.
There are plenty of simple, innovative ways to cut down our wasteful habits. The Zero Waste Cookbook, by Amelia Wasiliev and Giovanna Torrico, contains a host of novel ways to use every scrap of food and drink in your kitchen.
Your freezer is your best friend
According to Wrap, almost anything can be frozen other than cucumber, lettuce and anything else with a high water content. And you can freeze it right up to the use-by date, extending its shelf life and locking in flavour.
Wasiliev and Torfrico recommend buying a bunch of ice cube trays and using them to freeze odds and ends which, when stirred through dishes, become little flavour bombs. The last squeeze of a tomato puree tube, the final dribble from a bottle of red wine, a few minced-up herb stalks or a couple of crushed garlic cloves – pack them into ice cube trays and you’ll have flavour enhancers to hand whenever you need them. Yoghurt, cream and coconut milk can all be frozen this way, too, and stirred through a sauce or curry.
Pretty much anything can be pickled
There are very few meals which can’t be enhanced by the addition of a pickle. The Zero Waste Cookbook suggests pickling as the perfect way to use up vegetable scraps which usually get thrown away. Cucumber ends, aubergine skins and tough kale stems all become bright and tender when given a bath in hot vinegar with a little sugar and a few herbs or spices.
Stick to a 3:1 mix of vinegar-sugar, give tougher ingredients a simmer in the brine, and stuff softer ones straight into jars and pour over the hot vinegar. Most pickles will keep for a few weeks in a sterilised jar in the fridge.
One person’s pulp and peelings are another’s crisps and cakes
Griddle your lettuce cores, use broad bean pods in a parmigiana, bake potato peelings to a crisp, and turn the pulp from your juicer into a fluffy carrot cake.
Even tough pumpkin skins – usually discarded – can be dehydrated in a low oven, then blitzed to make a powder packed with a sweet, nutty flavour. You can even add water to hydrate the powder “for an instant pumpkin puree to use in pies and other dishes”.
Bread is another “must save”. Jamie Oliver has advocated using up old bread in dishes for years, from the classic Italian tomato and bread soup, pappa al pomodoro, to panzanella (tomato and bread salad).
Save your citrus peel to make a cheap, natural, household cleaner
Save your citrus peel to make a cheap, natural, household cleaner. Half-fill a jar with citrus peel, making sure it doesn’t have any flesh on it, suggest Wasiliev and Torfrico, then top up the jar with white vinegar and leave to stand in a dark, cool place for about two weeks. Add more peel as you have leftovers, and strain into a liquid spray bottle after two weeks.
Egg shells can be scattered around the garden to deter critters like slugs and snails, which don’t like crawling over sharp pieces.
Coffee grounds, often used as a soil fertiliser, can be used as a natural odour eliminator: “Simply fill a bowl or jar with coffee grounds and leave uncovered in the fridge for a few days. You can use the same method for a shoe rack.”
Snap a shelfie before you shop
Wrap suggests snapping a picture of your fridge shelves before you leave to go shopping to remind you of what food you already have, so you don’t buy more than you need and end up wasting it. Apps such as Kitche and No Waste have receipt scanners so you can keep track of what food you already have at home, and receive expiration reminders and smart recipes to help you use it up.
Wasiliev and Torfrico agree: “Keep a check of what’s in your store cupboard, fridge and freezer. Don’t overbuy, instead think about the number of meals you need to prepare each week or day and only buy what you need.” – © Telegraph Media Group Limited 2019
More ways to bin less food
Throwing away edible food isn’t just a waste of money. It goes straight into a landfill site, where it will rot and produce methane gas, which is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas and, ultimately, climate change.
Here are my tips for cutting back on food waste:
Boil leftover bones for a fantastic stock that will add flavour to rice, stews and other dishes.
Stocks cooked down from fish bones and prawn shells are perfect for paellas.
If a recipe only calls for yolks, don’t throw the whites away.
Egg whites freeze very well – place in ice cube trays, then transfer them to a resealable bag as soon as they are solid.
Thaw them overnight in the fridge and use for meringues, macarons, omelettes and mousses.
Do a regular audit of dry foods in your kitchen cupboards that are nearing their expiry date. Actively aim to use these in your week’s cooking.
Store-bought herbs in poly bags frequently don’t get used up.
To cut back on binning, rather grow your own. The expiry date is just a guideline.
Frequently food is still completely fine for a limited period after this date.
Use your senses – and commonsense – to make the call rather than just thoughtlessly binning.
Start a compost heap for vegetable and fruit scraps.
Take leftovers to work for lunch.
If you’re rushed in the mornings, like me, pack your lunchbox the night before and grab it from the fridge in the morning.
Keep dressings separate so salads don’t go soggy overnight.
Forever throwing half-used lemons away?
Pop slices into your water bottle, or top with boiling water for a cleansing alternative to tea and coffee. - Louise Liebenberg