Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Waste Free Latte

Inspired by Beth Terry over at Fake Plastic Fish, it has long been my intention to invest in an insulated mug to eliminate the cardboard and plastic waste inherent in takeaway drinks. So today, when I stopped for a latte at the Fair Cup stall in Colston Circus and saw their own cheerful red mugs for sale, I jumped at the opportunity. It cost me £3.95 and I get 10p off every drink I fill it with on future visits.

I plan to carry it around with me and use it in other coffee shops. I'm not sure what reaction I'll receive from the big chains but I'm going to give it a go. I'm not necessarily looking for a discount, although I wouldn't refuse! I'm just hoping to save waste.

Has anyone any experiences they would like to share?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Top Tips for Zero Food Waste

I have come to the end of my Zero Food Waste Challenge, during which I have succeeded in throwing away no more than a few tablespoons of edible food. And none of the inedible waste went to the landfill site, but has all been recycled by some means or other.

The Bristol challenge invites participants to share their tips for avoiding food waste. The prize for the most useful or original suggestion is a cookery course for two at Bordeaux Quay. I am an admirer of Barney Haughton and if I win I would take my elder daughter, who is off to university next year and might appreciate a few lessons to help her keep body and soul together.

So, my top tips are:

1 Stop treating leftovers as waste and start using them as ingredients
2 Store them properly (fridge or freezer) and label them clearly
3 Build up a repertoire of leftover-friendly recipes (soup, stirfrys, risottos, fried rice, omelettes etc)
4 Check your fridge/freezer regularly
5 Invest in a compost bin, wormery or a bokashi bin
6 Try not to be too hard on yourself when, despite your best efforts, you have to throw something away
7 Enjoy the challenge

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Day 7 - Wednesday 7 October 2009

The last day of my challenge and not much waste to report.

1 egg shell
3 tea bags
30 g vegetable peelings
1 banana skin
1 pear core

I was going to use up the roast chicken from Sunday. The girls, who were going to eat earlier than us, were going to have chicken fajitas. My husband and I were going to have chicken risotto later. However I'd forgotten that, in a fit of efficiency earlier in the week, I had frozen the chicken meat. There wasn't enough time to defrost it so I used fresh chicken for the girls and we had two salmon steaks that were on special offer.

Deciding where to store leftovers is crucial to waste management. If I hope to use them in the next few days I put them in the fridge, but if not then I opt for the freezer. Problems arise when, for one reason or another, I don't get round to them before they go off - or when I forget to take them out of the freezer in time! Regular fridge inspections are essential. So is labelling, an area in which I need more practice. It's amazing how similar frozen leek and potato soup looks to frozen stewed apple, but only one of them goes with custard!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Day 6 - Tuesday 6 October 2009

This morning we had porridge for breakfast. My younger daughter was in a hurry to get to school on time so she left a bit.

At lunchtime I braved the leftover bolognaise sauce with some couscous and have lived to tell the tale. I ate it with the remains of the beetroot salad I'd made on Saturday.

So today's waste amounts to:

a few tablespoons of porridge
2 apple cores
1 banana skin
1 pear core
3 sweetcorn cores
240g vegetable peelings and sweetcorn husks
2 used tea bags

As usual, the cooked waste will go in the brown bin and the raw waste in the compost bin

Monday, 5 October 2009

Day 5 - Monday 5 October 2009

We had boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast. There were egg shells and a bit of white left in one of them (my elder daughter only eats the yolk).

I had soup for lunch. the vegetable one I'd made on Saturday. I only work part time so am usually home for lunch and tend to eat what's left over from the night before, or what can be concocted from what's I discover in the fridge or the cupboard. I enjoy the challenge and the finished dish is usually quite tasty.

This evening I stripped yesterday's chicken carcass and my husband boiled it up for stock.

Today's waste offerings include:

3 egg shells and one egg white
1 chicken carcass, half an onion, a carrot and a broccoli stalk (boiled)
35g vegetable peelings
2 used tea bags

The cooked waste will find its way to the brown bin and the rest will probably be added to the compost bin rather than the wormery as the worms haven't yet eaten all they've already been given. They seem to be less hungry in the cold weather.

I've just thought that I should possibly include the tea bags I use at work. I go through a couple a day but I do try to use each one twice (a habit I picked up from my Aberdonian flatmate at university!)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Day 4 - Sunday 4 October 2009

Today, being Sunday, we had a roast. Actually we don't always have a roast on Sundays but today we did and it was chicken. I find that the effort in preparing a large meal is rewarded later on in the week by the benefits obtained from the leftovers.

It was my husband who cooked the chicken and he did so according to a recipe we picked up from the family we visited in France this summer. Cut a couple of slices of bread (stale bread would do nicely) and rub them with the cut edge of a clove of garlic. Then stuff the bread into the cavity of the bird and roast as normal. The dry bread soaks up the juices released on cooking and the garlic flavours the meat from within. I can't remember whether this was in the original recipe but, in addition to the garlic, my husband seasoned the bread with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. The result was exceedingly tasty.

There was minimal waste from the chicken today; just a few wing bones. The remains of the bird have been returned to the fridge. Tomorrow I'll salvage every last edible morsel of meat from the bones before boiling the carcass with an onion, a carrot and a couple of bay leaves to make a fragrant stock. I haven't yet decided what to do with the meat, but it will provide one more meal. If the chicken had been a larger one we might have got another two meals, but it was a smaller bird and we were very hungry/greedy this evening!

So today's waste comprised:

2 egg shells (from biscuit making this afternoon)
170g vegetable peelings
bones from two chicken wings
3 apple cores
1 pear core

The bones will be added to our brown council household waste recycling bin. This is collected weekly and sent to a special heat treatment plant where it is converted into compost. It can take meat and fish waste which we can't compost at home and which would otherwise have to be put in the landfill bin. The introduction of this bin collection has made a considerable reduction to our waste.

Two of the three apple cores will go to the wormery. The third has been fed to our hamster!

PS The chard we ate with our chicken came from our garden. It was planted in amongst the alpines in our rockery in the spring. It made a slow start but then it suddenly took off and has produced a bountiful harvest. Besides which the rhubarb pink stalks are rather decorative.

Day 3 - Saturday 3 October 2009

This morning I emptied all the vegetable drawers in my fridge and washed them and the ever-so-useful green sponge cushion I bought from Lakeland. The leftover vegetables went into the soup pot and the clean drawers were filled with the contents of yesterday's organic vegetable box.

Before you fall back in admiration at my efficiency, let me assure you that it is not aways so. All too often I leave the fruit and vegetables to lie in their boxes until I need them, only to find that they have suffered, sometimes irredeemably, from neglect. I regret that I have, more often than I care to admit, thrown away food that would have been perfectly fine had it been stored properly, but that had rotted in a plastic bag or wilted in the dark recesses of the box.

However today was different and I'm hoping will be a sign of things to come.

Soup is an excellent vehicle for using up odd bits of vegetables, including anything too sad to be presented whole on a plate. I started by sweating a chopped leek in a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter. To this I added a wilted head of kale, a runt of white cabbage, an odd spring onion and a couple of potatoes. When the vegetables had softened and were just beginning to colour I covered them with water and a bit of milk, added a few teaspoons of Marigold bouillon powder and left them to simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Finally I blended them to a smooth puree, poured the mixture into a plastic container and put it in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

While I was making the soup I baked a couple of old beetroots in the oven. They went into a low (150 C) oven in a casserole with a tight fitting lid and a couple of tablespoons of water for 3 hours. When they were cool enough to handle I skinned and chopped them and tossed them in a couple of tablespoons of honey and mustard dressing. I ate some of this salad for lunch alongside a couple of slices of cold meat that had reached their use by date. The rest went into the fridge for another day.

I went out to a party in the evening so I didn't eat with the rest of the family, but they tucked in to a stir fry which included, among other ingredients, a handful of carrot sticks recovered from my daughter's lunch box on Thursday and a portion of lightly boiled green beans left over from dinner that same day. Sir fries are another excellent way of using up leftover, raw and cooked and my husband is very skilled in rustling up a delicious meal using nothing more than a packet of noodles, the leftovers from the fridge and a couple of store cupboard essentials (ie soy sauce, pad thai paste and sesame oil).

So today's items for the bin were:

5g breakfast cereal
265g vegetable peelings
1 used tea bag
50g grape waste (stalks, pips and squidgy ones)
90g sweetcorn husks
65g beetroot peelings
1 large tomato

The raw vegetable waste fed the worms. The tea bags went into the compost bin. The beetroot peelings were cooked and went into our council household waste bin.

The only items of real waste were the breakfast cereal, broken pieces from the bottom of the bag, and the tomato, which came from our own plant but which was bruised and had sat on the work surface for a day or so longer than it should have and had gone too soft to be edible. On reflection I could have fed the cereal to the hamster but it went into the brown bin instead.

Day 2 - Friday 2 October 2009

Today I had to work overtime. What with that, and it being the end of the week, and my feeling a bit groggy with a cold I cannot shake, I decided that we would have an Indian take away for dinner. We ordered it from The Clove and were able to recycle all the packaging, which was a bonus.

As a result I didn't have much to throw away today:

1 pear core
3 used tea bags

The pear core will be fed to my worms and the tea bags find their way to the compost bin.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Day 1 - Thursday 1 October 2009

Today I have thrown out the following:

vegetable peelings (380g)
egg shells (3)
lemon skins, pith and pips (2)
tea bags (3)
apple core (1)
pear core (1)

The vegetable peelings and the apple and pear cores will be fed to the worms in the wormery. The rest will end up in the compost bin. Eventually they will all be used to grow more fruit and vegetables in the garden.

The wormery, which we have had for over a year now, has been a great success. After a slow start the worms have been munching their way through regular supplies of vegetable and fruit waste. I cut it up to speed up the process, and avoid citrus fruits. The compost they produce is light and moist.

All other plant waste, including reasonable amounts of citrus fruits, goes in the compost bin. Egg shells benefit from being crushed and I tear open the tea bags to release the contents. After having left the bin to decompose over the winter we used the well rotted compost in our garden this spring.

So no real waste today.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Love Food Hate Waste

I am taking part in Bristol's Food Waste Diary Competition, being run in partnership with the excellent Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

Each month the average family throws away £50 worth of food that was bought but not eaten. Nationally this works out at 4 million pounds or 6.7 million tons. Unbelievable! Unforgiveable!

Having been born and brought up in India and seen hunger at first hand, I have always felt a twinge of guilt every time I throw away a piece of food that might otherwise have been eaten. I try to shop thoughtfully, buying only what I know I will use. I relish the challenge of producing a meal from leftovers. And I tend to rely on my own senses rather than a printed date when deciding whether or not food is still edible. However, despite my best efforts I do sometimes have to throw stuff away. Bread grows mouldy. Ham lingers past its use by date. Leftovers are shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten. Milk turns sour. Potatoes sprout and turn green.

So for one week I will log every morsel of food I throw out and where it ends up. And I will let you know how I get on.