Before I get on to the main topic of today’s post – food waste – I have to mention the plastic on Henderson Island. This non inhabited Island between China and New Zealand is totally littered with plastic and makes for very depressing reading. Not that it should be a surprise – we have known of the flotsam plastic in the Pacific Ocean for decades but it’s a stark reminder that there is a big problem out there. OK, my little endeavours to reduce plastic are minute in the overall scheme of the problem but at least I’m not adding to the waste.
Anyway, back to food waste. At the start of the year, I mentioned Hugh’s War on waste. I can’t remember when it was on, but the first episode made a huge impression on me. I recognised myself in those families chucking so much food out. In the UK (source River Cottage website) ‘one third of the food we produce never gets eaten and the average household bins £700 worth of food a year’ The US estimates 40% of food is thrown out. In New Zealand food waste is estimated at 79kgs a year per household or $599. As well as a waste of money, food waste causes issues when it goes to landfill. Rotting food in the confined anaerobic atmosphere landfills lead to methane gas build up which in turn adds to the issue of Global Warning. And lastly, if so much food is being thrown out, then there’s all the extra packaging that is being used unnecessarily.
By cutting out plastic, I’ve replaced processed foods containing preservatives with fresh foods and of course fresh doesn’t last. The first couple of weeks, I went a bit overboard and bought lots of fresh fruit and veg at the market. After a week I hadn’t managed to eat it all and it was starting to go off and had to be chucked out.
Now, 5 months in, I’ve learned to be really really rigorous and only buy what’s needed for the weeks meals.
This means that by the following Sunday, I open the fridge and it’s pretty much empty because I’ve used everything up and practically nothing has been chucked out except peels and egg shells – about a 1L icecream box a week.
Sunday Morning Fridge
Peels are still food so will produce methane as they rot, but what are the alternatives? Well, composting obviously or food waste bins. Composting in a city centre apartment is a bit hard to do and Wellington doesn’t have a food waste system yet (though it seems they are waking up to the issue) I did approach my bodycorp about implementing a food waste bin system but they never got back to me. I assumed that to mean they weren’t in favour, which is a bit short sighted. I have found a temporary solution for me though. At work, we use the marvelous Kaicycle for all our food waste, but we never fill it, so I’ve been taking my little tub in on a Monday and adding it to the Kaicycle bin.
I’ve noticed another reduction in waste going into my landfill bin once the food waste is filtered out. I emptied the bin 8 days ago so this is just over a week of rubbish. (the toothpaste tube is an old one I found in my travel bag & the black thing is the lint from the tumble dryer). It’s a very noticeable change from December bins.
Another way of using peels came to mind recently. I made soup last week and only realised I had 1/2 a stock cube left. I was scratching my head for a while until I remembered I’d saved the juice from the tomatoes I roasted months ago just for this purpose. Whew. I chucked all the peels from the veg soup into the freezer and will have a go at making my own stock soon. I also make citrus vinegar for cleaning and apple cider vinegar.
Managing my food waste has been good but I’m starting to get bored with my shrinking pool of recipes. Like most people I have (or had?) 10-15 different meals that I rotate and rarely cook anything new. I can’t find plastic free corn chops, tortilla wraps or corn tacos so mexican food is out. I’ve used up my last can of coconut cream so no Thai curries. And even I couldn’t eke out my bottle of pomegranate juice any longer so pork pomegranate is off the menu too. Tomatoes are up at $5.99 a kilo in the market and will only get more expensive as Winter sets in. It’s a real reminder about seasonal eating but it means adapting and learning new recipes. If you feel like sharing your easy go to dinner recipes are, I’m all ears. I need some inspiration. But no cheese or eggs please!
I am enjoying a reason to bake though. A quick wheaten soda bread makes a great accompaniment to soup for a Winter lunch.
- 300ml of buttermilk (or a plastic free alternative, 300ml milk from milk powder with 1 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice mixed up 5-10 mins before use)
- 350g wholemeal flour
- 100g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 1 tsp sugar (I leave this out but wheaten soda does usually taste a little sweet)
- Preheat oven to 220 C.
- Mix dry ingredients together
- Add the buttermilk.
- Working quickly, mix lightly with fingertips until combined. Do not overwork.
- Line a loaf tin with paper and add mixture (I have a 2lb loaf tin and my bread is always a bit flat so I think a 1lb one would work better)
- Bake for 30 minutes.
And for a sweet treat, Chelsea Winter’s Chocolate Chip cookies make the cupboards look a lot less empty!