Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Food Waste and Feeding Everyone

An article from the Guardian, published online today, coves a UN report on global food waste.

It claims that if everyone cut food waste by one quarter, that there would be enough to go around. 

In the UK, around £60 per month is thrown out (I find that an extortionate amount even with slightly larger than average family!)  So not only would people be doing their bit for the world, they would actually be reducing their own spending too.

By weight, the most wasted product in the UK is bread, and by percentage it is lettuce and leafy salads.  By no means is my family perfect.  I have been known to find a juicy green packet of once-leaves in the back of the vegetable drawer and have been caught out when bread moulds faster than usual.  But how can we combat wasting these resources...?

For starters, only buy enough to last.  I restrict myself to two loaves per week.  That of course might not cover lunchtime sandwiches all week.  So I will make scones or a rice salad for the last couple of days before shopping again.  I found that if we go beyond those two loaves, some weeks we do not consume as much bread for whatever reason, and it ends up wasted.  We always get through two loaves.  So that's what we stick with.

I very rarely buy lettuce and bagged salad leaves... because - guess what? - they go soggy within a day or two and end up wasted.  Whole heads of lettuce will last longer than bags, but better yet grow your own cut-and-come-again leaves so that they are always fresh.  I like to grow pea shoots and have lately been successful at growing basil and mint too; these take little attention apart from keeping them hydrated so I have been keeping them on the sill by the kitchen sink to remember to throw the odd unfinished cup of water on them.  In the winter we tend to utilise cabbage and frozen green beans as an economical green crunchy side dish rather than lettuce leaves - and for a cold season salad, white and red cabbage do a nice job when mixed with indoor-grown soft leaves.

We do sometimes end up with more bread products than usual or acquire bagged salad leaves, as family members who cannot get through these products before they go off very kindly let me take their slightly wilted greens and half loaves that would have otherwise ended up in the bin.

This is what I do with them:
*I have linked the particular items we use below, not because I have been sponsored, but because they are our favourites.

Cocoa and Bean Enchiladas

Leftover/Dry Bread
  • Breakfast/Lunch  If it is going a little dry... toast it for breakfast.  If you require a sandwich, simply make a toasted sandwich by popping under the grill or on a griddle pan.
  • Breakfast/Lunch/Snack Make into crumbs and use it to thicken pureed vegetables and drained canned beans for a pate.
  • Pudding  Make into crumbs and use to replace the same quantity of flour when making a cake for dessert - it gives a lovely pudding texture. Some traditional British puddings do in fact use breadcrumbs as main ingredients for this very reason.
  • Pudding  Cut dry bread into cubes, sprinkle with sugar and sultanas - a little pinch of cinnamon if you like - and let it soak in just enough milk so that it reaches the top of the cubes. This works beautifully with dry leftover cake instead, or a mixture of cake and bread (in both of these latter cases, I leave out adding the sugar.) Cover the dish and pop in the oven or microwave to warm through (I microwave a pud in a 500ml dish for about four and a half minutes.)
  • Dinner  Cut into cubes as for the pudding above, but sprinkle with chopped vegetables and I often add chicken pieces, tuna or kidney beans too. Cover in a cheese sauce rather than milk as in the pudding above.  This is a great way for using up your slightly wilted greens too - just mix them with the bread before pouring over the cheese sauce to give you Florentine Bake. Cook as for the pudding. 
  • Dinner  Make into crumbs and use as a topping for lasagne, enchiladas or other baked dishes.  It makes a nice alternative to a topping for mince and vegetables, as in a cottage pie.
  • If you cannot get around to using it, and the bread is dry already, pop it in the freezer for another day's meal or pudding.
As soon as I get these, after using any fresh that I might want, they go into the freezer immediately in their own packaging; you can use them straight from the freezer in any of the suggestions below. Even wilted, or if the bottom leaves are wet, take out the less mushy ones and use as below:
  • Add to a casserole, or curry, or stew, or soup or stir fry.
  • Chop finely and add to a tomato sauce for pasta (including lasagne), Mexican dishes or pizza topping.
  • Whiz into a pesto with ground almonds or other nuts.
  • Chop and freeze strongly flavoured leaves like watercress for adding pepperiness to salad dressings or sauces - I like to use it as  substitute for coriander in guacamole and similar dishes, though it does not taste identical.
  • Chop and use in scones, adding some extra vegetables (freezer or fresh, such as peppers or diced carrot - raw ones given a minute in the microwave then cooled first) or antipasti-type vegetables such as olives or sundried tomatoes.  If you have no other vegetables to add, simply add a little grated hard cheese or a spoonful of cheese sauce mix for Florentine-style scones.  These in any form are welcomed in lunchboxes!
  • The interesting salad leaf combinations make for surprisingly lovely additions to meals, for example, recently this combination went beautifully in a beefy casserole and of course the crunchy salad bags, even when they have softened, go great in a stir fry with other veg, even if that means freezer corn/peas and a couple of sliced onions - a sauce made with water-loosened peanut butter makes a great nutritious pantry meal when served with some plain rice.
  • Also check this post under "8 Great Ways to Use Your Free Greens"

I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on reducing leftover bread and greens. Or do you find a different product altogether is your weak spot?

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