A zero waste food challenge week

Filed in Blog by on October 13, 2008 21 Comments
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Mr Green finds a mouldy loaf of bread which results in food wasteNot ones to shy away from a challenge, we’ve seen an area in our day to day life that can do with a little help. You’ll see from the photo that Mr Green found a surprise in the cake tin last night. No, it’s not the neighbour’s kitten, it’s bread from, erm, let’s just say, a little while ago.

Despite putting out less than 100gms per week of rubbish into the landfill, we are still producing food waste. And it really plays on my conscience.

Yes most of it goes into the compost, or the cats or chickens stomachs (but maybe not our furry discovery this morning) but that’s not really the point. It should be feeding our tummies not the compost bin or the animals.

So this week we are going to do a food waste challenge. I’m going to take more care about things that are approaching their best before moments, buy less and plan meals around the food we already have in.

Taking a look in the fridge this morning revealed a punnet of fresh raspberries that need eating today (well yesterday actually, but I’m sure they’ll be alright), half a tin of salmon, a large helping of mashed potato, some cooked broccoli and carrot, some milk and half a pot of cream. There are other things that I haven’t yet explored.

The challenge with Little Miss green is that she will ask for something for lunch, I’ll make it and then she doesn’t want the same meal at tea time. Then she doesn’t want it again the following lunchtime or the next day’s tea. So it tends to go off and then get thrown out or fed to the cat.

I’ve heard myself saying to Mr Green, ‘You don’t want curry three days in a row’. Well, who says? He loves curry, so he can eat it three days in a row. Heck, he can eat it three months in a row if he wants to. The underlying message there has nothing to do with him and everything to do with me wanting to be perfect Mrs Housewife. I don’t think I am doing my job properly unless I serve up different and tempting culinary delights every day.

I gotta let that one go, right?

I could probably curry the discovery in the cake tin and he’d eat it……… πŸ˜‰

I also have a freezer full of stuff. I don’t know what is in there. Every time I freeze something I arrogantly claim I know what is in there and I’ll remember. Two years later I don’t. It’s covered in thick ice and everything looks the same.

The third thing is I’m in a habit with my shopping, so I just buy more or less the same stuff each week without checking cupboards first. To be honest, it’s rare something from the cupboards gets thrown out because it has a long shelf life, but even though I might just use up some old things this week and turn this into a frugal challenge too.

I was doing some maths last week and realising I am way outside a comfortable budget for food. No wonder my overdraft is increasing.

A zero food waste challenge is hereby announced!

Breakfast this morning is porrage with raspberries and the rest of the fruit will be made into a smoothie with a banana, an apple and the dregs from the orange juice carton.

After that, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and bear all. I’m going to go through the veggies, fruit and fridges to see what has gone past use, confess my sins here and start with a clean slate.

Anyone need some inspiration and want to join in?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (21)

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  1. LOL – this is going to be a real fun week and I can’t wait to read how you get on. But yes, you’re right Mrs G you’ve gotta let go of the daily perfection. You could try agreeing on certain days of the week when you can eat like kings and live off the leftovers on the interim days. And don’t forget the easy stuff like beans on toast or scrambled egg.

    Now as for the bread, I made a conscious decision to ditch our bread bin. It became a case of “out of sight, out of mind” for any poor loaf that was trapped inside, partly because it’s a convenient thing to pile things on top of LOL. I truly share the distress of finding a real live creature inside, but I must say I’ve not managed to create one as impressive as the old loaf you’ve got there.

    A big Hi to Mr Green. Great to see you on the site again and good luck to you all this week ;-D x

  2. maisie says:

    Had to laugh at the “offering”.

    Can you freeze the lunches you make for LMG and then bring another portion out another week?

    Also you could do my “Leftovers Night Biffet” that I have mentioned before.Freezing all the bits and pieces, like those you have mentioned in the fridge.

    Designate a drawer or shelf in the freezer for these particular items, then when you feel you have enough pull it all out and it is a potluck buffet style dinner whiich can have added bread/salad/pasta if needed to round it out.

    I am starting a new job today as “hot meals server” at DS2’s school so I’m going to be trying a different twist on my dinner cooking; I am going to cook double and then freeze half before it is taken to the table so that we have a dinner in the freezer for another day when maybe I don’t have time to cook from scratch, but will not be resorting to takeaways or packaged foods.

  3. Poppy says:

    Wow! that bread is truely impressive!

  4. Kris says:

    Okay, I need the inspiration so I’ll join in πŸ˜€

    I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the freezer because I am perfectly aware what I’m like… not only do I base most of my shopping and planning round fresh meals which means the freezer is usually an afterthought or emergency measure but I’m also not very confident about defrosting which for a long time meant I would try only to buy ‘cook from frozen’ bits intended for the freezer. I then told myself to stop being so silly and started putting things that need defrosting into it – and you’ve guessed it, they usually stay there.

    Okay, so I’ve mastered the too-large joint, which gets cut in half and the second bit defrosted overnight. I’ve even mastered batch-cooking lasagne and microwaving them from frozen on the defrost setting, and prawns are small enough that an hour or so before tea is enough for them to go from rigid to squashable, but the pork chops scare me and frankly getting chicken back out of the freezer just looks like an opportunity to poison ourselves.

    But it just might be time to stare into the depths and give it a go.

    After all, when all the horrors have been used up I can stick to nice sensible cook-from-frozen fish packaged in just a cardboard box, and freeze the heel of the loaf that I have difficulty using in a timely manner!

  5. Shymom says:

    When I was growing up, we would always hear “If you don’t eat it now, you will find it in your soup.”

    Mom kept an old cleaned out milk container in the freezer. Every night she would put left over meat or veggies into the container and once it was full we would have freezer soup made from the contents.

  6. Di Hickman says:

    I’m in! I so need to get better at eating what we have, and not buying more till it’s gone. The fridge is my downfall. Leftovers, fresh produce, and generally shoving things in there till I forget, then find at the next fridge clean (like your bread some kind of science experiment).
    I will clear out my fridge later today and post the ‘casualties so far’.

  7. Naomi says:

    Perfect timing; this has been weighing on me as well. But I need help! I need keys on getting out of the shopping rut and off bread. I imagine more planning of meals and shopping lists? Who has time for all that? Do get freezer labels going forward! That will help with some of the problem. I don’t freeze leftovers because we don’t have any freezer appropriate packaging.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    The irony, Mrs A, is that Mr Green’s eyes light up when I say ‘oh it’s just something I threw together from leftovers’. Like you, following a recipe rarely works, but mixing together a little this and a little that can result in wonderful creations. I have a see through plastic container that is large enough for a loaf of bread; I think I might start using that instead! Trouble is, we don’t eat much bread, so we don’t quite tend to get through a whole loaf. The birds benefit though πŸ˜‰

    Maisie, your ideas are wonderful and I must put these new habits into place – freezing extras and doing a leftovers night. I think once I have sorted and used things from the fridge, it’s time to do this for the freezer. I’ll probably not need to shop until Christmas LOL!
    Enjoy your new job πŸ™‚

    Glad to see you onboard with this Kris and well done for agreeing to try the defrost thing. You know you can defrost chicken and pork in the fridge overnight perfectly safely; just like the prawns? The thing I find confusing about chicken is that some dishes say cook from frozen and others don’t – what is that all about?? Let us know how you get on.

    Shymom – that is brilliant! I wonder if I could do that. I’m certainly going to give it a go and see what masterpieces I can create. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Well done Di; it’s good to have another person stepping up to the challenge. You can follow Di blogging about her challenge to see how she gets on.

    Great to see you taking part too, Naomi. Good luck! Yes it’s daunting and is going to need some new habits putting into place, but I’m already feeling good about my achievements and I’ve only done 1 day! I’ve been thinking about meals for today this morning and realising how much money I am going to save too. I was planning a trip to the shop today, but I’m able to cross things off because I know I have things that need using up first. yipee! Getting out of the shopping rut is a biggie, but yes, why not sit down for just 5 minutes today and plan a couple of meals around the food you already have in the house?

  9. maisie says:

    Although only the second day the job is going well; and you’ll be pleased to hear less than a 1kg marg tub of scrapes from the plates each day. This is 20 odd kids plus 4 staff so far each day, main course and pudding.

    The supplier takes it back to his kitchens and disposes of it I think into a skip but this is not alot of waste from our school.

    I would say you are doing the right thing by looking in the fridge and cupboards before deciding what to cook, that way things really shouldn’t go past best.

    From personal experience the only things I have found not to freeze well is anything that is made with mayonaise (it separates) and salad items, although soups made with the salad items would freeze ok.

    As you say you don’t eat alot of bread why not freeze the loaf and than take out how much you need each time or package into 2 slice portions before freezing. If desperate it would defrost in the micro in 1Β½ mins depending on quantity.

  10. esther says:

    love to join in, but that’s still too hard in my family right now…I’m slowly working towards that, but everyone eats differnst things her, f.e. I’m a vegetarien, my oldest one (9 years) wants to be a vegetarian, but doesn’t like veggies (not much left then, huh?) the youngest one (three) kinda eats everything, but doesn’t like the sweet stuff and the husband eats almost only meat and rice….very hard to make evryone satisfied and not having a huuge pile of compost (the worms are very happy, though)

  11. Oh, yay!! Now here is something I can really relate to! Good luck on your no food-waste mission. πŸ™‚

  12. Kris says:

    Hi Esther, half my family are veggies and Mum used to say it was difficult to feed them as some didn’t like vegetables, some didn’t like meat substitutes, some didn’t eat nuts (and one turned out to be pescatarian instead as she would choose fish!) I think they have all become more wide-eating as they’ve had to arrange their own food.

    Perhaps a couple of pots of chilli (some with meat, some with pulses) might please most of your varied family?

  13. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Maisie, glad to hear the job is going well. The minimal amount of food waste you talk about is excellent. Well below average I should think. Is this because the quality of the food is so good?
    I’d wondered about freezing some things – yogurt is another one I’m not sure about. For bread, I have such a hard time freezing it. I can never defrost it so that it’s soft. No matter what I do, it’s always hard and dry. We don’t have a microwave, but any ideas on that?

    Esther, it’s a bit like that here as well. We rarely all sit down to the same meal. We sit as a family to eat, but don’t share much of the same food. I’ve just gotten good at cooking three meals at once, so it’s kind of second nature now! No point fighting against it, but I totally understand that it’s a challenge when trying to cater like that AND not produce any waste!

    Thanks for the good wishes, Kristen. We’re doing far better than I anticipated!

  14. maisie says:

    The food is good, I had a Leek & lentil bake on Friday.which was really nice.

    The quntities aren’t over big which when you are catering for 4 – 11 year olds is quite good as the ‘littlies’ don’t always want loads and the ‘biggies’ sometimes get seconds. There is also bread and fruit available as extras if any child is still hungry.

    DS2 has been having dinners every day so far and is still coming home and eating a cooked tea along with apudding some nights; but then both he and DS1 are always active and doing sports etc.

    This week they had:
    Roast chicken / quorn, jacket potato & carrots, apple crumble & custard.

    Sweet & Sour chicken / qorn veg stir fry, veg rice, choc & pear sponge & custard

    Savoury mince / quorn mince, yorkshire pudd, creamed potato, peas, fruit flpajack & custard

    Jacket potato, baked beans tuna mayo / cheese, fresh fruit salad & yogurt

    Fish cakes / leek & lentil bake, jacket wedges, peas & sweetcorn, banana & custard.

    In answer to your questions I have frozen yogurt use instead of ice cream and you can buy a Yeo Valley frozen Starwbeery one, just have to let it soften a touch before you can serve it though.

    For the bread what are you wrapping it in both in the freezer and when you defrost? It needs to be fairly well wrapped at both stages to not let the air at it to dry it out.

    I have alos been buying bagels and freezing those then defrosting overnight as both boys have decided they like those with either cream cheese or tuna mayo for a snack. Ideal when they come home from school or a sports activity.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    Maisie, it sounds as if things have been really well thought out at the school. When dd was at school there wasn’t even a vegetarian option for the cooked meal (well, unless you could jacket potato with cheese every day and option). Offering bread and fruit as fillers is ideal because they can be reused for a few days if not taken.
    I might have a go at freezing yogurt then, just to see what it is like. I don’t suppose you can defrost it though; I guess it would separate, so I’d have to use it like ice cream?
    With the bread, I have tried all sorts. With some I have left it in the original heat sealed cellophane wrapping, so this must be air tight, surely? Maybe I’m leaving it too long; I have a tendency to forget what is in there…….. Perhaps I’ll experiment with a couple of rolls and see what happens.
    Thanks for your thoughts!

  16. maisie says:

    I haven’t tried defrosting yogurt but give it a go maybe would just need mixing round to re-incorporate it.

    Is it hm , bakers or a supermarket loaf.

    I don’t have great sucess freezing hm bread either, I think it could be the fact that there are no chemicals in it.

  17. Mrs Green says:

    Hey Maisie, I’ve not tried to freeze home made bread – that gets scoffed in a few days. It’s supermarket or bakers loaves. I’ll try double wrapping it and see. The other thing is that I get soggy bits where so much ice forms in the pack that it melts into the bread as it defrosts. Ewwwwww. πŸ™

  18. Mrs Jackson says:

    Hi there
    I know I’m a little behind but as you know I’m trying to read all of your blog. What are you using the bread for? It will go straight into the toaster as you don’t have a microwave. Maybe it also depends on the bread you are buying. We are the opposite and eat several loaves a week and so I bulk buy and freeze them and never found them hard once they have defrosted. Off to see how well you did with your challenge. Keep up the good work.

  19. Mrs Jackson says:

    ps I was also told a good tip is to crumble any leftover bread into crumbs and them freeze and you can mix them in with other foods.

  20. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Mrs J. These loaves are whole, so I need to slice them beforehand, don’t I and then use them for toast. Doh! I find it hard to believe I wasn’t doing that LOL!
    Dd will eat the occasional sandwich, but she’s usually happy with toast or garlic bread, so I could use it from frozen. now why didn’t I think of slicing it first and then using it??!! Laziness I suppose; slicing a whole loaf seems tedious. Gosh, all my sins are coming out tonight!!

    Anyway, LMG has asked me to bake home made bread for zero waste week, so I shall and hopefully that will get eaten up anyway. The worse it turns out (hard and cardboardy) the more she likes it – go figure πŸ˜€

    Freezing the breadcrumbs is a good idea. Mrs A mentioned that the other week and I thought then how neat it was. I don’t really use breadcrumbs, but I’d probably start……

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