A true example of zero food waste

Filed in Blog by on November 25, 2008 18 Comments
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feeding the nation by Margueritte PattenI borrowed a great book from the library last week by Marguerite Patten called ‘Feeding the Nation‘. I’m reading it to try and get more inspiration and motivation to waste less food. Not that we waste a lot compared to the ‘average’ family; but we waste more than I would like to or need to.

A particular line that etched its way into my mind was “Virtually every cook in Britain behaved like a zealous squirrel – we bottled and / or dried fresh fruits, we salted beans, we prepared economical chutneys and pickles; we made the very best used of every available ingredient“.

This year I have made good use of our cooking apples for the first time ever and I even made chutney from a huge marrow. But for the past 6 years most of the apples have rotted into the ground and the marrows have been eaten by slugs. I’ve never known rationing or real hunger. All I’ve known is shops stacked high with everything I could possibly want to eat. In our culture, if we buy something and don’t like it, we have the luxury of throwing it out and replacing it with something else.

In the first few pages of the book are some examples of wartime rations, which for an adult for one week included:

2oz butter. ration
2oz cheese
1 egg (It’s not unusual for LMG to eat three for breakfast)
The picture on the right gives a weeks ration of protein products for an adult. When I showed the photo to Mr Green he said ‘Blimey; that’s one meal for me’.

Margueritte says “Our menus may have been monotonous, but both adults and children were incredibly healthy………..”

She was employed by the Ministry of food to give demonstrations in centres, markets, factory canteens, welfare clinics and outpatient departments of hospitals. She would travel around in vans with portable cookers to find people, wherever they might be, and make them aware of the importance of keeping their families well fed on the rations available.

The book covers a wide variety of recipes, some sound pretty harsh on the palette, but I’m going to have a go over the next three weeks to use some of the advice in there. She talks about making soups from vegetable trimmings and thickened with oatmeal, of fatless sponges (ewww!), omlettes made with dried eggs and there is ‘mock’ everything you can imagine – Mock goose, Mock duck, Mock marzipan and even Mock crab.

Well, I’m not convinced about a dried egg omlette or mock crab, but there are certainly a few frugal recipes in there that I’ll be trying. Eating in this way fits hand in glove with avoiding food waste, excessive packaging and making unnecessary purchases so I’ll let you know how I get on.

First up was to make my own mince pies for the first time ever – not exactly war time food, but there is even a section on the book for Christmas and street party celebrations! I knocked up 24 of the little darlings, including making my own mincemeat for Little Miss Green without all the ingredients she can’t / won’t eat.

Tonight I’m going to strip the chicken from the carcass and do something with it. I’m not sure what yet, but I’m sure I’ll get some tips from Ms Patten.

Talking of recipes, I promised the soup recipes I made last week. I’ll post them up tomorrow, but you’ll have to bear with me because I’m not much of a recipe user or developer. I’m more of a ‘throw it in’ cook – so my quantities are an estimate………..


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 (18)

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  1. Kris says:

    I was quite disappointed with the recent series about food – Supersizers go… (Wartime, Edwardian etc) as it opened a window to find out about how people lived and managed their diets in the past – and then threw it away with puerile and facetious comments mostly!

    My reaction to the photo is much like that of Mr Green – in this day and age all that would just be cooked up and presented as one meal, and that’s not even the max, as some of these ‘big plate’ restaurants would add quite a bit.

    By the way – I don’t recomment fatless mince pies… I made some once from a slimming club recipe and they are still spoken of with dread and horror by my husband!

  2. esther says:

    first of all I have to compliment little miss Green for her idea! Do you think you can send her over for a few days to talk to my two boys and explain?(lol) ’cause thay do understand what I am saying, just about until we go to the shops or the next commercial (grrrrr!) on t.v….as for their dad, he just loves to by stuff for the kids….pffff!It does help to do those things with the whole family….

    and then, waiting for your experiences with this book!

  3. Sam says:

    I make mince pies, but I haven’t made my own mincemeat for years. The last time, I made a cupboard full, which was a little intimidating. I’m hoping to give it another go this week.
    Battening down on the food waste here, so I shall be interested to read your soup recipes and your response to the book. My mother would tell you, a chicken carcass makes really good chicken stock – perfect for soup. 🙂

  4. Di Hickman says:

    Mr G’s reaction to the animal protein photo shows a problem with todays society. No-one has a clue about portion sizes. A portion of bacon is ONE rasher. As a brit living in the USA I can tell you that plate would be one meal for sure here, and they’d probably go back for seconds! *eyeroll*

    The reason the world was healthier during wartime? Meat rationing. Currently people are killing themselves eating meat in astounding portions, eating in one meal what should last for a week. Again Americans are the leader in that field, 16oz steak anyone? Yeah that’s FOUR meals worth there!

    I for one would love some mock recipes, one of my favorites is mock scrambled eggs, made with tofu.

    I sense a challenge coming on! 🙂 I challenge you to a week/month of meat protein rationing! ha!

  5. Di Hickman says:

    also, what the heck is a fatless sponge?

  6. Greenlady says:

    I seem to remember reading that Winston Churchill made a similar comment to Mr Green’s upon being shown a week’s rations for one person, can’t remember verbatim but it was something like ” Hm, not bad for a meal ” !.

    @Di Hickman, I think overconsumption of everything generally is a major cause of health difficulties and food waste, not just meat, that’s a bit of a common misconception.

    I’ve been using some of the methods and ingredients in the Marguerite Patten etc etc type books for many years, not because I remember the war but because I’ve always had to live on a limited income and a lot of it is common sense. The trouble is that I’ve seen with a lot of people that do wartime food as an experiment ( usually some family or journo sponsored by a newspaper etc ) is that they go for the more outlandish recipes and also do the ” well we can’t use this because it wasn’t available in 1943 ” thing – instead of using the ration mentality and the spirit of real food economy. Here’s a link to someone else that did a wartime food trial off their own back, no its not me but I do read the forums ! http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=481412

    @Kris – yes, the Supersizers series annoyed me highly too. It was just played purely for stupid cheap laughs when it could have been amusing AND informative. Again, they just picked the most bizarre and ” ha ha ugh oh yuk how weird ” recipes instead of reflecting what people REALLY ate at the time.

  7. Layla says:

    Interesting book!! 🙂

    & Interesting experimenting!!

    Will be looking for any inspired recipes too!! 🙂

    (&what is mock goose-??)

  8. Maureen says:

    fatless sponges are light and airy and use more eggs and no marg/butter(from what I remember from domestic science lessons) and are good for making swiss rolls, not that I have tried it since I was at school

  9. Di says:

    Oh! See I was thinking it was an ingredient when really they are talking about an end product! doh! nevermind then, I already made fatless sponge, except we call it vegan cake!

  10. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Kris; I haven’t seen the series, but it sounds like I didn’t miss much 🙂
    I once saw a menu in a pub where one of the meals contained about 3 times as much food as the photo; it was shocking. Don’t worry about the mincepies; mine will be all butter! We don’t do low fat in this household……

    Esther; we’ve had a chat about what plastic free means and the lightbulb is starting to go on. LMG is still up for a reduced plastic but now realises what an enormous challenge it would be. We’ll be posting more about it as we reach our own conclusions on this. Advertising, the media and stores are such temptations when you’re an adult, let alone a child; we have to remember not to be too hard on them. Hmmm, that sounds awful, like I’m saying you’re being too hard on your kids. I wasn’t saying that; I’m sure you know what I mean.
    I was browsing through the book today; it’s great, with some really quaint pictures and anecdotes. I want my own copy now 😀

    Hi Sam, I made just one jar of mincemeat as we won’t really get through that much. CHicken stock is something I really should get into making. I’m a bit lazy when it comes to it, but I’ve used it up a few times for chicken noodle soup which has gone down a storm.

    Hi Di; you are right about portion control. I think Mr G eats a LOT of meat, but ya know, it’s not really any of my business to say anything about what he eats. He has plenty to say about vegetarianism, so we just live and let live on that issue! We too have 16oz steaks served in restaurants. Gross isn’t it?

    The challenge sounds great; but Mr G wouldn’t be up for it *at all* and I don’t eat any anyway. As for LMG, she pretty much comes and goes on meat. She might eat a lot one week and then not ask for any the following and I like to trust her cravings / desires on that one as a growing child. Today’s lunch for her was grated cheese, carrot, peppers and watercress. She was offered meat but didn’t want it, so I’m happy with her regulating her own intake.

    Glad you’ve been enlightened with the fatless sponge idea!

    Hi Greenlady, welcome to the site 🙂
    I would agree that general overconsumption leads to many health problems and obesity. Over consumption of sugar and refined products such as wheat over here and corn in the US can have a big impact on health.
    Thanks for the link onto Martin’s forums; I love browsing those, there is so much amazing information to comb through.
    Do you have any particular favourite recipes that you use on a regular basis?

    Hey Layla, According to this book, Mock goose is made from mutton or lamb LOL! and it’s rolled and stuffed with stuffing. I don’t quite understand the ‘mock’ term tbh.

    Thank you Maureen for sharing your memories of what works regarding a fatless sponge. I might just try one – I’ve never made swiss roll, but I think it would be well liked over here 😉

  11. This sounds interesting and the kind of thing I am trying to learn more about, but with delicious recipes, if you please. I saw a book that tried to be similar but with a modern spin: “Cookin’ with Home Storage”. Sadly disappointing; full of stupid ingredients like margarine and marshmellows.

    In the US, that plate is nowhere near a portion. We feel cheated when we eat out of we don’t have overflowing plates. I am trying to serve us less and make everyone go for seconds if they must. Hopefully, we are learning better portion control. We are not huge or anything but I feel certain we all eat much more than we should, to our detriment.

  12. maisie says:

    You can still get a version of the powdered egg in Tesco etc; we tried scrambled egg made with it whilst doing the VE Day celebrations last summer (YUK!! is afraid all I can to it)

    I love Margueritte Patten and her ideas and books and avidly read the thread posted above on MoneySavingExpert forum.

    I find it hard to believe as well that when my son is cooking in school the recipes he brings home for things like bolognese, say for 4 people but require 500g that in itself is more than the recomended 100g meat per day

  13. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Thinking woman; I’m guess some of the recipes will be great. I find another symptom of our lifestyle is that we try to over-complicate our meals. But I have to say that during the summer when we have our own salad potatoes in the garden for instance; a plate of steamed potatoes on their own can be the most amazing meal. It requires nothing else because the taste is unbeatable.
    I shall be sharing any treasures here, you can be sure of that.

    Oh Maisie, scrambled egg from dried egg; I can’t imagine it LOL! I’m sure that portion control is out of hand – you only need to hear what your son is making in school and to read any pub menu to see that. It’s all such a waste…..

  14. Greenlady says:

    Hello there Mrs Green 😀

    Well, its more the general waste not want not mentality than specifics, I’m one of those people that will read a recipe and use it as a basis.

    I use oatmeal quite frequently in dishes – to thicken soups, casseroles, stretch mince dishes ( dry it out in the oven a bit first ) add to both sweet and savoury crumble toppings to dishes, add into stuffing and also rissole and meatloaf type dishes. Its cheap, healthy and a great extender. I have a not-quite-a-recipe called Poverty Soup that I made years ago when I was really broke – 1 carrot chopped very fine, 1 onion chopped very fine, around a pint of the nicest veg stock you can get your hands on, chuck all in, bring to the boil, add a good handful of oatmeal and then simmer until the veg is tender and the oatmeal has thickened, add some fresh chopped parsley ( home grown in this case ! ) Its tastier than it sounds and kept me fed for a couple of days. I also do have a recipe for a fatless teabread which is rather nice, although it does contain an egg. I could post it if you like 🙂

    Someone more etymologically minded than me might be able to come up with a precise origin for ” mock ” but I think it was basically a catch all phrase for all the endless substitutions in the war because of the shortages and unavailability of many foodstuffs at the time.

  15. Poppy says:

    Does anyone know what went into the mock or fake cream? It used to be that you could buy cakes with real cream or the same cake somewhat cheaper with fake cream. I actually quite liked it and saw it as a seperate choice rather than a poor mans substitute.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Greenlady – I’m with you on using recipes as a basis and not as gospel. Some of your ideas for using oatmeal sound great. I always use oats as a crumble topping rather than flour; I find it gives a better flavour and is more filling. Plus we try not to eat too much wheat.
    Please do post the teabread; I know many of our readers will be interested in the recipe. We are working on setting up a recipes section, but these things take time to organise 🙂

    Poppy, I don’t know what goes into the synthetic cream cakes you can buy. But I’ll be serving up some ‘mock cream’ to my two from the Margueritte Patten book and I’ll share the recipe (along with their reactions!)

  17. Just catching up – your weekly round-up is so useful for this, so thank you for plugging away. 😀

    This is a fab book. I got it ages ago in Marks and Spencers. Haven’t looked at it in ages though so will uncover it from the crap under my coffee table….thanks for the reminder, I might be a while. 😀

  18. Mrs Green says:

    Hey Mrs A. Funny how you mention the weekly round up – I was going to stop doing them and have a day off because I didn’t think many people bothered with it.
    I guess I’ll continue then 🙂
    Any favourite recipes in the book I need to know about? I made chicken stock and apple turnovers this week.

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