Rob Rees MBE Cotswold chef, talks to us about zero waste week

Filed in Blog by on January 27, 2009 11 Comments
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rob reesI first heard about Rob Rees MBE through his Vision Hall blog and a story in our local newspaper. Rob worked with a family in the county to show them how to make the most of their food, minimise food waste and use up leftovers in creative ways.

A man after my own heart when it comes to viewing today’s leftovers as tomorrow’s ingredients, Rob is taking part in zero waste week himself. It appears he has the opposite problem to most householders – he isn’t worried about food waste and packaging; it’s everything else!

Rob takes much of his inspiration from cookery books from the thrifty 1940’s and the trends in history when budgets where tight, communities close and transport lean. You might remember, I did a spot of hero worship myself when I read Marguerite Patten‘s book ‘Feeding the Nation’.

Rob says “The advice is quite simple. It is time to go back to basics. The tips of our grandmothers and great grandmothers can really make a difference…..what quality to look for when choosing meat, how much to budget for as a portion, freezing our leftovers, only purchasing seasonal where possible. Recycling foods safely by cooking dishes like rissoles, shepherds pie and fish cakes and buying our non perishables in bulk will certainly make a difference. The popular return of the pressure cooker will also help reduce our energy costs, preserve nutrients and still allow us time to cook with our hectic lifestyles. Combine the opportunity to eat healthy foods with our new found need to walk or cycle and shop locally to avoid high fuel costs and we could end up tackling the obesity crisis as well as getting a great food culture back as a consequence of the crunch.  cotswold chef

Our biggest challenge will still remain the lack of cooking skills.

Its time for all of us who can cook to adopt  a friend , family member and neighbour who cant and swap ideas and recipes and inspire each other. In addition so many of us are growing herbs, fruits and vegetables – its time to start swapping them and managing how we grow things better in our gardens, boxes and plots so that we have a wider variety that can sustain a balanced diet. “

I couldn’t agree more.

Rob has actively campaigned on education, health, nutrition, food safety and consumer issues for many years.

He works with central government, regional development agencies, local authorities, schools, communities and the food industry as a powerful inspiration to the benefits of good food and associated food policies. His work as a food consultant, chef and former restaurateur has taken him on projects around the globe celebrating the assets of the Cotswolds, the South West and the UK.

Being the kind hearted soul that he is, Rob shared these words with us before going on to give us some top tips about food waste:

“Myzerowaste is a great site. We have a real chance of making a real difference to our environment if we embrace the principles of zero waste week not only this week but every week. What the Greens are doing is amazing. When it comes to food leftovers most people have a perception that the food will taste bland. Actually it is completely the opposite with a good use of fresh or dried herbs, spices like tobasco and Worcestershire sauce and the varieties of textures from breadcrumbs, nuts and crumble toppings as just some examples. Go on Zero Waste Week in your household  – its can be great fun and allows your creative juices to run!..”

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing Rob’s tips for making the most of your food, getting value for money and minimising food waste along with a credit crunching menu costing template.

What do you do to minimise food waste? Do you have any favourite recipes for using up leftovers?

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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 (11)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Rob’s perspective fits nicely with the Zero Waste trend and leftovers is a big issue for families. Detailing all the options will promote less food waste. My own take is to use freezer containers for meat dishes and soups, based on single portions. Where there are friends and family I just use more than 1 container for a given dish eg chilli or mince burgers.

    Bulk commodities is definitely a good idea where often used ingredients can be purchased with minimum packaging waste, eg if the bulk packaging is refillable/reusable.

  2. Layla says:

    Good ideas!!
    It is important to remember that too much of eating leftovers – especialy too overheated ones – isn’t a great thing (I admit I sometimes exaggerated..) – a day or two are supposed to be okay.. Also, it’s good to just reheat the portion that is to be eaten that day, instead of fully overheating a big pot of soup each time someone eats a small portion.. (this cuts back on gas or electricity anyway!)
    We haven’t been very creative with leftovers.. usually Monday means leftover rice & vegetable soup from Sunday, with some other extras.. (mostly just gets eaten the next day or so.. occasionally they do get frozen, or mixed in with other food – eg cooked buckwheat kasha or rice gets mixed in with millet (and some quark/cottage cheese+apples+cream&egg & spices) to make a baked dish.. you can hardly even tell the buckwheat kasha is in there..:) Or some previously cooked amaranth or such may wind up in a veggie soup.. beans are lovely in green lettuce salad, instead of potatoes..)
    Oh, and to minimise food waste, we have our dad. He eats everything, pretty much. 🙂 /or the compost gets a treat!)

  3. Layla says:

    Oh, and looking forward to Tips & Tricks by the Chef!!
    /Still hoping Jamie Oliver will decide & marry me, but ah well!! 🙂 Guess I will have to learn to cook more creatively myself! ‘adopt a friend’ seems a good approach! I think I will have to adopt someone who cooks better than me lol!!
    Thrifty 1940s seem a fun era to learn from!! 🙂

  4. Mr. Green says:

    Rob, you are an inspiration to us all! One of my all time favourite meals is a throw in of leftovers by Mrs. Green. What I’ve come to realise is that food that’s leftover is often BETTER the next day! Not so odd when you think ‘leftover’ is very close to ‘marinading’ in it’s own juices for a while… Why do we think we need to throw food away after it’s been cooked and used? Providing we exercise careful hygene and storing in a fridge, most food is excellent a second time round. In the case of a curry is usually better the next day!!

    I think we have been conned into thinking we should always buy fresh, new, and perfectly packaged foods. This is yet another marketing supermarket trick to make us consume more.

    Can’t wait for my bubble and sqeak tomorrow!

  5. I definitely agree with you all. Leftovers conserve energy, save time and taste great. Some things, like lasagna, I could eat for three days straight before I got tired of it. More likely though, I eat leftovers at lunch.

    I was recently over at someone’s house and they were about to put the leftover chicken pasta down the garburator because they said they just wouldn’t eat it the next day! Luckily, I was comfortable enough to step in and save the leftovers – I got 2 lunches out of it!

    I love Mrs Green’s waste free meals posts – great ideas. And you’re right Mr Green. Curry is better the next day.

  6. maisie says:

    I once read a great quote by Tracey Ulman.

    “My mother only served up leftovers, no-one knew what the original dinner was”.

    This goes to show that ‘leftovers’ can quite easily be re-invented to make something totally different second time around.

    We had chilli and rice for dinner last night, the rice was all eaten but there was a small portion of chilli left so I added a touch more water and have frozen it so Dave can take it for lunch one day as chilli soup (he has a micro at work)he will also take some hm bread to eat with it.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Some great ideas john. I aspire to being more organised with my freezer. Alas that has not reached me yet, but I’m working on it. We do have bulk buying of some products sorted however, and that’s good for reducing packaging.

    @Layla: A composting Dad, Layla. What a good idea! It sounds like you have the eating of leftovers well sorted over there. Good luck with Jamie 😉

    @Jen from CleanBin: I love the chicken pasta story and I’m just so glad you managed to take care of that for your friend.

    @maisie: Chilli soup sounds intriguing, Maisie; I’d never thought to water down meals to create soup.

  8. Poppy says:

    Master P has been home from school today and was watching a children’s progamme on TV called Best of Friends (I think??) The format appears to be that challenges are set for the friends to complete to win prizes. I was horrified when one of those challenges involved a pig bowl of peas, a bowl of sausages and a bowl of mashed potato – most of which ended up on the floor. In these days of less waste with so many campaigns flying around to get people to think about their food and what they are doing with it, I’m astounded that the Beeb can have children throwing food around!

    God I sound old!!

  9. Mrs Green says:

    Poppy, that programme sounds awful – a letter to the TV channel might be in order?

  10. maisie says:

    The main reason i do this especially with the chilli is Dave likes hearty soups especially in the winter but not veggie ones.

    And as much as I know he recycles the tins at work (scrap metal collection) it isn’t the same or as economic as hm.

    I also do gammon with onions,potatoes and lentils.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Maisie, Ahhh, I see – chilli soup it is then. 🙂 Sounds intriguing. Interestingly though; I made soup for lunch (minestrone) and DH said it cold pass for bolognase sauce. It was very thick and more like a stew.

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