Maisie’s tips for reducing food waste

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on September 28, 2009 12 Comments
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THe lovely Maisie; writing our first guest post of the week!

THe lovely Maisie; writing our first guest post of the week!

I’m taking a break from writing this week in honour of Cattus Green who died last Friday.

However, there will still be some great material on the site as I  am excited to be sharing some wonderful guest posts.

Our first post comes from Maisie. Maisie has been one of our regular readers and commenters every since the site was launched and she’s full of tips on how to get the most from our food. This year she and her family have been concentrating on living a green and frugal lifestyle. Maisie and her family put out less than 200 gms of waste per week and she keeps track of their progress over on her ‘Year of greener living‘ website.

Food planning

One of the main things which are necessary for reducing Food Waste is planning; not just meal planning so you know what to buy, but also planning your shop so as to get the freshest ingredients for those meals, which then means the ingredients are at their best. This could mean a weekly or monthly shop and then freezing the fresh ingredients to retain their nutrients and freshness; or shopping on a daily basis for just what is needed. There are many ways and each family will choose what works best for them.

I personally take a look at our calendar and see if there are any activities which need to be incorporated into the weekly menu plan, and if need be swap days around. Then I look at what meat or fish I have in the freezer (I bulk buy this), and go from there. I also have an organic veg box delivered weekly.

Food stock

Personally I keep a stocked pantry and freezer so that all meals can be made from what I have in stock and just replenish as used. This way again there is no mad rush to the shops for something for dinner as it is all in hand. Just have to remember to get it from the freezer. I tend to shop weekly for things like dairy and any fresh fruit that is required.

Meal planning

I always plan meals for Sunday through Thursday, then Friday is usually jacket potatoes or toasted sandwiches and Saturday is eat it up/use it up days, unless we have guests or I will make pizza. If there are any leftovers after we have eaten the dinner these are frozen in individual portions so they can be pulled out on Fridays or Saturdays or even hubby can take them for a hot lunch at work. Sometimes I deliberately cook an extra portion just for this purpose for hubby.
A typical week for us would be:

  • Sunday – roast
  • Monday – stir-fry or curry (using up leftovers from the roast)
  • Tuesday –  casserole
  • Wednesday – fish
  • Thursday – pasta dish

Get the family involved

We as a family sat down and came up with a list of approx 30 dishes that we all like so those are what is made, usually on a 6 week rotation.

I use my slow cooker a lot, especially on days where the family need to be back out the door fairly quickly; as this means that dinner is cooked during the day and often I just need to add some boiled or mashed potatoes or some rice to whatever is in there and dinner is served.

If you only buy what is on your list after working out your meal plan there should be no wastage as items haven’t been bought on a whim.  This in turn will also help to reduce your grocery budget, as food is not being bought and then just thrown out, basically throwing money out.
Obviously this is a lot easier if all family members are on board with the idea.

Portion control

If after having done your grocery shop you take a little time to put things away in meal sized portions, this will also eliminate some waste as you will only be cooking the exact amount required. Of course if you prefer to cook in big batches then freeze the other meals worth for future use then this will also work, but discipline comes into this in making sure that if 3 meals worth are cooked 2 are frozen.

Batch cooking

Another area where food wastage can be cut down is batch cooking and freezing things like cakes. I usually bake 2 or 3 lots of cakes but then freeze them and just get out 6 fairy cakes at a time or 6 slices of slab cake, this again means that freshness is kept and wastage is kept to a minimum.

As I said at the beginning it is all about planning, and that also means using your time wisely.

A few years ago I got talking to a chef and she said that the only fresh things she ever had in her household fridge was milk and cheese, she bought everything else either fresh for that days use or had bulk bought and frozen it.

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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 (12)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Hi Maisie,

    Great to see you spreading the good word on food usage for the family. Creating cooked and then frozen meal portions is my standard as well. Chilli and mince burgers are 2 frequent choices with other uncooked frozen servings taken out on the day. This means infrequent shopping trips, which would suit busy people, and known weights of portions, minimising food waste greatly.

    I have enjoyed your many tips on cooking food and feel others would benefit in the same way. Tripe has been the latest cheap cut to try and proved a reasonable success, though I suspect over-boiling may have occurred. The trick in cooking, and baking, is to learn from experience, and from the experienced.

    Have you tried offal cuts, singly, or in combination with others. It is obviously a lost art since my grandparents were the last to use it

  2. Hi Maisie – What an excellent piece, I love all your tips, especially the strong points on meal planning. I think I really need to come and move in with you for intensive training. Even though we no longer waste much, I am still too disorganised for my own good. I have a family that has different tastes, a husband who often arrives home too late to eat anything of any substance (I’ve since got wise to that but sometimes he catches me out) and I’m a lady who eats with my eyes (metaphorically speaking of course).

    Because of my disorganised nature, food waste was one of the hardest things I had to tackle when it came to reducing our rubbish. There’s currently no room in our kitchen for a microwave and we only have a couple of small food cupboards and a small freezer. In fact, we have so little space that I remember when we used to do the weekly shop, I’d bring the shopping home and we’d have nowhere to put everything.

    Due to lack of space, my disorganised nature and a difficult-to-schedule husband, I’ve realised the best option for us is for me to shop several times a week. The problem is if something happens out of the blue, this can all go belly up and it becomes a challenge to create a meal that is then interesting. I’d happily have a regular veg box delivery but I’ve got a husband who doesn’t like root vegetables or cabbage and isn’t even keen on soup.

    Wait a minute, I’ve had a bright idea…..Doh! It’s not me who needs to come and live with you for some intensive training……it’s my husband 🙂

    When can I book him in? xxxx

    P.S. Mrs G – Thinking of you. Take it easy and hope you feel better soon. x

  3. Thank you for your kind words.

    I have always enjoyed cooking and love to see people enjoying the food I’ve prepared, whether it be a simple family dinner or a buffett for 20 adults at an interview day at school or a WW2 street party for 20 10 & 11 year olds again in school, or even my own 18 birthday buffet for 150 with help from mum & sister (we did the same again the following year for my sister).

    I feel that simple steps such as those I have mentioned in my piece should be taught as these are lost arts which do help families, and also help to eliminate excess waste going to landfill.

    Mrs A my veg box scheme allows me to sub in and out things we don’t eat or want more of. might be worth checking some schemes out, try http://www.bigbarn.co.uk I think they still have a list of veg box schemes on there.

    I’m also very lucky in that my kitchen although not huge does have a 5ft larder fridge, 5ft larder freezer, large microwave, slow cooker, food processor, and catering size mixer. I also have a 5ft chest freezer and an under counter freezer in the shed. I have found it is easier now the boys have grown older/bigger as they easily clear their plates and usually even want more..

    John, I regularly cook liver and add kidney to beef casseroles, I have also cooked heart but for the dogs; we all love Haggis and I do intend one day to make my own. I had training from my Mum who was a child of the 40’s and 50’s and always kept a stocked pantry and cooked “traditional country fayre”.

  4. John Costigane says:

    Hi Again Maisie,

    Haggis is a favourite of mine but I am no sure of the packaging. Some have sheep stomachs which can be eaten or bokashi’d. That is from the local butcher whereas the universal plastic type appears in supermarkets. A recipe for haggis would be ace as I am sure the flavour is likely to be even better.

    Kidney in steak pies is a standard for me. The idea is to join kidney, liver, etc in a mixed offal, a bit like haggis though not as a fine mixture.

  5. @John Costigane:

    John the only haggis I can get down here is the plastic covered one apart from leading up to “Burns’ Night” when a local butcher gets some from McSweens which look more the sheeps stomach.

    The basic ingredients for haggis are as I’m sure you know A sheeps pluck, pinhead oatmeal and some herbs and seasoning..

    I think I will make this a challenge to myself in readiness for Burns’ Night next January.

  6. Mr. Green says:

    Hi Maisie, great to see your post here. You have reminded us of so many useful tips that keep the larder in order. I especially like the idea of ‘short accounts’ Buying in new items as old ones get used. I bet you never get caught out this way.

    I wander how many people use a pressure cooker these days? They are supposed to save a lot on cooking time and retain more nutrients in the food.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article, Maisie. I’ve always thought of you as very organised and creative in your kitchen. I often find myself standing there thinking ‘What would Maisie do?’ so you have quite an influence in my life!

    You’ve come up with some great ideas, such as using a slow cooker and getting the family to suggest their favourite meals for a rotation.

  8. Alea says:

    Maisie, Great ideas!

    I am a huge fan of the pressure cooker. Last week I made a recipe that takes several hours on the stove top in 10 minutes at high pressure in my pressure cooker (it does take a couple of minutes to get up to high pressure, but that is still a huge savings both in time and heating). You can google pressure cooker recipes to get an idea of how to adapt your favorite recipes.

  9. @Alea: I have never used a pressure cooker, my mum never used one either so I was never shown.

    I now feel this would be a gadget bought just because.

    I have all the tools I need to create my dinners etc to my satisfaction. This is obviously my personnal opinion, and not in any way meant to belittle anyone who uses one.

    That being said they are probably a great help for busy people who still want to cook when they get in rather than leave a slowcooker on during the day.

  10. LJayne says:

    We do a lot of forward planning and find it really helps. The meal rotation thing particularly because if you shop to your 2 week, 4 week, whatever week menu, then you’ve always got the necessary ingredients. So it doesn’t matter if you fancy Wednesday of week 4 when it is only week 2. You can still put together a good meal.

    We bulk buy online once a month. I do all my dry goods, frozen, dairy (cheese has a very long code on it for instance) and any fresh stuff that we need that week. I also have a veg box for fruit & veg delivered each week and milk 3 times weekly. My kids are used to it being the week before Tesco is due and we’ve run out of a few things if I’ve got it a bit wrong – like no smoked cheese left or something – but they are very adaptable so that’s fine. We top up mid-month with yogurt and one or two other things coz I just don’t have a big enough fridge. I’d like a much wider fridge freezer or one of those American style fridges. Not the plumbed in ones for ice & water, I can cope with ice cube trays! But just for getting more stuff in now that we are a family of 5.

    I buy fresh meat and freeze it all in portion sizes, mostly chicken I must admit because 400g of mince is a portion for us but that does a double meal worth, one to eat and one to freeze again.

    Sounds very anal and did take a while to get used to but once you set up a system it begins to work if you try and stick to it. We are so sad now that we have summer and winter stock levels for all the cupboard stuff so once a month I just look at what we have and order up to the level. Means I’m never caught short with unexpected guests either.

  11. Eunice Robertson says:

    I find that the frequency with which you shop also makes a difference as far as saving money goes. When I do a bulk buy once a month of non-perishables, including tinned goods, I am not tempted to buy things on a whim. It’s only the basics that are bought. Things like bread, milk, fresh fruit and veg are weekly shops. I have noticed that I spend less money this way. It is also assuring that you then know you have a month’s groceries in the house. It is also easier then to grow a few veg in the garden to make sure you have a supply of greens through the month.

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