Mrs Green’s eggcellent idea for reducing food waste

Filed in Blog by on July 1, 2011 28 Comments
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Reduce food waste with my simple tip

Reduce food waste with my simple tip

I’ve been at it again – flexing the old grey matter for a ‘so simple is it worth sharing?’ tip.

But I figure ALL tips, no matter how obvious, are worth sharing and personally I love to read ‘no brainer’ ideas.

Take for instance my ‘turn your fridge upside down‘ idea!

That one has wowed people across the nation. All I did was stop using my salad drawer as a salad drawer (because ‘stuff’ goes mouldy and slimy at the back when it’s forgotten about) and use it to store jars in instead (i.e. things that don’t go off quickly).

Salad is bought to the top shelf where it can be seen and used up before it goes off.

Genius and simple; which just about sums me up.

This month it’s all about eggs.

After throwing away yet MORE eggs because lovely friends kept giving them to me, I was starting to feel really guilty. We’ve been looking into getting chickens of our own and I know the time, energy and money that can go into keeping happy hens. Not to mention love; my goodness my friends love their hens more than their children I’m quite sure of it.

I thought about my ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach with the fridge and decided to adapt it to eggs.

Instead of keeping them in the cupboard in boxes (where they invariably work their way to the back behind jars and packets) I dug out an old wooden bowl (one of Grandma Green’s wedding presents I do believe) and popped it on the work surface.

You’ll never guess what I did next?

Oh you clever thing, there’s no fooling you is there. That’s right, I put the eggs into the bowl.


Mrs Green's cunning step towards reducing food waste

Mrs Green's cunning step towards reducing food waste

Now whenever I go to the kitchen I see the eggs (and don’t they look pretty sitting in that bowl?) and ever since then I’ve been using them all up.

Tell me your ‘too simple to be true’ way of reducing food waste. The best one gets a free, erm, egg…


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 (28)

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  1. Jo says:

    My simple tip is to use clear containers for storing leftovers and washed fruit and vegetables. If I can’t see it, I can’t remember it’s waiting to be used up 🙂 If I have to use a solid containers, I label things with name and date.

    I was so surprised to learn you do not store your eggs in the fridge. After some google searching I have learned that this is common in Europe. Here in North America we are rabid about refrigerating eggs! Our fridges often come equipped with special eggs racks. Isn’t it funny how whole continents do things different ways! By the way, that is a beautiful bowl and it does look lovely with those eggs in it. Decorative AND useful!

  2. @Jo: I live in the US and keep my eggs on the counter. The reason? Eggs fresh from the hen have a protective coating that keeps them fresh and keeps anything from going into the egg shell. It is porous. Eggs from the store have been washed, and the protective coating that keeps them from spoiling is gone. I eat eggs kept on the counter for a month with no deleterious effects. When I do wash an egg for one of various reasons, I just quickly dunk it in a tall cup half full of water with a tsp of Clorox added. This has to be done quickly, rinsed immediately, and dried. Then, that egg goes into a carton on the door.

  3. Mrs. Green, Do not leave the eggs lying down. They need to stand on the small end. I put my eggs in an antique bowl that will hold eight of the carton sections. I cut off the top of the carton and four of the sections on one end. Then, I put a pretty napkin on top of the now 8-egg holder. There is an air space at the top end that keeps the egg fresh. You can probably use some egg cartons and cut enough partitions and tape them together to fit in the bowl. Then, cover with something pretty. The second layer of eggs can stand between the eggs on the bottom. I date eggs are I gather them. I have usually eaten most of one month before I start numbering for the next month. If it is July 6 and I have an egg dated from 7-30, then I know it is a June egg. The numbers 1-6 denote July eggs. Use a pencil and lightly put a number. Handle eggs from the hen and not washed like you would handle raw chicken. Wash hands and everything they are in when raw and not cooked.

    I do love my hens. They are not any trouble at all. I only have three hens and no rooster. I have never given them any commercial food. They have never had any food to make them lay. My Rhode Island Reds have not had vaccinations or dewormers. If they cannot get out for grass, I feed them salads about to be thrown out at the store. This year, I will grow salad greens and sprouts that will be green.

    Any product–meat, milk, eggs–from an animal that feeds off grass has Omega3 which is used to prevent and treat heart disease. Cholesterol from these eggs is not a problem. They are good for your heart. No, you cannot finish them on corn! Corn is actually bad for animals that should be eating grass.

    I hope it is okay to post this link to my blog post–Lard and Eggs Are Good for You.

  4. Jane says:

    I’ve always kept eggs in the fridge to stop salmonella from multiplying and just taken them out to warm up before I used them. Can’t you put a notice on your fridge door to remember to use them? They are a good excuse for pancakes and eggy bread and other delights but also one of our quick suppers or lunches of poached eggs on toast.

  5. Condo Blues says:

    My husband likes clear storage bowls in the refrigerator. That way we can see what we need to eat as leftovers or incorporate into a meal before it goes off.

  6. Hazel says:

    I bought one of the trays that look like a porcelain egg tray, the idea being that the eggs go on the tray roughly in the order they’re laid. I also write the date on in pencil, so I know whether the egg is good for poaching (as fresh as possible) or hard boiling (at least a week old).
    Before I had hens, they went in a dish on the side. It has never occurred to me to keep them in a cupboard; funny isn’t it?

    @Jo: UK fridges come with egg racks too, which some people do use. Friends who refrigerate their eggs seem to do so more out of a desire to keep their work surfaces clear than a concern for food safety though.

    I have read across the net of American shoppers shock at being presented with un-refrigerated eggs in Europe and other countries. Actually more countries don’t keep eggs in the fridge in the shop than do; it does seem to be just the US that insists on it.
    It’s hard to go against advice you’ve always been told, but if salmonella was a huge problem in room temperature eggs, we’d all be very sick! The UK did have a salmonella problem years ago, but it was dealt with at source, and the main advice was to cook eggs thoroughly- I don’t remember refrigeration being a major factor.

    A piece I read recently suggested that greater industrialisation of food production in the USA may be the reason that legislation/guidelines like these are brought in, and the reason why more Americans would keep eggs direct from a farm out of the fridge than would keep shop-bought eggs on the side. I don’t know- it’s over 10 years since I visited the USA. Does that seem likely?

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Jo: Fantastic about using see-through containers; I agree completely and thanks for the compliment on the eggs bowl; I’m rather fond of it and it has a smaller sister for when there are only 3 or 4 eggs in the house!

    @Practical Parsimony: What great information, I never realised my post would be starting a health debate. I’ve never refrigerated eggs, even crappy shop bought ones before I was aware of such things as organic and free range. Thanks for telling me about storing them end up too – I never knew that; why should I do that? And no worries about linking; I love reading what other people are up to 🙂
    Personally I’ve never fallen for the ‘too much cholesterol in eggs’ thing and we always eat butter over margarine…

    @Jane: I’m happy with them on the work surface; we’ve never suffered ill health from eggs, so it’s working for us although I respect your view on things.

    @Condo Blues: clear storage bowls are great. I really should update my collection and get some small glass ones as most of ours are opaque plastic.

    @Hazel: I think your point about over industrialisation of food rings true. I’m keeping fresh laid eggs from hens I know for a month at room temperature (through the summer too) with no ill effects. But I guess battery hens will be sickly and perhaps produce more ‘sickly’ eggs…?

  8. Mrs Green, food=health, right? Also, eggs can be pasteurized in the shell, so they no longer harbor pathogens.

  9. Karen says:

    I have a ceramic egg tray but I use it for my tomatoes as the are much tastier out of the fridge
    . I do use the rack in the fridge for my eggs. Each time I get a new box I put a cross with a marker pen on the old ones. The old ones are then moved to the front of the rack. Any extra eggs gives me an excuse to bake a cake to take to work for the staffroom. I have a couple of shops here that sell either a box of 4 eggs or sells them loose if you want less.

  10. sandy says:

    A friend of ours has made us an egg holder with slots for each egg, out of wood (Looks like and old fashioned food safe but smaller), brillant for our eggs,

  11. Jo says:

    Sandy (or anyone) – what is a food safe? Cannot find the term on wikipedia and you’ve got me curious!

  12. Jo says:

    Practical Parsimony – thank you for the information on storing eggs – very helpful.

  13. Jo says:

    Hazel, thank you too – yes, I have read that commercial chicken/egg producers keep their birds under such terribly cramped conditions that it’s hard to keep illesses from spreading, and that leads to more salmonella in both birds and eggs.

    Sorry for the three separate posts – wasn’t thinking ahead today!

  14. sandy says:

    My grandmothers era, it was a metal box with a metal door and wire front, with shelves in it and was left some where cold, larder preferably it was used to keep meat and dairy away from the flys.

  15. Jo says:

    @sandy: Thank you, Sandy.

  16. Jo, actually, the horrid conditions under which layers are living in do not contribute to eggs that have more bacteria. The hens are well-medicated. Do you want to eat that medication? Only one in 100,000 eggs has anything in it to make one ill. That is why cooking well and not eating raw dough or raw eggs in smoothies is not recommended. I always ate raw cookie and cake dough with no ill effects. The reason commercial eggs must be refrigerated is that the protective coating that keeps any and all bacteria from entering the egg has been washed off at the plant. Remember where eggs come from? Poop and attendant e-coli are on the shell and can enter the egg, making us ill. Eggs are porous. The coating on the egg at laying protects my eggs on the counter. Eggs can be pasteurized at the plant/factory thus rendering them free, inside or out, of harboring bacteria.

  17. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: I don’t know if it is necessary.
    It is just what I do. There was a salmonella outbreak when my son was small.

  18. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: I have always wondered why I was expected to keep eggs in the fridge when the shops don’t. Maybe they have a more consistent turnover than everyone at home? The guidelines re Best Before are c**p and inconsistent with other foodstuffs. How this has been allowed to remain like this is laughable. I very much value your contribution with this website and the discussion that has followed on lots of subjects including this. I don’t twitter or facebook either. I come on here as a diversion from looking for a solution to a problem or challenge (am currently preoccupied with how to make elderly parents’ diminishing mobility and sight and hearing less of a disappointment and challenge to each of them, each other and us). Have a lovely break. You’re a star not least for your tenacity!

  19. Carol says:

    I love the idea of flipping the fridge layout. I am so tired of throwing away gross, slimy vegetables and fruit. I have a side-by-side fridge and it is boxed in so tight that I can’t open the freezer door all the way. I have an inventory sheet on the freezer side so I know what shelf I am going for before I open the door, and I cross things off as I use them. I am going to do the same on the fridge side. But more important, for me anyway, is a different mindset when I shop. Why did I buy that? Didn’t I throw that away the last time I bought it? Why do I cook so much. There are only two of us. Who wants to eat macaroni salad 5 days in a row? Why is it that nothing I already have sounds appealing so I have to shop for this other thing that does sound appealing? I want to stop wasting food.

  20. Jane says:

    @Carol: Try not to shop when hungry and don’t ever “just pop into” a supermarket for something especially milk. Supermarkets are deliberately planned so that the milk is furthest from the door and you have to run the gauntlet of temptation to get in and out of there with just the milk! You can freeze pasta if you make a mistake and cook too much. Use a cup to measure until you know exactly how much… and write it down. I always forget to and after not eating it for a while make the same mistakes again!

  21. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: that;s a really good point, Jane – I had not thought about the fact stores put eggs on shelves, yet we are meant to refrigerate them – seems even more crazy! And now individual eggs are stamped with dates. As shells are supposed to be porous, let’s hope it’s not toxic ink 😉

    @Carol: An inventory sheet is a fab idea and we’ve been thinking about one for our second fridge. The right mindset is absolutely the best way to avoid food waste; like you said there are a couple of things now I’ve not used twice in a row so I won’t be getting them again. Good luck with your food waste issue! Jane gave some great advice and I would add that you could create a shopping list around the foods you already have in your home that need using up…

  22. Rebecca Harris says:

    If we shop in an old fashioned way at local shops, buying our fresh food daily rather then weekly/monthly, then we are more likely to only buy what we need. If we buy our dry food in bulk, we reduse packaging and transport cost.
    If we grow our own vegetables, they stay fresh until we pick them and chuck them in the cooking pot.

    I try to eat seasonally, but I apply the same ethic to eating what needs to get eaten. I eat leftovers for breakfast, and if needed, lunch again. If I have a glut of something, I use google to find as many creative recipies for using it up as possible.

    Grow fresh herbs in pots (from seed if possible) and you will never waste herbs bought from the supermarket in little plastic bags. Look up self watering pots which you can make from 2 litre bottles, and you won’t even need to stress about watering your herbs!

    Also, get into a habit of rotating your fridge like restaurants do. Put food at the front of the fridge that needs to be eaten first. AND, just becasue it has a best before date on it doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs to be chucked at 1am the following day – use some common sense!! There are high risk foods and low risk foods. Use your eyes when it comes to fruit and veg.

    I have a compost heap and a wormery for cooked food, but I feed my worms so little that I have asked my friends to bring round their food waste so that none of it goes to the dump, where it will sit, unusable for ever.

  23. Kit says:

    I like your idea about turning the fridge upside down… though our fridge has the cold panel at the back on the top shelves which tends to turn leaves and cucumber mushy if they accidently touch it.
    As far as eggs are concerned, we do keep ours in the fridge (hot weather in South Africa) but there is an easy way to tell if they are off, wherever you store them

    – just put the eggs you are about to use in a bowl of water. If they lie down they are fresh, if they stand on end they are slightly old but OK to use, if they float they are past it.. I use up the slightly old ones in baking, so they never go to waste and rarely have to throw any out.

    I agree on growing fresh herbs yourself – it saves so much wastage of shop bought herb packets. I always end up with an excess of herbs in the garden but feed it to the kids’ rabbits and guinea pig who now have a very healthy diet!

    Now if only I had chickens too there would never be anything wasted!

  24. Sandy says:

    I do have chickens, and yes we don’t have any waste for land fill, that is if there is any left over, with my family there never is.

  25. If only someone would invent a shallower fridge, so things couldnt get lost at the back of the shelves! 😉

  26. Liz says:

    Hi, I’ve just found this site and can’t believe how organised you all must be to manage to throw so little away, I have trouble remembering what day the recycling goes out to be collected!

    However, on the subject of eggs, all commercial hens, free range, battery 🙁 , whatever, in the UK are salmonella tested, so its very unlikely that there is salmonella in the egg anyway. I keep my eggs in one of those mini food safe thingies, and try to keep the old ones at the front.

    But a good tip if, like me, you aren’t good at keeping track of things, is to put a suspect raw egg in a bowl of water. If it floats it has gone off, the gasses produced when it goes bad make it float. (they will usually turn so that one end is up, because of the little airspace in them, that doesn’t mean they are off 🙂

  27. Jane says:

    Not all flocks are tested – only the bigger ones – so it is still important to be careful when handling eggs.

  28. Jane says:
    Why you shouldn’t keep eggs in the fridge. Well here’s an opinion any way! It seems from other articles that it varies from country to country – probably depending on how hot it is.

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