It’s time to bin our wasteful habits

From horrible vegetable crumble, to a vegan diet, Hannah gives us the lowdown on binning wasteful food habits.

When I was eight, my family and I took a trip up to the tempestuous northwestern region of Scotland to visit extended family. Lovely as it was to be among the rugged mountainous scenery, indoors it was another story.

My grandparents grew a lot of their own fruit and vegetables and loved to use them in various homemade dishes, which I mostly hated, being a sworn enemy of anything that looked too healthy (irony of ironies – i’m now a vegan).

I remember with absolute clarity the fateful day when a collection of green and orange vegetables topped with what looked like crisped dandruff was presented to me. ‘Vegetable crumble’, I was told. Apples went in crumble. Blackberries went in crumble. Rhubarb just about went in crumble if you added enough sugar. Vegetables did NOT belong in crumble.

One insufferable mouthful was enough for me to burst into tears and flatly refuse any more, and I was sent to my room with no pudding – feeling very sorry for myself.

Imagine my abject horror when a couple of weeks later, my mum decided to make the very same meal at home because she had ‘enjoyed it so much’.

Like many other people, it had been drilled into me that if I wasted the savoury part of the meal, there would be no pudding. Although this was a somewhat primitive start to thinking about food waste, it was a start nonetheless. My mum was – and still is – firmly against food waste, and this has no doubt influenced me.

At primary school, I was nicknamed “the human bin”, for polishing off everyone else’s unwanted lunches. And if you looked in my parents’ freezer, you would see a myriad of sealed bags of casseroles, curries, and other frozen concoctions, safely preserved for months, even years!

And this year I’ll be going back to university for a masters, resourcefully buying and cooking food for one will be crucial. Unlike my eight-year-old self, I love to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, but sometimes find that I’ve been over eager and have an excess of food on the brink of rotting.

Here’s my plan to make sure I use my food to the full:

  1. Make a meal plan and shop for the week – making sure to not shop when I’m hungry.
  2. Use the internet for something other than cat videos – great as they are. There are loads of recipes out there to help me use up that perfectly edible cauliflower or broccoli stalk left in my fridge.
  3. Know where in the fridge to put certain foods, and the optimum storage conditions for fruit and veg to elongate their edibility.
  4. Learn portion control. If I’m making food for lots of people and it’s not all eaten, I’m going to freeze the rest! Carbohydrates are notorious for being wasted in the UK; baked goods are the #1 most wasted food in the UK, and potatoes are at #3.
  5. Freeze my bread
  6. Store potatoes in a dark place – they’re still fine if they’ve sprouted. Just chop the sprouts off, test the potato is firm, and then take a leaf out of Samwise Gamgee’s book: boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew!

When so many people around the world don’t have enough to eat despite enough food being produced, we have a responsibility to not waste the food we’ve been blessed with. All it takes to make the most of your food is some forward planning, good storage practice, and a little creativity.

Join the Renew our Food army.