Tuesday, 31 March 2009

New shopping opportunities...

It's been a busy couple of weeks... not much to report on the waste front but I have taken advantage of a couple of new (to me) shopping opportunities that score well on various green credentials including waste.

First up it's the HFG Farm Shop at the local garden centre. Their boast is that for most produce they can measure "farm yards" rather than "food miles" - everything is labelled with its origin and indeed there is lots of stuff from within 10 miles or so, grown on HFG farms. There were also goodies from local bakeries, meat producers and other food businesses. So, local credentials firmly in place, how do they do on packaging? Pretty well I think.

Almost everything we wanted veg-wise was unwrapped - including celery, which is uncommon. However, peppers were only available wrapped and on a tray, and herbs were in plastic boxes rather than unwrapped bunches. We also passed on the loose onions to buy a (cheaper) 5kg mesh bag, although I am confident we'll find a use for the bag or maybe just take it back and refill it. None of the manufactured/prepared foods were unwrapped, since they are not processed on the premises - meat, fish, cheese, bread and cakes all have plastic wrap and (for meat/fish) polystyrene trays. So I think we'll stick to the butcher and fishmonger for these. But there is an interesting selection of frozen goods - loose fruit and also bake-yourself croisssants etc. which Alex tells me can be put in your own containers.

One slightly offputting aspect was that bicycle access is not good. A cycle path runs right by the entrance, but it's an awkward turn to get in and you then have to run the gauntlet of the car park to find... no cycle parking. However, I sent an email suggesting that they might improve this aspect and got a positive response to say they are about to rethink cycle access so I look forward to it getting easier in future.

On to the next new discovery - Wholefood Planet. This was flagged up in our county council magazine lately, and is very close to where we live so we decided to check it out. They sell a range of ethically-sourced and environmentally-friendly products, including organic foods and Ecover refills, operate a coffee shop inside the store, and they also employ people with learning difficulties and are committed to fair wages.

The shop is located on a small industrial estate, a bit out of the way but well signposted. It's not really near other shops but it's more the sort of place to do a monthly stock-up so that's not a problem. I was delighted to find lots of Suma things on sale - just the sort of thing that I wanted to order direct but was unable to due to the minimum order cost. Prices were very reasonable too, and compared well with organic products on sale elsewhere. I was a bit disappointed by the packaging of these things as it didn't seem very efficient - the packs are very large and flat, which leads to a greater surface area (i.e. amount of packaging) for the same volume of goods. But I understand that the thick polythene used is accepted by Polyprint for recycling, so that is a plus.

We'll definitely keep shopping at Wholefood Planet, and will probably go to HFG occasionally, but the greengrocer we usually use is closer to other shops (butcher, baker, Co-op) and we have got to know the people who work there so feel quite loyal to it. But if you are off to the garden centre anyway then it is well worth a look!

There is such a thing as a free lunch

As reported in today's EDP, there is such a thing as a free lunch - at least at one pub near Halesworth in Suffolk:
Monday lunchtimes, traditionally the quietest time of the week for pubs, at The Plough are now pulling in credit crunch-busters from miles around, thanks to a clever idea by landlords Nick and Debbie Sumner.

“On Mondays we always used to clean out the fridges,” said Mrs Sumner. “We were throwing a lot of food away. We said, 'Instead of throwing it away, why not give it away?'

“As long as people buy a drink, they can have free food instead of it going to the chickens.”
What a great way to reduce food waste and help attract more customers to the pub - community pubs are struggling in this recession and need all the help they can get. And the idea has certainly been successful on that front:
The couple admitted that the popularity of the offer had escalated through word of mouth, and now necessitated food being prepared solely for the purpose, rather than just using up leftover produce.
It can be hard to estimate demand for food, and no pub likes turning hungry customers away when they want to buy food and drink, so you can understand owners erring on the side of caution when buying their food supplies for the week. If you pride yourself on serving fresh food, then perhaps there is a limited amount that can be done with freezing things - so it's good to see a bit of lateral thinking. Let's hope the chickens still benefit from any scraps left behind on plates!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Zero-waste treats

This waste reduction lark doesn't have to be all vegetable soup and knit-your-own-yoghurt you know. Recently I found a couple of luxurious and delicious shop-bought puddings which might make you fearful for your waistline, but leave your bin resolutely slim.

First of all, it's Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake from those quirkily-umlauted people at Gü. Small but perfectly formed, these are cute glass pots of indulgence, with foil lids and a simple cardboard box to hold them. The ramekins can be kept and reused, for cooking or other purposes (ideal as tea light holders as they are quite thick).

Next up it's a true champion of real food, the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding people. Their puddings come in a sturdy foil tray (easily reused or recycled), cardboard lid, and cardboard sleeve. And if I said that this was one of the most lip-smackingly, plate-scrapingly, more-please-ingly delicious things I have ever tasted in my entire life, that would be no exaggeration.

Don't get me wrong, I still love cooking and baking, but these two really are well worth a try if you want a real treat without going near a hot stove. And not a bit of plastic packaging in sight.

Something to celebrate!

Goodness me - what a lovely surprise waiting for me on Sunday night when I logged on after a busy weekend. Nothing less than an AWARD for this very blog! Even better, it was from one of my favourite bloggers, Almost Mrs Average - and of course it was recycled :) That certainly brought a big smile to my face - thank you Mrs A!

On receiving my coveted Rubbish Blogging Bug award, I went through a succession of feelings... first of all, I was of course pleased and not a little surprised to be mentioned in such illustrious company! Secondly, I was a bit embarrassed, as looking at my blog recently you would not see much evidence of the blogging bug biting - I do have a few half-written posts to be polished up and published, but the public face of the blog has been a bit cobwebby lately. Thirdly, I was inspired and motivated to rectify this situation by the other great blogs and bloggers nominated for the various awards - many are now bookmarked for a good old nosey through their archives when I get chance.

But finally, and lingeringly, I can't help but be sad that these awards are prompted by Mrs A's decision to move on from the world of waste blogging. Karen was my first inspiration, a mere five months ago, to try not only a bit of waste reduction but also sharing my successes and frustrations with the online world. I can't claim to be anywhere near the true nirvana of Zero Waste yet, but I am certainly closer than I was before, and by blogging along the way I've made contact with some great people. But it's true, there is a bigger world out there than waste blogging, especially when you put so much time and effort into it. From videos to interviews to full-on soul-searching about motivation and meaning, The Rubbish Diet has always been a rich and varied source of thought-provoking stuff, and I am very appreciative of all the time and effort that must have gone into it.

So forget the rambly acceptance speech thanking my poodle's kennel maid and my nursery school teachers - it's a big thank you from me to Mrs A, and a very sincere hope that The Rubbish Diet will still burst into life just occasionally to update us on goings-on at Average Towers. Cheers :)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


A report from Which? suggests that as people try to adjust to the current financial situation, healthy food choices are increasingly taking a back seat to price considerations.

You can bet that, if healthy choices are in the back seat, then thoughts about packaging and recycling are in a trailer somewhere, or possibly walking along the hard shoulder, trying to thumb a lift.

I have always had a sneaking suspicion that the idea of healthy food being more expensive is bunkum - but I've never actually checked up on it. Recently I read a forum post from someone who said she bought 5 ready meals for £4 and challenged anyone to buy the ingredients for 5 home-cooked meals (for one) on the same budget. Several people responded, but the only way to get close to 80p a meal seemed to be to buy a £1.99 chicken (is that Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall I can hear crying?) and some potatoes and veg, to have a roast and then various permutations of curry, etc. Even this didn't quite get down to 5 meals for £4.

This got me thinking about a comment made by Mrs Average last week about taking the waste message to areas where people are on restricted incomes. How do we do it?

This is a really tough one. Should we be trying to bombard everyone with the message at once, when we are already trying to get them to eat healthily in the first place? I am particularly thinking of areas which could be described as food deserts, where you could barely get an apple before, let alone now when even more shops are closing. If the local corner shop has their tiny fruit and veg display with some plastic bags of apples, and potatoes that are all but sprouting already, what do you buy? The messages conflict. Buy fresh food! Avoid excess packaging! Don't let produce go off! In the end it's much easier to reach for a microwave meal and not have to think about it.

Can we treat these areas the same way as others? Is it unrealistic and out of touch for us to swan in to such an area, yapping about making the most of tired tomatoes and not letting the last of the Sunday roast go to waste, if those two foods are not making an appearance anyway? What if your leftovers are two slices of a frozen pizza and the coleslaw that no-one likes from a KFC bucket? Not many LFHW recipes for those. Is the nature and scale of the food waste problem different in deprived areas, and if so, how? The figures are always presented as if we were a homogenous nation, which we aren't, and I imagine we don't create food waste equally either.

If you happen to eat a lot of takeaways and ready meals, are you more likely to bin the leftovers than if you had put the effort in to cook the meal yourself (easy come, easy go)? On the other hand, if you do your best to eke out your weekly food budget, are you more likely to avoid waste than someone with more cash to splash? If the leftover chicken biryani or last slice of the 2-for-1 supermarket pepperoni pizza becomes tomorrow's breakfast because that saves a couple of quid on cereal for the week, that's great for food waste but not so good for a balanced diet - which is the bigger priority? Can we let the healthy eating message take hold first and then come back to food waste - or can we tackle them both together?

I don't mean to be stereotypical. I know for sure that not everyone who lives in a deprived or run down area lives on takeaways and ready meals and I know there are people doing their bit to feed themselves and their families well. There are also more affluent people who also eat a lot of junk food! But what I am saying is that if you already have to make a hell of an effort to find healthy food that you can afford, or even just food you can afford full stop, the idea of food waste and packaging waste probably isn't a big priority, and you are probably not going to be too motivated to do anything about it if you are feeling lectured about it.

Maybe you watched Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food programme, teaching people in the deprived area of Rotherham to cook simple, healthy meals and then share their new skills and enthusiasm with others. That sort of scheme is brilliant - but what an opportunity to also pass on ideas about reducing food waste at the same time. Not making a big thing of it, but casually mentioning keeping fruit and veg scraps for the compost bin, highlighting that a particular recipe works fine with oldish carrots, or suggesting ideas for what you could do with leftovers of this or that recipe. Even ideas on portion sizes would help, to avoid overbuying - when you have never cooked, relating weights of items to what you actually eat is really hard! The point is that healthy eating and food waste are intertwined and perhaps it's best to address them in that way - together.

I'd love to hear other thoughts on this.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

LFHW - wrapping it up with soup

So, my week of LFHW blogging comes to an end. This morning I was out on a bike ride, much tougher than expected thanks to the incessant headwind for the first 25 miles, and so I had a bit of emergency refuelling to do. This would not have been the case had I not let us get into the parlous state of having NO CAKE in the house when I left. No cake!! I rectified that this afternoon, making the parsnip cake that horrified Mrs Green with its lack of butter and eggs. I can confirm it is still very much delicious, proved by the fact that I seem to have eaten four pieces. Oops...

So how's our waste total for the last day?

Breakfast: same as Monday, porridge/cereal and tea.
Food-related waste: a teabag.

Lunch: The other half of yesterday's soup, and an individual fondant fancy wedding cake each, from yesterday.
Packaging waste: paper cake case.

Snacks: banana, cereal/fruit/nut bar, bottle of fruit juice, lots of home made cake and tea.
Food-related waste: banana peel, more teabags.
Packaging waste: plastic wrapper, plastic bottle and lid

Dinner: Roast pork fillet, roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots and peas; stewed rhubarb and yoghurt.
Food-related waste: a few manky bits off the potatoes, parsnip peelings, rhubarb trimmings.
Packaging waste: thin plastic bag from pork.

Compostable food waste: 145g.
No non-compostable food waste.
Recyclable packaging: 2g (cake cases).
Non-recyclable packaging: 45g (plastic bag, wrapper, bottle*).

*sadly I just wasn't able to carry the juice bottle home to recycle, and there was no recycling bin in the village where I bought it, so I've counted it as non-recyclable.

This brings the total for the week to:

Compostable food waste: 1890g
Non-compostable food waste: 433g
Recyclable packaging: 1282g
Non-recyclable packaging: 133g
Grand total: 3738g

So, of all my directly food-related waste, 85% (by weight) has been composted or recycled. I could only make serious inroads on that with something like a bokashi bin (worth it for less than 500g?). I hold my hands up to one "could have been eaten but wasn't" item (the sauerkraut) but overall I think those numbers are not too bad at all. The secret? Just a little bit of forward thinking:
  • Plan it! Think about your shopping before you go, and think in terms of meals rather than individual items. Look for links between meals to help you use all of an ingredient if you can't buy exactly how much you want.
  • Get friendly with your freezer. Use it to store up whole meals or excess ingredients (if they will freeze), and use it to help you save time and effort through cook-once-eat-twice thinking.

That's my LFHW week over, but the campaign continues, and if you can count on anything at all you can count on there being more low-waste and leftovers recipes appearing on this blog as it continues!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

LFHW day 6 - quick and simple

Another night out tonight - it's a friend's wedding and we are off to the reception to join the celebrations. What was a little bit of a dilemma (lots things to do before going out early evening, but we need to eat as we know it's just nibbles tonight) is neatly solved by the second helpings of chicken and chick pea casserole I made the other night. Heated through, it's definitely quick and easy, and will see us through a few glasses of champagne I am sure!

Lunchtime also saw our old friend soup make an appearance. The chicken stock from earlier in the week, plus an onion, carrot, wrinkly potato and the floppy yellow middle bit of the celery; the last of the chorizo and the shreds of meat from the stock bones add a bit of protein, and some parsley from the windowsill adds colour and a bit of freshness. Mop it up with some slightly stale bread from last weekend, and that's a brilliant lunch.

That makes our food related waste stack up as follows:

Breakfast: same as Monday, porridge/cereal and tea.
Food-related waste: a teabag.

Lunch: Soup and bread, fruit, home made flapjack.
Food-related waste: veg peelings, chicken fat and the cooked-out veg from the stock.
Packaging waste: paper bag from the bread, plastic celery wrapper, plastic chorizo tray.

Compostable food waste: 95g (including paper bag).
Non-compostable food waste: 145g (chicken fat and the stock veg it contaminated).
No recyclable packaging.
Non-recyclable packaging: 10g (celery bag, chorizo tray).

Friday, 6 March 2009


I'm loving food, hating waste, and eating out tonight :) As I don't want to embarrass my friends I shall try to refrain from quizzing the waitress about the restaurant's food waste policies...

Thanks to my inability to get bored by eating the same thing for breakfast (porridge) and lunch (salad) every day, you can work out my food waste habits today from the rest of this week's posts! Home alone, Mark (not invited to the girls' night out...) cooked pasta and tomato sauce and created some further veg trimmings.

Compostable food waste: 320g.
No non-compostable food waste.
No recyclable packaging.
No non-recyclable packaging.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

LFHW day 4 - stock it to 'em

An old favourite for tea tonight - chicken, chickpea and lemon casserole. When we bought the chicken from the butcher, rather than four ready-skinned and boned thighs we got two leg quarters. So not only do we have enough meat to make double quantities of the casserole, but I also chucked the bones in with an onion, celery and bay leaves to make yummy stock for the weekend's soup. As I am apparently quite useless at boning chicken, there was plenty of meat left on said bones! So, what might have done us for one meal if we had simply roasted the chicken, has stretched to 3 with the addition of a few extra, cheap ingredients (vegetables).

How about food waste today?

Breakfast: same as Monday, porridge/cereal and tea.
Food-related waste: a teabag.

Lunch: Salad again (but no more manky celery, hurrah), orange, cake. While ferreting in the fridge I found a very old jar of sauerkraut (a phase I went through...) sadly past its best.
Food-related waste: veg peelings and seeds, sauerkraut.
Packaging waste: glass jar and lid.

Snacks: apple, banana, nuts.
Food-related waste: banana peel, apple core.

Dinner: See above!
Food-related waste: leek and broccoli trimmings, lemon pips, onion and garlic skin, chicken bones, skin and fat.
Packaging waste: stock cube foil wrapper, thin plastic bag from chicken.

Compostable food waste: 380g (including 75g sauerkraut!).
Non-compostable food waste: 280g (all from the chicken).
Recyclable packaging: 540g - glass, metal lids, foil.
Non-recyclable packaging: 5g.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

LFHW day 3 - the F word

No, not food. And certainly nothing to do with Mr Ramsay. Freezer!

In the campaign against food waste, the freezer is a staunch ally. It takes the rush and repetition out of having leftovers that need using, and lets you take advantage of all those BOGOF bargains to help keep the shopping bills down.

We had a (planned) raid on the freezer tonight. Dinner was a warming sausage casserole (very welcome - it was freezing as I cycled home), with the stars of the show being some rather tasty venison sausages from Pickering's. Now, there are two great things about Pickering's. One, they have an incredible selection of unusual and delicious sausages, and two, they always seem to be doing "buy 2lb get 1lb free" on their Norwich Market stall. (Oh yes - and they wrap them in paper! Make that three great things. I'll have to ask about containers next time...) No matter how much of a banger fiend you are, you'd be pushed to get through 3lb (about 21 sausages) before they went off, so this is where you need your trusty freezer. It would be an absolute crime for these sausages to end up as food waste.

We split the 1lb packs and find that 3-4 sausages squeeze perfectly into a takeaway carton, which stacks nicely in the freezer. Margarine tubs are also OK but they can get brittle when frozen so take care. You can write on the top with a chinagraph pencil to remind you what's inside (you wouldn't want to mix up your Aunt Ednas and your Cornish Tiddlers, would you?) and what date it was frozen. As you can imagine, 6 lots of sausages lasts us a while!

Our freezer holds all sorts of goodies. There are frozen herbs from the summer, lemon juice, bread, home baked cakes for the week, and even grated white chocolate from some previous cooking adventure. In the autumn there were stewed apples ready for making crumble, and I've also done bananas when there has been an end-of-the-day bargain on offer. Sometimes it also holds meals where we've deliberately made double. If I'd thought to get two lots of sausages out to defrost yesterday we could have done that tonight! And the best thing is, your freezer runs most efficiently when it's full. So get filling!

Just time for a quick overview of today on the food waste front:

Breakfast: same as Monday, porridge/cereal and tea. I also found that one of the oranges had gone mouldy in the fruit bowl (only bought on Saturday), so I halved it - ate the good half with breakfast and composted the mouldy one. Tasted fine!
Food-related waste: a teabag, half an orange.
Packaging waste: empty honey jar, seal strip from new one.

Lunch: Back to my usual salad today. Unfortunately the outer stems of the new head of celery are not good - hollow and brown inside. I salvaged the top half of two, and will see what the rest is like tomorrow.
Food-related waste: veg peelings and seeds, 2 half celery sticks.

Snacks: lots of home made cake marking a colleague leaving for 2 months. Due to the cake I didn't eat all my fruit and nuts today :)
Food-related waste: banana peel.

Dinner: See above!
Food-related waste: leek trimmings, green bean tops and tails, garlic skin.
Packaging waste: stock cube foil wrapper, bean tin (plus paper sausage wrapper at the weekend), beer bottle and lid.

Compostable food waste: 340g
No food waste to go in the bin.
Recyclable packaging: 625g - glass, metal lids, tin and foil. Actually the jar and lid will be saved for reuse during jam season!
No non-recyclable packaging.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

LFHW day 2

Today's LFHW launch went really well - some supportive launching-type words from Galton Blackiston and people from the council and WRAP, and lots of mingling. I had extremely interesting chats about the Broadland food waste collection trial, ways to improve my compost (air and cardboard is what I need), favourite leftovers recipes, and how this scheme is going to work. I also managed to ask Galton Blackiston about the professional kitchen and food waste, specifically the issue of binning "imperfect" food I blogged before. He was pretty much convinced that the Masterchef example I gave was dramatised to make good TV, and that professional chefs in a real kitchen would not waste food in such a sweeping way. Reassuring to hear! He seems very committed to top quality food from local sources and with a minimum of environmental impact, and having been lucky enough to eat at Morston Hall, I can report that the food quality is not in the least impaired by paying attention to these things!

I also appreciatively collected a cotton shopper bag (yes, another one!) containing goodies such as a fridge thermometer, pasta portion sizer, recipe book and cards, and best of all two Freshpods. These are now lurking in my fruit bowl and salad drawer, guarding against the deterioration of my fruit and veg. The lunch provided was rather tasty, and I just hope that any leftovers were offered around to the event's public visitors! By the time I left, the stalls seemed to be drawing in all sorts of people who were passing through the Forum, for composting advice, food waste freebies, and of course loads of advice, which is excellent.

One of the most interesting discussions I had was actually with another invitee, about how to engage people and what sort of people we reach with these events. He put forward the point that the vast majority of people at the Forum today were middle class, intelligent, and almost certainly already engaged with recycling. Are these the people who are wasting a third of the food they buy? How can we best get through to a wider selection of people - particularly in some of the more deprived areas? We agreed that the best way is to take the information to the people, rather than expecting them to come to you and ask for it, but my personal view is that there is also no harm in starting with an "easy win". That is, talking to the people who are ready to engage and just need information as opposed to persuasion. I always reckon that starting with a bit of success boosts morale and fires you up to go and tackle something a bit more challenging.

All that said, this was just the launch event, and most of the people there, at least initially, were people who had been invited due to the job that they do or the organisation they are with - so that is one reason for it not being an especially varied audience. I am sure there are plans to further develop the LFHW campaign here in Norfolk, and I look forward to seeing what they are! Kudos to the Norfolk Waste Partnership team and WRAP/LFHW guys for a great launch.

How has our food waste day been?

Breakfast: same as yesterday, porridge/cereal and tea.
Food-related waste: a teabag.

Lunch: a couple of sandwiches at the event, with the rest of it later in the afternoon at my desk, consisting of rice cakes, peanut butter, a pepper, a tomato, and an orange.
Food-related waste: pepper stem and seeds, orange peel.
Packaging waste: rice cakes wrapper, paper salt sachet found in my desk drawer.

Snacks: an apple and a banana, some almonds, and a creme egg.
Food-related waste: banana peel, apple core, foil.

Dinner: Chicken stir fry with cabbage, carrot, onion and pepper, sauce and rice.
Food-related waste: cabbage stalk, onion and carrot peel, pepper seeds and stem.
Packaging waste: thin plastic bag from the chicken, empty sauce sachet.

Compostable food waste: 290g
No food waste to go in the bin!
Recyclable packaging: 5g paper and foil
Non-recyclable packaging: 35g plastic

Fridge invaders!

Oh my goodness - there seems to be a strange man rootling around in Alex's fridge!

But it's OK, it's only Wally Webb from BBC Radio Norfolk. He's visiting her to talk about food waste and the big LFHW launch on Norwich today, and to check that she practices what she preaches (I know for a fact she does, so no worries there). I'm sure she'll blog it herself later on, so I just wanted to say well done Alex on being a model zero-food-waster for the county this morning! :)

Monday, 2 March 2009

My perfect waste campaign... LFHW day 1

Well, it's true. I love food, and I hate waste!

As tomorrow sees the launch of the LFHW campaign in Norfolk, and I have been lucky enough to bagsy an invitation, I will have loads of information on reducing food waste coming up on tomorrow's blog.

I have also decided that this will be my own LFHW week, and I'll tally the waste we create with particular attention to food. First it's worth saying a bit about the start of the week, which in food terms is the weekend as that's when we shop.

On Saturday morning I sat and planned the food for the week - a mix of old favourites (stir fry, tomato and bacon pasta) and new recipes to try (white fish with spicy beans and chorizo, sausage and butter bean casserole), plus any baking I want to do. This gets translated into a list and we go out shopping - to the greengrocer, fishmonger, baker (all the same shop!), butcher, and then to the supermarket for tinned and dry goods and non-food. Using the list, we should find that we don't overbuy - buying things loose from independent shops also helps with this. Over the weekend I baked banana flapjacks with some almost-past-it nanas, and made a big pan of vegetable and pasta soup to do for lunch both days.

On to today, the start of my LFHW focus, and it went something like this:

Breakfast: porridge with fruit, nuts and honey, and a fruit tea. For hubby it's weetabix.
Food-related waste: a teabag.

Lunch: I have a big salad with spinach, cucumber, celery, pepper, carrot, cherry tomatoes, tuna, and sweet chilli sauce, followed by an orange and one of the fruity oat bars I baked last week (packed in a reusable tub). Him indoors doesn't do packed lunches, not that I haven't tried! It's usually a supermarket sandwich, yogurt and fruit, but today he was at a meeting with lunch included.
Food-related waste: inedible vegetable and fruit bits (peels, cores, seeds, etc.)
Packaging waste: celery wrapper.

Snacks: an apple and a banana, and some nuts (a small pot, filled from a big pack at home). Mark manages to munch some cake.
Food-related waste: banana peel, apple core.
Packaging waste: empty almond bag.

Dinner: haddock fillet with spicy beans, chorizo and cabbage, crusty bread, then yogurt and some flapjack. Clean plates all round apart from the scaly haddock skin!
Food-related waste: tough ribs from the cabbage's outer leaves, onion and garlic peel, fish skin.
Packaging waste: tomato and bean tins, plastic yogurt pot and lid, thin plastic bag from the fish, foil yogurt lid.

As you can see, there is plenty of "unavoidable food waste" (i.e. non-edible bits), but the vast majority of this (320g) can be composted. Just the fish skin (8g) has to go in the bin. Of the packaging, the tins and foil (110g) can be recycled, but the plastics (38g) can't.

One thing I do know is that there will be less compostable waste for me tomorrow as the launch event includes a buffet (suitably low-waste I hope...)

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Waste vs. waist

As part of my efforts to get fitter and healthier, I'm a member of a diet and fitness website, and often read the forums on there. I have noticed that when people ask for food ideas, there is recommendation of home cooked food as well as "diet" ready meals, which is brilliant to see. A recent thread on what to have for dinner for about 300 calories not only gathered suggestions of Weight Watchers ready meals, Quorn cottage pie, boil in the bag fish and rice, and other pre-packed stuff, but also ideas including fresh fish and meat, and recipes for vegetable soup, butternut squash casserole, and Spanish omelette.

This must also mean a reduction in packaging. Ready meals have at least a plastic dish, film lid and cardboard or plastic box/wrapper. Supermarket "healthy goodies" often come in acres of plastic, sometimes wrapped separately in individual portions "for calorie control". Fresh fruit and veg, however, can be had with minimal packaging, as can meat and fish if you venture beyond the fluorescent-lit halls of Tesco et al. So it's great to see people recommending these things to each other - I think that is generally much more successful than a finger-wagging nanny state - right, wastebloggers? :)

Of course, it's not an absolute link. You can buy plenty of chocolate in recyclable paper and foil, and wine and beer are not known for their unrecyclable packaging either, to give two examples. But I have found that the two things are often mutually supportive:
  • I make fewer frivolous/impulse purchases, and those I do make often involve fruit.
  • I make more effort to buy in bulk, and use small pots and tubs to take what I need to work or out for the day.
  • I bake my own cakey snacks which are tastier and more satisfying than the shop alternatives.
  • I plan the week's food in advance, and don't fall victim to "I can't be bothered, let's order a takeaway" syndrome.
  • I know how much food I should be eating, and I don't have lots of extra things hanging around the house being tempting.
I've said before, I do have the luxury of no picky eaters to feed, and time for planning, shopping and cooking (although by no means do I slave over a hot shopping list for hours) - not everyone is in the same position. But this time last year you didn't find me cycling to the local shops for my fresh produce (more health benefits!) or taking half an hour on a Saturday morning to look up a few recipes and decide which old favourites are coming up this week. These are small changes I've made that are really working.

I don't think what I do is a particular hassle. And if it has double benefits, then surely it's even more worth it! What other benefits are you all finding from your waste reduction efforts?