I have made it a personal mission this year to try and reduce the amount that we as a family are chucking out in rubbish, how can I achieved that? Basic planning, re-using, freezing and composting.
Do you look at the best-by and use by dates on products when you buy them from the supermarket? I have started doing that a lot more recently. I don’t know how many times that I have bought stuff and it hasn’t lasted to when I wanted to use it, let alone a few days, all because I haven’t checked the dates. It is a well-known fact that shops stack their fresh goods at the back and their older stuff at the front, it makes sense. I try and look most times but you can guarantee that murphy’s law would kick in and the days that I’m distracted by distraught toddlers or in a rush I forget to look at the dates is the day I end up buying something that has already or about to pass it’s use-by date, what a pain! Shop around, move stock around and look at the dates, there is nothing stopping you from getting the freshest stock you can buy.
Buying goods in bulk and then not using it all is another trap most of us fall into. Great intentions and best laid plans fall short to unexpected situations and tiredness. You mean to use food in your fridge and end up getting takeaways as it’s easier when you’ve had a hellish day. Have you thought about breaking bulk items up into smaller portions and freezing them? I often do this with meat, but the same can be said for some fruits and vegies too. I was up the coast a few months back and bought a HUGE bag of capsicums for $5, there must have been about 20 in the bag, seemed like a good deal at the time. When I got home and thought about what I had done it seemed a little bit silly. I left a few out for the week and cored, cut and bagged the rest and attempted to play Freezer Tetris. Admittedly they are great in my slow-cooker meals, stirfries, you wouldn’t know the difference, I wish I had thought to do this in the past. You also need to look at the prices, sometimes it’s actually more expensive to buy the bulk bags and you can often buy the same amount of goods in smaller bags for a cheaper price, with the added advantage of being able to open things as you need them – flour is a good example of this.
Buying fruit and veg in bulk can sometimes work and other times, it can be a bad idea, you need to be picky. It might seem like buying the potatoes in a big bag was a great idea at the time, but a month later when you are still working your way through them, they may have been end of season potatoes and are going soft by the time you get to the bottom of the bag, all you want is a firm potato rather than the bouncy soft produce in your hands. Or that big bag of oranges looked great, but all the older fruit were in the middle of the bag and some were nearly passed it by the time you got them home. Most often it’s best to buy fresh fruit and veg loose, you can pick and choose exactly what and how much you want.
What do you do with leftovers? There are a myriad of things that you can do with leftovers, don’t forget the flavors that develop when things are left. I tend to make meals in bulk so I can put half in the freezer for a quick meal another time or freeze meals that the hubby can take to work for lunch, or the kids can eat when they are eating separately and we’re in a hurry. I’m sure as Kiwis we sometimes need to watch our portion sizes, how easy is it to fill a plate when it’s not necessary, then we are left with the option of either eating it all or leaving it on the plate. Either way it goes to waste/waist. Here are a bunch of ideas to use up those leftovers. Have a look to see how much you can re-use and recycle.
- Roast Meat – cottage or shepherds pies, Quesada’s, chop it up and throw it in bags in the freezer to use in toastie pies with cheese, casseroles. Chicken carcasses can be used to make soup or stock. I used roast pork and made Chinese BBQ pork steamed buns
- BBQ Sausages – yummy bakes with tomatoes, garlic and topped with potatoes.
- Mashed Potato – makes a good fry up and if you have cabbage you can make bubble and squeak.
- Roast vegies – a great roast vegie salad (cold or hot), roast vegie spinach and feta pizza, throw it in with some pasta, use them to bulk up a casserole. Pizza is a great way to use up a LOT of leftovers.
- Cream – make a pasta sauce
- Egg whites – make a pav, or throw them in the freezer – they defrost easily and can be used as normal once they reach room temperature. Make an egg-white omelet …
- Stale Bread – make crostini, stuffing, crumble them up and toast them to use as bread crumbs, make croutons (toast them with chicken stock and a bit of oil)
- Too much Basil – make some pesto
- Too many lemons – freeze the juice
- Cake – freeze them, when defrosted you can easily ice it. Especially good for offcuts from decorating cakes, you can use them for truffles, cakepops and dessert bases. Warm it up in the microwave and have it as dessert with custard and chocolate or caramel sauce.
These are just a few examples, but the great thing is that with the internet at our fingers all it takes is a minute or two to search for some inspiration and you’ll have some fantastic ideas on how to use up those leftovers.
What about composting? Since we have shifted to our new house it has pained me to see the amount of scraps that we have been throwing out in the rubbish. I have wanted to set up compost bins in our backyard, I really have no excuse now, so I will attempt to do that in the next few weeks. Composting is a great way to get rid of that organic waste from both the kitchen and the garden (lawns) that quite often ends up unnecessarily in our landfills. Things that are great in the compost include almost everything that gets discarded from fresh produce like fruit and vegies.
If you have a coffee machine, coffee grinds are a great addition to the compost bin as they add a nitrogen to the compost which is great as at certain times of the year that is hard to come by. I even sprinkle mine straight into the garden. As an avid gardener I know that great compost needs “browns” and “greens” at a ratio of 25:1, but most people find that 3:1 is more achievable. The following table provides a good list of what falls into each category.
One of my friends was chatting the other day and mentioned that they make a fresh origami box (including lid) out of newspaper every day, throw all their scraps in that and then bin the entire thing in the compost. The paper adds the roughage to the compost and it’s fresh and tidy on the kitchen bench. Great idea! If you’re not keen on a compost bin, how about a worm farm? The liquid food generated from a worm farm is unbeatable.
This is probably enough of a ramble, but you get the idea. There is plenty that we can do if we put our minds to it to reduce the amount of waste that we are producing as a nation. Yes we might need to be a bit more organised, yes we might need to think about and plan what we’re doing, but surely the positives outweigh the negatives in the end? Who doesn’t want to spend less money on food, waste less produce and get free compost for the garden?
I have seen what a difference a little bit of forethought has done for our family and once I get our composting sorted out we will be all the better for it.
Food for thought perhaps …