War On Waste

In my kitchen last week there was food that was past its best. There always is. It's inevitable. Unless you buy spanking fresh produce every day then some of what you eat will not be in tip top condition. Luckily we have fridges and freezers to help prolong the life of our food. There are also many foods which keep in good condition without the need for a fridge or freezer, such as dried beans and lentils, pasta, rice, tinned produce and anything preserved in lots of sugar, salt or vinegar.

I watched Hugh's War onWaste last week and like everyone else who watched it was angered by all those perfectly good rejected parsnips. I was also shocked to see people throwing away good food because it was a nanosecond past its use by date. Firstly because I couldn't understand why they'd bought more food than they could eat, and secondly because it was all almost certainly perfectly edible.

 Supermarkets love use by dates. They love it when you stand in front of your fridge throwing out all the old food to make room for all the new food you are going to buy because you are afraid you will die if you eat a yogurt that is two days past the date on its label. If you make your own yogurt it won't have a use by date on it and you can eat it for as long as it takes to go pink -several weeks. Or, you could use it up before then in muffins, scones, cakes or smoothies.

Four shrink wrapped baking potatoes from a supermarket will have a use by date of one week on them. A 20 kg sack of potatoes from a farm shop will have no date at all. I keep my sacks in the garage and they last well for two or three months if you are a big hungry family (I find the 10 kg sacks suit us better now there are four of us). Greengrocers also sell fruit and veg loose and date free but I concede that supermarkets are often cheaper and more convenient and I use them as much as anyone else.

The only use by dates I take notice of are the ones on meat and fish and even then I don't take much notice. I either cook it within a couple of days or sling it in the freezer and cook as soon as it's defrosted. It's pretty obvious when any food has gone off, that's what your sense of smell is for. Look and sniff.

Use by dates encourage waste and rob us of common sense.



 A bendy carrot was not thrown in the bin but grated and made into a sandwich for my husband with the last couple of spoonfuls of hummus and tapenade even though neither had been 'finished within two days of opening'. Husband survived.


On Tuesday I cooked too much rice -this time not on purpose, I cooked the recommended 300g for 4 persons and found it to be way too much. I didn't throw the rice away. I cooled it quickly by spreading it out in a shallow dish and refrigerated it as soon as it was cool. The next day I made tuna and rice salad and ate it for my lunch for the rest of the week. 


The onion leftover from the rice salad plus a couple of wrinkled peppers and some aging eggs, which incidentally I do not refrigerate, went into this sturdy Spanish style omelette. I ate the leftover piece for breakfast.


A softening sweet potato was made into a curried filling for pasties with chickpeas and frozen spinach (a marvellous ingredient by the way), a spoonful of curry paste and a chunk of creamed coconut. I grated up the end of a cucumber and stirred it with the last bit of yogurt to make raita.



And two spotty bananas were made into these little puff pastry parcels with some squares of chocolate and a spoonful caramel sauce from a jar. I bought the caramel especially for this because I really fancied trying this idea but I had all the other ingredients. My usual spotty banana rescue is muffins or banana cake.


I had a few bruised apples. I  cut away the bruised bits and cooked the rest in a little butter. Then I stirred the rest of the caramel sauce into them and spread them over the rest of the puff pastry which I had baked.


This morning my fridge contained these leftovers; four small chicken thighs from a casserole I made yesterday, a couple of spoonfuls of peas, the remaining liquid from the casserole and half a butternut squash. There was also the oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes plus half a block of feta.


From these somewhat random ingredients I made the delicious dish below.
I tossed the diced squash with the tomato oil and roasted it. I heated up the chickeny juices and used them to rehydrate some couscous. I stir-fried the chicken and peas with a couple of sun-dried tomatoes and the roasted squash. Finally I sprinkled it with crumbled feta and served it with the couscous and some out of date rocket, which as you can see was in perfect condition. There is a spoonful of couscous left and quite a lot of feta - lunch for me tomorrow.






Comments

  1. I am going to show this post to my husband, who believes that best before dates are written by God. I admire your way with leftovers. I am getting better. Although I have meal making apathy at the moment.
    Leanne xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. My favourite meals are those created from leftovers - so satisfying to use up all your scraps and I also find that it leads to a more creative combination of ingredients. Having said that, I do have a corn on the cob in my fridge that has become mummified - I think that one might be going in the compost!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brilliant - what's gone wrong with the world that people can't tell for themselves if food is OK or not? I read a letter in the paper on this subject and it said that the writer's granny had cleared out her cupboards prior to moving in 1980s and dished up corned beef and tinned soup bought before the war and another correspondent spoke of wedding cvake over 100 years old discovered in the loft and still edible. I am glad I am not the only one who never puts my eggs in the fridge!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Totally agree. Try to eat everything however old unless it has obviously deteriated. Hardly bother to look at dates.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love leftovers and am also very relaxed about use by dates and pretty much ignore best before dates altogether...my weekday lunches are almost always leftovers made into something yummy, Apple's and pears looking sad in the fruit bowl make Sunday pudding crumble, pie etc and wrinkly veg make great soup, stew, curry.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was brought up to never throw away food that hasn't gone bad. I can neither abide, nor understand, the amount of waste people are comfortable producing today. Don't even get me started on electronic waste.

    ReplyDelete
  7. In our house we're happy to eat anything that's gone by its date. We've never been ill as a result of this. Maybe we're a bit greedy as we never have many leftovers! Today for my lunch I finished off a few cream crackers spread with Philadelphia from an unopened tub, best before 25th September! Was fine and no mould at all.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was agog at the amount of waste shown on that programme. All those parsnips. The world's gone mad.(My usual response to most things at the moment. I am enjoying being middle-aged.) I totally agree with you and I try to use up leftovers as sensibly as possible. Like Leanne, though, not all in my household share this opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Agree completely. Love using up leftovers. We were all so furious at school today. The catering company that supplies our school dinners had obviously over ordered, there was a whole tray of baked potatoes, lentil bake and salads that went straight in the bin. They used to let us save stuff like that for children to eat at after school club or for staff but apparently their rule is must be binned. At least it has made us all think of what we can do to protest about it, and Hugh's programme is raising awareness too...A timely pot! Thank you Sarah

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm with you. It's such a good feeling to use up leftovers and you do it so creatively. My answer to leftovers is usually soup or casseroles. Must up my game.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The web site yo sign Hugh's petition has crashed this evening. Although frustrating for those that want to sign up its also encouraging that so many people are on board. Youngsters don't have proper cookery lessons were by you learn the methodology. I'm sure that contributes to waste. Well done on the way you've used your leftovers. Brilliant ideas especially the banoffee pastries......yumyum

    ReplyDelete
  12. We have a pack of mature cheddar in our fridge which bears the instruction "Use within three days of opening"!!!! Do these people not know how long cheese takes to make? As though three days would make a difference!
    There are just the two of us, so it's much easier to judge how much we need for a week, but I never throw anything away either. In the way I would never throw money into the bin!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I pretty much ignore use by dates on canned goods unless they're like 2 years over the limit.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My new town has the most fantastic organization called the Gleaners. They sell food that would be binned by restaurants or supermarkets and also take excess from local farms. For about a dollar a day plus three hours of volunteering a month, each family can "shop" three times a week for loads of produce, dairy, dented canned goods etc. I often get berries out of season for free, all because the supermarket couldn't sell them in time. Last week it was bring-your-own-cooler for chicken, and salmon before that. I only wish this were more common!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Like you, I hate waste.... in fact I never have any. Sell by dates are the devil's work!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Delicious looking food. I want to live in your house. I am trying to cut out waste in our food.It is mostly me and the three year old who eat anything left in the fridge cooked in omlettes or curries for our lunches.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hugh would roll you in sugar and kiss you all over. You're all about the food - and I truly love you for it. Like the look of those pasties. I need to get with the programme with veggie pasties. Am sitting here feeling a bit smug becuase I have just put my first Christmas cake in the oven. But bet you had yours done weeks ago......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually Janice I haven't made one at all this year. Only my eldest and husband eat it and although they do eat it all up I think I'll make something smaller and lighter this year. After all, the Christmas pud is almost identical to s Christmas cake and I'll certainly be making one of those. Hope you enjoy yours though.

      Delete
  18. Great post, and I too will show it to my husband! We buy our bacon from a brilliant butcher and if it's been in the fridge for more than 2 days he's questioning it, and he was brought up on a farm. Talk about brainwashed. Needless to say he eats far more 'out if date' food than he realises!

    ReplyDelete
  19. And amen to that Sue! Couldn't agree more xx

    ReplyDelete
  20. Love all your creative food ideas. We watched that TV programme incredulously. It seems to me as if it boils down to (lack of) education. And as for the parsnips - I grow them at my allotment and they hardly ever come out of the ground looking anything like the supermarket's offering. Thank goodness both my children are cooking from scratch and eating well, it really is one of life's pleasures.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Brilliant post Sue... I would happily repost this word for word. I hate food waste almost more than anything and don't get me started on sell by/use by dates. What ever happened to common sense... And our sense of smell.

    ReplyDelete
  22. You really should write The Little Book of Leftovers for people not fortunate enough to have your blog to refer to. Snickered at the pink yogurt. There was a Ben Elton moment of recognition there.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Brilliant post. I caught the first episode of this and was horrified at all those perfect parsnips being dumped on cosmetic grounds - our society is mad and our supermarkets a madder reflection of that insanity. Thank you for some great recipes - my favourite 'waste food' tip is that slightly sad leftover salad leaves are great additions to curries, stews or stir fries, just like very small spinach leaves. Hooray for noses and brains - they should serve to figure out what's off and what's not.

    ReplyDelete
  24. What an excellent and inspiring post. Sell by dates prey on people's lack of confidence in the kitchen.

    I find soups an excellent repository for veg that's a bit past it's best. Brown bananas are peeled, chopped into chunks and frozen, so that they can be added to smoothies or defrosted and put in banana cake at a later date. Now I'm back at work I struggle to deal with leftovers straight away. Great tips from the commenters above two. Imagine a series or link up all about leftovers, what wonderful thing that would be!

    ReplyDelete
  25. You are a whiz at improv cooking. I'd happily eat any of these. I'm totally with you on this issue. Funny story--my DH and I volunteer for a program that delivers meals to elderly people who can't get out or cook for themselves. All the food is prepared by a company that packages the meals and freezes them. The organization heats them and we deliver them hot. It's paid for the by the state (unless, as they are now, in a budget stalemate and shut down). A local supermarket donates food to us (and other local groups) that they have pulled off the shelves for various reasons because they feel it can't be sold (baked goods and packaged foods, nothing perishable). You wouldn't BELIEVE the quantity of foods we get. None of it can be given to the seniors, so it is for the volunteers as a thank you for delivering the meals. (It is hard to get people to do this and show up every week for their shift, so it's a surprisingly powerful incentive.) What we don't take gets passed on to other groups. Some items I can understand--chocolate that has bloomed, or dented cans (this is a high-end store), some past their sell-by date. Much of it, though, has absolutely nothing wrong with it. I can only guess that, from a marketing standpoint, it isn't selling so they need to replace it with something that will sell. We do have to remember that supermarkets have a very tiny profit margin, so they really can't afford to have stuff on the shelves that won't sell. It's an issue that has a lot of "sides" to the story and no easy answers. Every answer will be hyper local, very tricky to decide on, and require lots of volunteers to make it happen on a daily basis in perpetuity. And you really do need to pay attention to the potential for food poisoning. But I suspect the discarded food from all the many supermarkets in our area would be staggering if we could see it all in one pile. And we, as customers, pay for it each time we buy something. And, yes, I feel guilty taking this food, but we also donate a significant amount of time and mileage for this charity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are similar schemes going on around the UK, and yes you are right, this is an issue with a lot of sides and therefore not an easy one to solve.

      Delete
  26. We have never been ill from eating out of date stuff. And we eat a lot of it...
    Ax

    ReplyDelete
  27. One of my yoghurts, I noticed the other day, has a best before date of 22nd August - it will be fine, I know.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sue, you've done it again, showing us so many great ideas for combining ingredients to create delicious dishes. I am definitely in your corner with regard to avoiding waste. Just takes a bit of planning, creativity and ... courage.

    I'm with you on keeping frozen spinach and sun-dried tomatoes on hand. I do try to visit a farmers market at least once a week, but try to only buy what I expect to use before my next visit. Sometimes, all the glorious produce on display is hard to resist, but I do my best to be thoughtful.

    xo

    ReplyDelete
  29. Use by dates make me very angry. Since when do apples go off in three days? I was brought up by a mother who never shopped in a supermarket and was taught to look and smell food to check if it was okay - I don't remember any of us ever having any kind of tummy upset, and the butcher or greengrocer would have looked at you as if you were mad if you'd asked how long it would last! I was also brought up in a household where money was in short supply - nothing was wasted and we ate a lot of very cheap cuts of meat and masses of cheaper types of veg. Braised hearts, liver, breast of lamb and belly of pork featured large as did stews from the ends of joints and pies and pasties (also chitterling, tripe and pigs trotters but I don't recommend them!). We're much more adventurous cooks these days and there are so many interesting ingredients, so using leftovers in stirfry, risotto and pasta is so easy. If you just check your fridge everyday you can easily freeze what you know won't be used - or cook things for another day when you've got the oven on, or do a batch cook to save you time later in the week. We need to stop being afraid of, or intimidated by, the bendy carrot, cheese that needs the mould cut off or the bruised fruit. We also need to reasses our supermarket use - like you, Sue, I have access to good farm shops. But many places still have a weekly market - or a more frequent one, there are still good butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers around and if we don't use them we will lose them. Yes, some are trendy and pricey, but many are family businesses that have existed for decades. When we lived in outer London we had a fabulous oldfashioned street market 6 days a weeks selling every fruit and veg you could think of and some you'd never heard of - it isn't just a country thing. The supermarkets have become bullies and hypocrites, happy to sell us junk and pretend it's our own idea. As Hugh said, who is more important, tose who sell us our food, or those who grow it. Great post, Sue.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Brilliant post, and I love the banana, chocolate and toffee parcel idea, I'll have to give that one a go . My bananas all get chopped in half and frozen before they get too spotty (I don't like them to be too sweet), then they are either used for my morning Nutriblasts or else whizzed up into a quick icecream.

    I do look at use by dates and best befores, but then I use common sense to tell me what to do. We have to learn to trust our senses.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Lovely looking dishes as usual, you should have your own cookery programme. I had to smile at the hummus and its 2 day window. More like 2 weeks at Number 38 and like your husband, I'm still here to tell the tale. The dates are ridiculous and you're right, it just takes a bit of common sense. xx

    ReplyDelete
  32. Such a fab post with some great ideas. We will be eating a random 'bottom of the fridge' pasta bake tomorrow, made before I went on holiday and stashed in the freezer.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Sue - a question - what do you do with chicken fat that solidifies on the top of homemade chicken stock?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marge, I freeze my chicken stock as soon as it is cool and it doesn't get a chance to solidify. If I were to put it in the fridge overnight so that the fat floats to the surface I would either lift it off and discard it, yes, throw it away because sometimes I don't want to eat too much fat however natural it may be, or, I would heat the lot up so that it all melts into the liquid. I do pour off fat from a roasted chicken into a little dish and keep in the fridge for frying potatoes or making a sauce for a chicken pie but I'm trying to eat less fat just now.

      Delete
    2. Thank you! More or less what I had thought - yes, a shame to chuck it. I was wondering why it should be any less desirable than goose fat for roasting potatoes. I'll have to look into it.

      Delete
  34. Unfortunately I did not see the programme by HFW, but with reference to the parsnips I thought you might smile at a conversation I overheard in Budgens this weekend:-
    An old chap asked the young member of staff standing at the vegetable stall if he had "any bent parsnips" - I could see he had a smile on his face as he said it, but what was so funny was that the member of staff replied "I'm sorry but all ours appear to be straight ones Sir", "Well I don't want those, I only want bent ones". To which, I had to move off as I was finding it hard not to laugh out loud - bless her, to be oh so young and naive, it was lovely:)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment