Not a trifling amount

I keep seeing stories in the (not-so-mainstream) media about food waste. Apparently 30-40% of all food produced globally is never eaten because it is “spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers” (The Guardian, April, 2016). And this is something that individuals are, to a significant extent, responsible for. According to Climate Central “The USDA estimates 35 percent of turkey meat cooked at Thanksgiving gets wasted.” If you want to see some more detailed facts and figures for the US, there’s a fascinating report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that’s well worth a read. There are high production losses worldwide, but consumer waste is significant in North America, Oceania and Europe, as can be seen from this graph form the World Economic Forum:which-regions-waste-the-most-food_1024

Obviously, the less food that is wasted, the more people can be fed, but the issue goes much deeper than this: waste food in landfill releases methane – a greenhouse gas with a much greater impact than carbon dioxide; the land used for agriculture is land not supporting native vegetation, and thus adversely affecting biodiversity; crops require water, so if we are wasting crops we are wasting water. If you want to read more, I recommend the FAO report Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources.

Because food waste is something that we are almost all responsible for to some extent, it’s a problem that we can all do something about. And it’s a win-win situation – save the planet and save money.

So, when I made a disastrous batch of cupcakes last week, rather than compost them, I made a trifle…

IMGP2915 (2)

trifle before the whipped cream was added

This also helped to use some of the abundance of eggs that we have. I think Mr Snail is hoping for many more cake failures, since he loves trifle. See, avoiding food waste can be fun!

Every last bit

For anyone trying to live a sustainable life, avoiding food waste is really important. But it’s also important for anyone on a budget or wanting to save money. I have written before about this issue of throwing food away, so here I’m going to share a recipe for using up bits and pieces.

I don’t mind giving scraps to the chickens, as that just converts one sort of food to another (although I prefer them to eat snails, slugs and weeds), but I much prefer humans to eat food from the kitchen (and garden). And so, I regularly find myself making Glamorgan Sausages. Now, although I do eat meat, these sausages are vegetarian. For them, you require breadcrumbs, cheese, onion, sage and an egg, plus salt, pepper and mustard if any of those things appeal to your taste buds (I tend not to add any of them).

First, whiz up some bread (any sort, with or without gluten, just nothing sweet) in a food processor. To the bowl, add onion (I usually manage to have half an onion hanging around that needs eating up or I use onion tops or spring onions from the garden) and some chopped cheese (fine if you have a piece of cheese that’s gone slightly dry) and whiz it all around again. Then add some fresh chopped sage or dried rubbed sage and give it a quick pulse to mix it before breaking in an egg (or two if you’ve made lots) and whizzing it again until it’s all combined (adingd seasonings at this stage if required). After this, divide the mixture up and roll into sausages before shallow frying.

Glamorgan sausages with garlic potatoes and lettuce

Glamorgan sausages with garlic potatoes and lettuce

I usually serve them with potatoes (especially good with boiled new ones), lettuce and apple chutney, but you can have them with baked beans, vegetables or in a bun. The mixture is brilliant for making vegetarian Scotch Eggs too. The only problem is that I never measure quantities, so you’ll have to be creative! I can say, however, that I always use a relatively small amount of a strong cheddar cheese.

They are, in fact, too good only to make when I have stale bread and elderly cheese and quite often, chez snail, they are made from fresh ingredients… and they always go down well.

 

 

Fruit vinegar

A report on the BBC today highlights the amount of food that is going to waste in the UK, with Tesco reporting that it threw away 30,000 tonnes of food in the first six months of this year:

Using its own data and industry-wide figures, it has also estimated that, across the UK food industry, 68% of salad to be sold in bags was wasted – 35% of it thrown out by customers.

And it estimated that 40% of apples and 47% of bakery items were wasted.

My bucket of 'food waste'!

My bucket of ‘food waste’!

These are shocking figures… but I’m not entirely surprised. Perhaps the fact that food is relatively cheap and, when bought from a supermarket, the customer has invested little effort in its production, means it has little ‘value’. I am reluctant to waste anything that I have taken time to create – whether a sock I have knitted or apples I have bottled – and I think this is true for many people. In our household no food goes to waste – if for some reason we can’t eat it, it is consumed by dogs, chickens or worms, with the compost heap being the ultimate destination if there are no other takers. In addition, we never buy a bag of salad leaves because I can almost always find some fresh in the garden or in a pot and then we only pick what we need… even if that’s just half a dozen for a sandwich.

However, this week I have embarked on an endeavour to make even better use of a ‘waste’ product. A few days ago, my friend Deano (supplier of my naked pumpkin seeds and all-round inspiring permaculture practitioner) posted a link to a blog describing how to make vinegar from fruit scraps.

Apple scraps, fermenting naturally as you can see from the bubbles on the surface

Apple scraps, fermenting naturally as you can see from the bubbles on the surface

As you may have noticed from recent posts, I’ve got lots of apples! Until now, the peel and cores have either been fed to the hens (they love them, but there is a limit to the amount they can eat) or put direct on the compost heap (creating a lovely cidery smell). However, I’ve now decided to get an extra yield and am making apple vinegar. It takes several weeks, so I’m currently only at the stage of apple scraps, water and a bit of sugar fermenting naturally in a bucket (food grade plastic) covered with muslin to keep the fruit flies off. I will add to this as I work my way through the rest of the apples that I am going to bottle or freeze, and then it will be more weeks until the vinegar will be ready for bottling itself, but fingers crossed that it works. Once strained off the vinegar, the scraps will still be going on the compost heap, but cannot be fed to the chickens as they will contain alcohol and I really can do without drunken hens reeling round my back yard!

So, in our house, we’re not contributing at all to food waste. Do you have any tips for using up scraps?

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