Sunday, 8 September 2013

My unexpected Zero Waste Week harvest

Proper gardeners & allotmenteers won't particularly be that impressed by the produce to the left, but I am absolutely surprised by the results, in a good way.

For this is yesterday's haul from my garden and for a non-committed and fair-weather gardener like me, the results have been encouraging...

... with the exception of that bowl of potatoes, the only harvest that came from three abandoned potato plants.  However,  I am surprised we had any at all and as I'd forgotten to buy extra spuds yesterday, these were a welcome and unexpected addition to today's lunch.

The blackberries are a real surprise this year, especially after I deliberately hacked back the bramble to clear some space.  I hadn't quite expected nature to love my brutality so much and as a result we've picked several bowlfuls of blackberries over late summer.   After such great results, I'm now planning to take the loppers to it again and see if we can create the same harvest next year.

And as for those tomatoes, having only planted 6 cherry tomato plants in late spring/early summer, since the first one ripened about 10 days ago, I'm delighted to have collected a small bowl of ripe tomatoes every other day.   We normally have to ripen any tomatoes that we grow using the banana in a bag trick, which can be dispiriting, so this has been a fantastic surprise ~ especially for a tomato fiend like me.

But the greatest unexpected treat of all has been that bucket of apples.  Having planted the tree seven years ago, each year it has disappointed with small offerings that are populated with unwelcome creatures that eat the apples from within.

For the very first year ever,  this summer has provided a bucketful of apples that are a decent size and the majority of which are bug free.  As it happens, the tree was pruned last year too and with great weather, finally it seems to have worked.

But of course, as Zero Waste Week comes to an end, the issue at the forefront of my mind is storage and preservation so that we can make the most of our apple harvest. I would hate for any of it to go to waste.  So, having followed Love Food Hate Waste's advice for years, it was a 'no brainer' to store as many as I could in the fridge for future inspiration. A Twitter conversation on the topic also brought tips from @melaniebbikes whose advice led to stewing some to add to the freezer.  I also liked this tip too, which I'm going to try another day.

Collecting so much produce from our small garden this week has made me much more aware of the rewards in growing even just a few things that save food miles and packaging ~ and for very little effort too.  It would have been such a wasted opportunity not to have planted those tomatoes. Pot luck was definitely on our side.

Meanwhile, to prove that sweet things pictured above aren't just for dessert, I cooked up some of yesterday's blackberries, added some chopped apples, a few veteran spring onions, a handful of mint from the garden and pepper seasoning, creating a great sauce to accompany today's lamb. 

Now that was another unexpected Zero Waste Week result!

So with Zero Waste Week 2013 almost over,  I hope you've had a great week yourself.   If you've missed it and want to catch up with all the news, visit, where there are lots of tips.  Those of you who are particularly enthused may even want to sign up for The Rubbish Diet and see how much further you can reduce your waste over the next eight weeks.  If you haven't tried it yet,  do sign up at

But before I sign off, perhaps I should confess to our own food waste tally.  We didn't quite get to zero, but we didn't do badly.  I have no qualms in blaming most of it on the kids, with the abandoned Toasthenge, a few dregs of bottom-of-the-bowl-moist-cereal, a tiny bitesize piece of bagel, a small amount of pasta that competed with an unusual lack of appetite and some unappealing leftover fries from an emergency fast food pitstop this evening.  Sadly my own contribution was some very burnt stewed plums which I'd forgotten that I'd left on the hob during school pick-up on and my two slices of bread with mouldy measels.  All the above, of course, have been fed to the worms, so nothing has gone to landfill.

Huge thanks to Rachelle Strauss of MyZeroWaste for all of her hard work and inspiration in running another successful and well supported campaign.  Such a great start to September!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

If it weren't for you meddling kids... I'd have gotten away with it.

Toasthenge on Beans
Now that I've packed them off to school,  I have to confess that I can finally breathe a little easier when it comes to Zero Waste Week.

Of course (and for the first time without even a hint of sarcasm) I am already missing my little darlings.  They've been great company over the summer, but geesh do they sometimes give me trouble on the food waste front!

And most people with kids will know the battle.

Take the other day for instance, I thought I was onto a winner by serving up 'Toasthenge on Beans' - my historically successful reversal of 'Beans on Toast', in which they are guaranteed to eat the crusts.  A throw-back to when the kids were little, its success has been proven time and time again and even at the ages of 9 and 11 it's still an easy favourite and a guaranteed zero waste coup...

.... until...  the moment when I served up lunch on Tuesday and my 9yo announced that he wasn't actually hungry because he'd only gone and helped himself to a chocolate spread sandwich just 30 minutes earlier.

I admire his self-sufficiency... but AARGH!

I'd already had a full plate of beans with toast, his brother had his own Toasthenge and my husband turned his nose up saying... "well, you know it's not my kind of thing!"

No way was he bending his baked bean phobia to become my Zero Waste hero.

So, I took a page out of my mother's book!

"If you don't have it now,  you'll eat it at dinner," I grumbled, then remembered dinner would be a much more delicious home-made fish pie with vegetables, so my threats instantly felt like an own goal!

Trying to reduce food waste when you've got kids is a challenge, especially when they go through their fussy stages, and I remember from my own childhood how I hated breadcrusts and many of the vegetables that the adults liked.  Mealtimes used to sometimes feel like an endurance test, especially with my late mother's 'waste not want not' mantra, which she regularly served up with a full plate of nosh that looked like it was meant for climbing not eating.  I could never complain that we weren't well fed and am now very grateful for her dedication to home-cooking.

Maybe that's why I find myself more flexible these days.  I want my children to enjoy everything they eat and balance it to their own appetites too, trying to offer a healthy range of meals, which they can serve themselves and have seconds if they then wish.

But I also want them to be adventurous in their tastes and approach to food, and unless managed carefully this can easily become an enemy of zero waste ambitions, especially with a pre-teen who has his own thoughts about how adventurous he wants to be and sees fruit and vegetables as the adversary to his happy status-quo.

Now you can imagine my evil joy last Hallowe'en when he saw me making pumpkin soup.  As he looked on with intrigue he immediately turned his nose up at it, saying he really didn't like the look of it.  However, several hours later, and without complaint, he lapped up a bowlful... which I'd served up to him and his brother as a pasta sauce.

So, when it comes to encouraging kids to join you in your zero waste ambitions and maintain a healthy diet, there is some hope!  I can't claim to be an expert, more of an intrepid explorer, but if it's of any help, here's what's worked for us.

1. Keep offering up those vegetables, but tell them to help themselves rather than filling their plate for them with something that they may not be likely to finish.  What's left in the serving bowl can then be used as ingredients for other meals.

2. Soups are fab for hiding nutritious veg.  If they don't like 'soup', serve it as a pasta sauce or mix it up with rice.  Stir fries are good too, especially as they introduce exciting flavours.

3. Smoothies and milkshakes are a great alternative for picky fruit eaters.

4. And have you discovered Fruity Pasta?  Use up grapes, apples and even chopped up orange segments to add to pasta.  Grate over some cheddar cheese and you'll have yourself an instant taste explosion that even adults will like.

5. Finally, be creative and follow in the footsteps of the marketeers, which can be particularly helpful for the younger ones.  Pirate Island - featuring mash, gravy and a variation of veg and diced meat - was always more appealing to our younger diners than the more unadventurous sounding  'Sunday Roast'.

We still get some plate waste but much less than I think we would if we didn't move with the ebb and flow of their changing appetites.  I also think it's important for them to know why what they eat is so important.

While my husband reminds them about the importance of the 'five-a-day' message,  I will occasionally throw in the economical and moral issue of food waste - not in a nagging parental ambush kind of way, but in a way that enables them to at least understand the wider context.

So, yes,  if it hadn't been for those meddling kids - or rather the one who helped himself to a sandwich - I wouldn't have had any food waste this week.  That Toasthenge would have been eaten, as planned and without grumble.

But thankfully stuff like that doesn't go to landfill.  Oh no! I made a sad attempt to rescue the cold beans when I returned from a late meeting that evening, but I couldn't bear the soggy cold toast, so I've since fed that serving of Toasthenge to my wormery, along with a couple of slices of defrosted bread that suddenly developed a case of mouldy measles in yesterday's humid heat.

And of course, that bread would have been used up for Beans on Toast, if Mr C had welcomed that for lunch.

So, I suppose I can't put all the blame on the kids.

And as for that bread, I should have just left it in the freezer just that little bit longer.

When it comes to our food waste tally, we are definitely all in it together.


More information about Zero Waste Week 2013 can be found at  Do sign up and make your pledge.  In return, you'll get some great tips.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

I don't waste food because I want to. No-one does.

Naturally, as it's Zero Waste Week, I've been thinking a lot about food waste and yesterday delved into my cupboards and fridge-freezer to see what I needed to rescue from being chucked away this week.

Not that we waste a lot of food these days,  However, I know that I can still be a tad careless.

After all, I don't buy things thinking, 'Oh, that'll end up in the bin.'  I don't like wasting food and I've never met anyone who does.

For me, food waste is mainly an accidental consequence of my busy and chaotic life.

And with four different appetites in the house with their different routines and culinary dislikes, it can be tricky to find a balance to provide a healthy diet and reduce the amount of stuff that ends up in the bins.

The trick that I've begun to use when shopping for perishable produce is to actually ask myself about the likelihood of that item going to waste.  If I can't categorically say there's less than a 10% chance, I won't buy it.  This is so different to the way I used to shop, when I never actually gave it a single thought.

Consequently, I've avoided hundreds of BOGOFs, hundreds of wasted yoghurts and countless slices of unused ham

And although I still use it in emergencies, I try not to depend on the freezer as a back-up, because I am never that organised to benefit from it - except for storing sliced bread before it goes on the turn as well as unusual flavoured ice-cubes (more on that later).

My technique to fresh produce is normally to have a back-up plan, knowing for example that any fruit that ends up looking worse for wear can be brought back to life as a smoothie, just like the one I made yesterday from a dodgy looking banana, some veteran melon, squishy strawberries, blackberries & last week's apple juice. 

It's a five minute job that requires no faff.  I'm far too busy for faff - and if I dare confess, I can sometimes be a total lazy-arse too.

But to think I just used to bung that stuff in the compost. 

It's a far cry from how I now look at a banana and almost egg it on towards the dark side so I can bash it up in the blender.  Until you've tried it, you won't know how satisfying such fruity alchemy can be.

Now back to my chaotic side - which is my normal setting.  You can see what my perishables are up against.  Even with the best laid plans to use up the open pot of greek yoghurt with some dollops of mango chutney and tomato puree, to create a base source for a sweet and sour Balti Chicken, I totally forgot to set free the coriander from the fridge to add to it.

I only made it so I could use the bloody coriander!

So to avoid it becoming fodder for the compost, I'd now better freeze it with some water in the ice-cube tray to create what Jamie Oliver has turned to calling a 'Flavour Bomb'!

It can sit alongside the juice that I squeezed from an aging rock-hard lime.

One day, I may become a zero food waste genius.

I hope so.

I don't waste food because I want to.  No-one does.


More information about Zero Waste Week, can be found at  There are also lots of tips on shopping, storage and cooking at

Monday, 2 September 2013

Zero Waste Week 2013. Preparing for a bountiful feast.

And here it is.  Zero Waste Week 2013 has finally begun. 

And I'm joining in, starting with a Monday morning excavation of my fridge, freezer and cupboards in a mission to use up the contents and create zero food waste.

Many like to call it an audit - but for me it's more like an archaeological dig, especially when it comes to the freezer.  For instance this morning's expedition uncovered a leg of lamb, chicken breasts, fish steaks and a mysterious lasagne whose packaging I used for a radio broadcast earlier this year and accidentally recycled afterwards - oops.

And as for the fridge, as you can see my haul has revealed a cacophony of pleading fruit & vegetables, wailing at me to use them up first to create a veritable feast.

But the most miserable looking felons that have been imprisoned in the fridge for far too long are those poor fruity yoghurts - still unopened and, ahem,  past their use-by date - and all because their biggest fan has gone off them.  In other words, he's become yoghurted out and being too busy, I hadn't noticed.

But I refuse to waste them without further investigation, and with my disclaimer of 'Don't try this at home' and looking all 'innocent-faced', I shall be delving deep with my exploration tools, i.e. a spoon. I will of course take full responsibility for my actions.

It's also probably time to confess too that even after 5 years of talking rubbish, I am still absolutely crap at planning.  All that food hasn't been bought for a recipe.  Instead I shop with my imagination, buying things that I know I can make use of and blend with various herbs and spices. 

So when I look at the ingredients above, I can already see a sweet and sour chicken balti, a fish pie, fruit smoothies, roasted vegetables and possibly a green salsa.

But that's all very well when my imagination is working on full power,  However when you're tired and busy, culinary creativity can be buried deeper than that leg of lamb in the freezer.  Then Beans on Toast becomes the highlight of the day.

That's why Zero Waste Week provides a good kick up the backside to put great food back on the table of priorities.   And after dragging the contents of my kitchen out into the open, I can already see that I won't need to go shopping this week, except for perhaps a top-up of cereal and some bagels.

Well that's a turn-up for the cook book.

So are you joining in the latest chapter in this Rubbish Revolution and committing to feed your belly not the bin? 

Yes?  Oh goody!  See for more info.

And if you tweet, don't forget that #zerowasteweek is the hashtag.  Wouldn't it be great if we could get that trending this week.

Well here's to the launch of Zero Waste Week.

I'll see you later, well that's if I survive the yoghurt and those dodgy looking plums that accidentally froze at the bottom of the fridge.

And as for that month-old leek, I shall be asking Mr C exactly what his intentions were when he bunged it in the trolley. 

That one's his responsibility.

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