Tomorrow is the first day of national “Waste Less, Live More” week here in the UK. To mark the occasion I would like to suggest the following ten point checklist to help reduce unnecessary personal food waste, which on average amounts to a quarter of all the food we buy.
Reducing our individual food waste is not only ethically right, it also helps save money and reduces the environmental impact of the food we buy but then discard.
1. Be more flexible with your shopping habits
One big shopping trip per week is more likely to leave you with fruit and vegetables that have gone bad before you have a chance to eat them. If you need to do a weekly shop, try using it to concentrate primarily on non-perishable items and then supplement that shop with one or two quick, smaller trips in the week to buy fresh produce.
2. Buy your fruit and vegetables loose rather than pre-packed
Why buy a pack of four apples when you only want three? Buying your fruit and vegetables loose means you purchase only what you need, and avoids unnecessary packaging, which itself constitutes environmental waste.
3. Wherever possible, buy local produce
Fruit and vegetables that have come from half way across the world are already several days old by the time they appear on the supermarket shelves, meaning they have a shorter life span once they are in your home and will go off more quickly. Locally produced food will taste better and has a much lower carbon footprint than, for example, Peruvian asparagus, New Zealand apples, Guatemalan peas or South African plums.
4 Before you go shopping, check what is in your food cupboards and your fridge
This will ensure you don’t forget what’s in there. It will encourage you to use up what you have, instead of eventually throwing it out because you forgot it was there until it was way past its “use-by date”.
On the subject of which…
5. Use common sense when it comes to interpreting “sell-by” and “use-by” dates.
Although introduced with the best of intentions, these dates have contributed unnecessarily to household waste levels. The “sell-by date” is the last recommended day for a supermarket to keep the product on its shelves, but most food will be perfectly safe to eat after that date. If stored properly, most foods stay will also remain edible and safe beyond their “use-by date”. Of course, the more you alter your shopping habits (see 1 above), the less of an issue these dates are likely to become.
6. Grow your own.
Whether you have an allotment, a garden or a windowsill you can grow some of your own food, from simple herb pots to a full-blown fruit and vegetable plot. People who grow their own food are far more likely to value it, because of the care they have invested in growing it, and thus far less likely to waste it. Besides which, you simply can’t get food that is more local or fresher than food you have grown yourself.
7. If you have a garden, build or buy a composter.
Uncooked vegetable waste such as vegetable peelings can be composted, as can things like newspaper and cardboard. Not only will this reduce your household waste, it will also enrich your soil, leading to healthier plants.
8. Exercise sensible portion control.
Start off with less on your plate. If you want more, you can always go back for it, which is a lot better than having to throw away the rest of a half eaten plate of food. Collectively, we are an increasingly obese nation, so getting used to eating a bit less would be no bad thing anyway.
9. Don’t automatically throw out food left over at the end of a meal.
If you have food left over after a meal, consider whether it could saved, for example for lunch the following day. Some leftovers, such as curries, casseroles or even the Thai-style sweetcorn fritters featured in this recipe, can taste even better the day after. Depending on what it is, it may be possible to freeze food that has not been eaten. See also 10, below.
10. If you have a garden, get a bird table.
Birds will eat a range of things like left over rice and pasta, not just bread. As the colder weather approaches they will be glad of an extra feeding station.
OK, time for me to put on the stripey apron.
These bite-sized sweetcorn fritters are loosely based on a classic Thai street food called Tod Mun Khao Pod. To make them I have used sweetcorn grown on my allotment plot, the Circus Garden. If you can, do use fresh organic sweetcorn to make this dish. Otherwise, use tinned organic sweetcorn kernels, drained.
The accompanying sweet chilli dipping sauce is far superior to the stuff you can buy in the supermarket (which often includes high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener), being both less sweet and a touch more fiery. It will keep perfectly well in the fridge for a week or so.
Any any leftover fritters (an unlikely scenario) can be eaten cold the following day, for example as part of a lunchbox.
Although there is a little bit of preparation required for the fritters they then cook very quickly, and the end result is a spicy, more-ish delight.
Thai-style sweetcorn fritters with sweet chilli dipping sauce
for the sweet chilli dipping sauce
2 red chillies, seeds in, finely chopped (remove seeds if you prefer a milder sauce)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
100 ml Mirin (rice vinegar)
50 ml water
Juice of 1 lime (reserve the lime zest for the fritters, below)
20 g Light muscovado sugar
for the sweetcorn fritters
1 shallot roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, deseeded and roughly chopped
5 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed, finely sliced
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp organic soy sauce
4 tbsp organic coconut cream
zest of 1 lime
275 g fresh sweetcorn kernels
1 free range organic egg
120 g rice flour
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp french coriander, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Thai basil, chopped (use “ordinary” basil if not available)
1. For the sweet chilli dipping sauce, place the chillies, garlic, water and sea salt in a food processor or blender and process to a fairly smooth paste. Pour the mirin into a saucepan and add the Demerara sugar. Heat over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Now add the chilli and garlic paste and stir. Increase the heat to medium, bring to the boil. Boil vigorously for a minute then reduce the heat to a simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the sauce. Keep stirring every so often. Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice and set aside to cool.
2. Now for the fritters. Place the shallot, garlic, ginger, chillies, lemongrass, maple syrup, soy sauce, coconut cream and lime zest into a blender or food processor, and blend to a paste. Add roughly half the sweetcorn kernels and process again, to form a thick spicy paste.
3. Pour this paste into a mixing bowl, add the egg and whisk into a smooth batter. Now add the rice flour, a little at a time, stirring or whisking each time to fully incorporate it into the batter.
4. Now add the remaining sweetcorn kernels with the spring onions, coriander and basil and stir to combine.
5. Pour the groundnut oil into a suitable pan to a depth of around 4 cm. place over a high heat. Once the oil is hot (hot enough to brown a cube of bread within 30 seconds), carefully place large teaspoonfuls of the fritter batter into the hot oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning half way through, until the fritters are golden brown all over. Drain on kitchen paper before serving with the dipping sauce.
Tags: food waste