Zero Waste Week (Days Three and Four): Waste Free Food and Shopping

During Zero Waste Week I’ve been tuning into #zerowasteweek hour on twitter for some great tips and ideas on reducing waste. One of the most common topics has been food waste which got me thinking about our household.

I like to think that we are quite good on reducing food waste. I meal plan for the month so that I know what we need to buy. I’m still struggling with emptying all the contents of our veg box but now that we’re (almost) into soup season this should be less of a problem. I also have this very handy note attached to the inside of my cuboard door to remind me how much pasta or rice to cook for our family (originally from Love Food Hate Waste website).

Zero Waste Week: rice and pasta measurements

But there is definitely more that I can do to avoid an overflowing compost bin. So, as I tend to do one large supermarket shop each month, I sat down and meal planned everything (breakfasts, lunches incl packed lunches and evening meals). This meant I could order the right amount of food. Yet even when I know what food we have and how to turn it into meals there is still the problem of packaging.

For convenience sake (I don’t have regular access to a car, I try to stick to a strict budget) I order one large supermarket delivery every month, interspersed with fortnightly veg and fruit boxes, regular milk deliveries, some refills at local health food stores and small trips to the local shops. Apart from the first activity (which I try to order as waste free as possible) I have learnt to make the other shopping trips as packaging free as possible.

This week I was able to pick up fruit and veg from the local greengrocers as I had transport – and I tried out a new independent butchers so was able to get my meat from there (with far less packaging, but it would be great to re-use my containers for this). Because I use the brilliant Onya produce bags, and our greengrocers have paper bags my shopping haul looked like this:

Zero Waste Week: package free grocery shopping

I was also able to pop into Harvest Health Food Store in Bath and refill my washing up and laundry liquid containers:

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I also decided to go all out this morning and do a massive baking session so that we can rely less on pre-wrapped cakes and biscuits. This is what my kitchen looked like afterwards (there was a lot of washing up so lucky I’d got by bio-d refills the day before):

Zero Waste Week: home baking

But the end result was: stewed plums and apples; plum flapjacks; oat and apple muffins; fruit cake; gingerbread dough (to freeze and make biscuits with at a later date) and fairy cakes (I always make a batch of simple fairy cakes when the oven is one – I just freeze them and the kids decorate at a later date).

Zero Waste Week: package free (and home baked) goodies

So we now have fully stocked cupboards, freezer and I hope we will have an emptier bin and compost as a result!

 

It’s (Rubbish) Festival Time!

Last weekend I volunteered at a local festival and found myself sorting through other people’s rubbish….

The  Cock & Bull Festival is run by the charity Jamie’s Farm and held on a small farm in Wiltshire. If you haven’t heard of Jamie’s Farm before it’s a great organisation. It works with vulnerable children, and those with challenging behaviour, from urban schools. The children come to stay on the farm and learn important skills that help them when they return to the classroom.

The Cock & Bull Festival has been running for five years. It’s a very small-scale event with 500 festival goers and many volunteers. In return for a free ticket I did three shifts: setting up, food prep, and (early on a wet Sunday morning) the rubbish shift.

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The latter was probably one of the least glamorous things I have ever done. In the  rain we had to collect rubbish and recycling bags and sort through them so they went into the correct containers to be taken away. Landfill rubbish costs the festival a lot of money every year so, as well as the environmental aspect, it makes financial sense to reduce their garbage footprint as much as possible. This could have been such a depressing shift yet, working alongside the very committed and knowledgable Jenny who had volunteered to run the recycling for the entire weekend, I learnt some valuable lessons:

signs, signs and more signs! There were lots of notices around the festival site (and on the website here) labelling what rubbish could go where. This really helped when sorting through the trash. But I think you need even more concise labelling- and more containers – to make sure nothing gets contaminated and to avoid confusion ie plastic disposable coffee cup lids, plastic straws, coloured paper napkins, wooden cutlery etc.

 

re-usable plastic cups are good. I already had my husband’s re-usable pint glass from Glastonbury but also bought this one (below). When buying your first drink from the bar you had to pay extra to get the re-usable glass, which (in theory) you used all weekend.

re-usable pint glass from Cock & Bull Festival 2015

festival fancy dress can be a REAL pain to recycle. On the Saturday night of the Cock & Bull Festival there is a procession. This year’s them was ‘Insecticider’ so there were lots of homemade (and shop bought) costumes that, by Sunday morning, had been consigned to the rubbish bins. It was good to see so many costumes made from the Wiltshire Scrapstore supplies that were contained within the festival’s craft tent. However, not so great to untangle and try to sort for recycling. (My own costume was an old green jumpsuit with cardboard legs attached and homemade green antennae, ie a grasshopper!)

 

it really is true that one person’s trash is another’s treasure! While I try to avoid taking home things for the sake of it (I passed on a Jamie’s Farm t-shirt as I wasn’t sure I would wear it again) the bunting and mason jar (below) will come in very handy for decorating my daughter’s birthday party next week:

festival pickings: one person's trash...

We also found three pairs of brand new marigold gloves that had been part of a bee costume. These were turned to good use as we wore them to sort through more rubbish. And I must also confess to finding a few bottles of unopened booze which made their way home…

– as I suspected, Cafe Bars generate the most waste. I work in a cafe and I know that, when we offer the disposable option, this is the least environmentally friendly option. At the festival only half of the disposable cardboard cups could be recycled and, of course, the pesky plastic lids couldn’t be recycled at all. I took my trusty Lakeland thermos with me for all my lattes but, of course, this doesn’t fit underneath the coffee machine so they had to use a disposable cup to make the coffee in the first place! This is something I am more than aware of (at my work I use china cups for the coffee shots) – I need to figure this one out when ordering takeaways in the flask.

Overall I was really impressed with the effort the Cock & Bull Festival had made to reduce rubbish. Festival goers, too, seemed very willing to take part in recycling and reducing as well. Interestingly I think this was more prevalent on the main site where there were lots of signs and everyone was doing the same thing. On the campsites there was definitely more landfill and unnecessarily dumped food and drink.

On a personal point I really enjoyed volunteering and have come home a little evangelised having sorted through so much rubbish. Maybe everyone who attends a festival should experience this shift. It’s made me realise more than ever that there really is no such thing as ‘away’ when you throw things away.

 

 

 

Second-hand veg – or using up the leftovers

 

using up the veg box

This has been on my mind lately. Once a fortnight we get a veg and fruit box delivered. This time of year is a ‘lean time’ in the vegetable growing world before the Spring harvest comes into its own. As a result there are a lot of roots and a lot of leafy green veg that only I seem to be eating. Also if I’m not careful the chard, kale and spring greens seem to wilt very quickly.

Last week I read a post from silverbells steps out about her compost bin which, at this time of year, has very little green waste.  I compared this with my own which is full to the brim. This is partly due to the fact that at this time of year it doesn’t get any heat and so finds it harder to break the food waste down. It is also because I am stuffing it with all our greens. I have a terrible habit of believing that I can let food go to waste because I can ease my green conscience by putting it in the compost bin.

This seems such a waste of money and food. According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign seven million tonnes of food is wasted in UK households each year.

So this week I’ve put my apron on and started cooking and baking to use up the fruit and veg that is wilting in my house.

So far I’ve used scraps to make a vegetable stock:

using leftover veg to make stock

With this stock I’ve made a (sort of) potato and leek soup (with extra broccoli and the dreaded chard).

rather unappetising photo of leek and potato soup!

rather unappetising photo of leek and potato soup!

Tomorrow I will be making carrot and coriander with some very sad looking carrots.Yesterday I used up half a pineapple and some mouldy bananas to make a lovely sticky cake which I served as pudding. (Recipe here)

I’m also trying my best to increase the life expectancy of some other greenery. I’ve put lettuce leaves in a tupperware container with a piece of kitchen paper. I’ve also placed parsley and coriander in these jam jars then placed in the fridge.

keeping store bought herbs for longer

I’m also following some tips from Silverbells which includes not peeling my veg. I hope that by making more of an effort to use up all the veg we can leave this over-full compost bin alone for a while.

National Zero Waste Week: Coffee grounds

I mentioned at the beginning of this week that I work one day a week at a cafe. It’s set in a lovely little Arts Centre and I feel very blessed to have a job that brings me into contact with some great customers and staff. At the cafe we sell fair trade and only vegetarian food. I work on a Saturday and the cafe is closed on Sunday meaning it’s more important than ever for me to make sure all the food is within date. We usually have some bread left over which myself, or another colleague, take home to make toast or bread pudding. This sometimes happens with milk and (when we are v lucky) cake!

However there is food waste. Partly this is due to having to follow strict Use By deadlines, as is stressed in any food hygeine course and the regulations for food safety we have to follow. We are lucky that one of the members of staff has a couple of pigs (!) so we can save food scraps for them. We don’t have a compost bin at work which I know we should install (especially as we have a small courtyard garden and it would be good for the veggies).

One of the food/drink items we generate a lot of waste from is coffee grounds. While we can pour some of them down the sink to act as a de-greaser we have also experimented with bagging up the grounds and passing them onto willing customers who can take them home for the compost bin. A colleague also did some research and discovered that you can use coffee grounds for your face and body as it acts an exfoliant! There’s a recipe from the Peta website which includes olive oil to make a face mask.

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National Zero Waste Week: compost

I love my compost bin! I’m still not sure how it works but somehow I put all my non-meat food scraps into it and a few months later the worms have turned it into some incredible soil type thing that I can put on the garden. It has worked for years and I do very little to it except feed it leftover breakfast cereal, used teabags and veg peelings. The only time I have to think twice about putting scraps in is when it’s very cold but, apart from that, it works 24/7.

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National Zero Waste Week – Lamb leftovers

We had a lovely slow roasted leg of lamb on Sunday (apologies to all the vegetarians). But we have loads left over which isn’t great as it’s not a meat I’m fond of eating cold and it’s Zero Waste Week plus I’m trying to cut down on food waste.

Not the most appetising picture I've ever posted!

Not the most appetising picture I’ve ever posted!

So I headed off to the brilliant Love Food Hate Waste website and quickly found a recipe for lamb stock (great for making soups, adding to meat casseroles etc).

lamb stock in the making

lamb stock in the making

I also found a very tasty curry recipe which I spiced up for the adults, and spiced down for the girls (no pics I’m afraid as it all got eaten). However  there is still lots of lamb left as I’m trying to do sensible portions for my kids and use the food that they will eat, rather than what I hope they’ll eat. Needless to say husband will be taking a few lamb sandwiches to work this week!

On other news after some very quick research I discovered that tetra packs can be recycled so I took them out of the bin. Tuesday night’s bin looked like this:

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(Must do something about the empty Flora tub).

Compost looked like this -although I need to tackle the amount of kids’ breakfast cereal I am composting in the mornings:

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National Zero Waste Week: 2-8 September

I’ve decided to blog about my adventures in reducing food waste in Second-Hand Tales as it sort of fits with what I’m trying to write about: being thrifty, finding a new purpose for things and reducing waste (whether it be clothes, furniture, appliances or food).

Rae Strauss has been running National Zero Waste Week for the past six years although this is the first time I have really embraced it. This year’s theme concerns food waste. As a family of five I think we are sort of okay although we could definitely do better. I suspect, though, by the end of this week I may be looking at our waste in a new light. I want to challenge myself to use up the food we have and not to throw anything away. This week it is back to school for three family members plus a birthday party which should prove challenging. I also work one day a week in a cafe so that may be interesting too. I also hope I will get to look at our more general waste as well to see where we can improve.

Last night, before the challenge started I rather obsessively went through my fridge and fruit bowl:

As today was the last day before back to school and the weather was so warm I decided to plan a picnic to a local park. With this in mind I was able to use up the two mouldy bananas (chocolate banana cake), and the once-used lemon that already had its rind grated (fairy cakes with lemon juice). I also chopped some of the many peppers and made a small fruit salad with the one quarter melon and an apple. As I was in the manic food waste frame of mind I also took my half empty cup of tea in a thermos to the park!

While some of the food was left from the picnic and now sits in the fridge I was pleased I’d made the effort to do some baking. What I was surprised about though was the packaging waste and the plastic bags and tetra packs (from small apple juice cartons) that had to go in the bin. By the end of the day the bin looked like this:

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One thing I failed in was the revival of half a block of feta cheese that had been in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I was going to put it in a salad for tea but having tasted it I realised it was definitely off! So that had to go in the bin too. I also generated two small bags for the compost:

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