5 Easy Ways I’m Reducing My Food Waste

The amount of food I waste has always been something that has made me feel uncomfortable. Not that I  throw out bags full of food or anything, but most of it just seems such needless, avoidable waste. I used to feel like I was trapped in a sort of cycle where at the end of each week I’d discard leftover food and think; “okay, right, bit of a fail this week, I’ll definitely get a handle on it next week though”, and I’d feel guilty, I’d spend ages checking my shopping list to make sure it was adequate and well thought out… and then life would get in the way again and I’d end up forgetting about that bag of lettuce, or reaching for my avocado only to realise it was a big ol’ squishy mess. From rotas changing days after they were “finalised”, to last-minute plans with friends, I think we’ve all encountered a bunch of reasons why Taco-Tuesday might get disrupted. And obviously, I’m human, I still make mistakes, but this year I’ve been making a concerted effort to cut down on the amount of food I waste, and I thought I’d share some of the things that are helping me do that:

baking supplies, bananas and eggs

1. Baking with fruit that is “past it”

While this has definitely been causing me to eat more cake – I’m a huge fan of baking with over-ripe fruit. I’m still only making a couple of different things – but already I’ve noticed that it has basically eliminated the fruits in question from ever being wasted again! The first recipe, and my favourite thing that I bake, is the Banana Butterscotch Muffin recipe from Nigella Lawson. I tweak this a bit because I can never find the butterscotch morsels, and so I just use chocolate (white, milk and dark are all great in there), I also never fancy the faff of all the little muffin cases, so I just make one giant muffin loaf in a tin – works perfectly!
The other thing I’m prone to baking is a good old simple crumble (which I don’t have a recipe for); apples or berries that are going past it can easily be baked into a delicious after-dinner pudding.
The best thing about both of these recipes, is that the other baking supplies needed are things I keep on hand anyway – so it’s not a case of “oh, I have some bananas I need to bake with… better head out to 3 supermarkets and see if I can find these 12 ingredients I’ve never heard of”.

how I'm reducing food waste

 

2. Preparing my fruit and vegetables when they arrive

I know you’ll probably have heard this one before, but I’d heard it at least 100 times before I took the advice – so I’m saying it anyway in case you’re like me!
While I don’t peel/wash/prepare every single plant-based product as soon as it crosses my kitchen threshold (well, actually, our kitchen is so small we have to store most of our food – including our fridge – in the living room, but that would have been a less clear statement), I do find for a lot of things it really is the best option. Broccoli is chopped, red onions are diced, and berries are washed and put into glass dishes.  It really does encourage me to reach for things – I will 100% always chose strawberries as a snack if I don’t have to faff about with a knife and a chopping board every time, and I will always add red onion and bell peppers to my eggs if I can just tip them out of a dish and into the pan.

3. Going vegetarian

This method works two fold for me. Firstly, I was always a bit stressy about cooking with meat: wiping surfaces and dishes like mad, trying to be completely confident a chicken is cooked through and wondering if I really could eat those sausages in the fridge that I cooked two days ago. Removing meat from my diet means I no longer throw out salmon that “maybe smells a bit too fishy”, or pork chops one day past there expiration date, because it’s not worth the risk. The other benefit of a vegetarian diet, for me, has been that I’ve relaxed the structure of my meals a lot. What I mean by that, is that when I was eating meat I was cooking very distinct, complete meals – bolgnase one night, chicken curry the next – and so it was less appealing to eat the mish-mash of leftovers a couple of nights later. Now that my diet is largely plant-based, it’s so much easier to recombine some roasted veggies from last night with a bit of couscouse to make a new, tasty dish.

red onions in a bowl of fruit and vegetable

 

4. Eating several meals a week at Kinning Park Complex who use “surplus food” to prepare their meals

I initially wasn’t going to include this point in here, because I thought it was too specific and nobody else would have access to a place like this. While, unfortunately, not enough places like this *do* exist, one of the charities that Kinning Park Complex work with is Fare Share – and they are a national charity here in the UK helping get surplus food to more than 1,000 locations around the country, so it’s definitely worth looking into. For me, eating my meals at Kinning Park Complex not only gives me the ability to support a cause that I believe in, in helping reduce food waste, but it’s also allowed me to try so many different types of food, and to enjoy them in the company of amazing people from all over the world.

5. Making pizzas from scratch

Those who know me will probably know that pizza is my favourite food. Hands down. No Contest. Fortunately, not only have I been able to continue eating pizza now that I’ve transitioned to being a vegetarian – if anything, it’s actually *better* now that I have a fridge extra-full with veggies. Got two leftover mushrooms at the end of the week? A handful of sweetcorn? A morsel of feta? Chuck them all on a pizza. I’ve been enjoying making dough and sauce from scratch – to get things *exactly* the way I want them – but of course, you can also use a cheese and tomato store bought pizza and just top it yourself if that’s easier. This option might not sound like much, but as I said at the start of the post – food waste isn’t always about whole bags of this or tubs of that – it’s about all the little bits we just never get round to finishing, and honestly, most things can be put on a pizza!

There we go, that’s five of the steps I’ve taken recently to try and reduce the amount of food I’m wasting. Some are more elaborate than others, and some are healthier than others *cough* I have a banana muffin loaf in the oven as I’m typing this *cough*, but I hope that you found this post useful all the same. If you have any tips or tricks for reducing food waste, please do share them down in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!

baking supplies with white chocolate chips

 

Starting from Scratch: Learning to Sew

I worked in a craft studio for seven years and completed an honours degree in art, so, while I’m certainly not claiming to be any sort of expert – I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always been a relatively arts and crafty person, obtaining a relative level of proficiency in working with various media from acrylic paint to clay and silk to glass… but put me near anything “string-ish” and I’m hopeless. This includes sewing, embroidery, crochet, knitting and yes, even pom-pom making was beyond me. I’m not sure why, but I can cause a sewing machine to malfunction from 100 yards away. My mum is a fantastic knitter (is that the technical term?) and my maw-in-law (who was also the owner of the craft studio where I worked) is a dab hand at most things, but especially good at sewing (and baking, but that doesn’t seem relevant here), anyway, my point being that both of these skilled women invested significant time over the years trying to teach me “the way of the thread”… and they both gave up, and remain a little traumatised from the experiences.

close up shot of the foot of my sewing machine, with fabric in the background.

There are a lot of things in life that I’ve realised I’m not good at and have happily walked away from (mum told me I would regret giving up the violin when I was 10… STILL WAITING MUM), but sewing is not one of those things. Not only does it open up so many cool doors for me, a mixed media artist, but when you start tying it in with an interest in sustainable living – the idea of being able to repair and alter my clothes seems too good an opportunity to just give up on.

Fortunately for me, and somewhat by random chance, I found myself at the Kinning Park Complex (my local community centre) a few weeks ago, taking part in a patch-making workshop as part of Fashion Revolution Week – it was a spur of the moment decision and I’m so glad I jumped at the opportunity. I met the lovely ladies from Kinning Park Couture, who make amazing up-cycled jewellery from waste plastic materials, and also have incredible patience and enthusiasm for helping newbies like me get comfortable with a sewing machine. At the end of a couple of hours not only had I not somehow managed to burn the place down or kill someone just by my being in proximity to a sewing machine, but I had also made my very own activism patch, and learnt to thread a sewing machine, and to not scream audibly every time I put my foot on the pedal.

Well, after that I was hooked, I was back at Kinning Park Complex a few days later for Social Sunday, and Kinning Park Couture helped my fix up a pair of Kenny’s Levis jeans which he had managed to somehow entirely rip the crotch out of (?????). The satisfaction I got bringing those jeans home to him and knowing that I had salvaged them and saved all that fabric from being wasted, was so immense, so much greater than if I had gone into a store and just picked him up a new pair of jeans. And not only is it so “worth it”, I also find sewing incredibly therapeutic: time somehow flies by and I just sit absorbed, stitching away (then unpicking, then stitching again… I’m enthusiastic, not skilled).

close up of all the bits and pieces in my sewing box at the moment
Ah, a box of sewing bits and pieces that was passed on to me – let’s just pretend I know how to use any of the things in this box…

I totally lucked out as well, because, after telling my mum about my sewing (and reassuring her no lives were lost in the process), she suddenly realised she still had her old sewing machine buried in a cupboard somewhere (hurrah for my mum never having read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that I gave her 18 months ago), and so she fished it out and brought it to me and now, sitting proudly on my dining table is my very own sewing machine. Old, strangely creaky, but working perfectly fine – and I couldn’t be more excited!

Currently, I’ve gotten as far as making reusable cotton pads to take my eye makeup off each day, using scrap fabric from a pair of Alice in Wonderland pyjama bottoms that I had somehow managed to completely rip the crotch out of (????? seriously, why does this keep happening to our trousers?!). While not exactly a technically ambitious project, it’s a good example of how learning a skill like sewing to even the most basic level can make allow for the making of something that is actually useful in every day life. No more wasting of cotton pads and the plastic bags they come in for me, no sirree (and yes, my sewn ones have survived the washing machine, trust me, I was just as surprised my stitching held up as you probably are after reading this post).

overall shot showing my sewing box, machine and fabric.

While it’s obviously still early days for me, I do have my sights set on making a sort of “zero waster companion pouch thing” (erm, still working on the name there). Basically I want to make a type of roll, like a jewellery roll, but something that will have a section for me to store a reusable straw or two, some metal cutlery, and also a couple of cloth napkins – all things I’m trying to get in the habit of carrying, but am not quite sure how to safely/cleanly transport them in my hand bags. If you can sew and have any tips or ideas on how I might go about making this please (no seriously, please) share them in the comments below, or, even if you’re not a sew-er (again, is that the right term?), let me know if you have any ideas of other sections I might want in the pouch – I have the overwhelming feeling that I’m forgetting something obvious that “zero wasters” might carry for eating…

So anyway, I hope maybe this post gave you a chuckle at my hopeless sewing skills, but I also hope that maybe you take away from it that if something is important to you, don’t give up, you can find a way. No, I’m probably never going to work as a seamstress (oh, it’s seamstress, not sew-er isn’t it?) for a major European couture fashion house, but that’s OK. With a bit of hard work and yes, 17,000 mistakes along the way, it’s entirely possible that I can become competent with sewing, and like I said, sometimes that’s all it takes with a skill to be able to create something that can improve your, or someone else’s, quality of life.