Although in recent months this blog has been predominantly beauty based I have been intending for a while to expand the kinds of topics that I cover and I thought January would be a great time to do so. Every month I will be setting myself a challenge to improve (and make greener) an area of my lifestyle or home.
January's challenge is reduce food waste, it's estimated that 15 million tonnes of food get's thrown away each year in the UK and around 50% of that comes from our homes (Source: Love Food hate waste). Shocking figures that I am sure you will agree need to be addressed given that food is such a precious commodity in the world.
Throughout December I was particularly focused on not wasting food, it's a month where you have extra social gatherings and occasions and it is easy to buy too much or decide last minute to go out for dinner or order a take away. I was pleased on the whole with the results but I want to further fine tune things and continue to cut the amount we waste throughout January too. There are of course financial benefits to reducing waste, January is traditionally a hard month for everyone, especially families with young children and food consists of a big proportion of most people budgets, it makes to sense to get the most from what you buy. Here are a few tips that I have already started to implement and some that I am hoping will help me to improve further throughout January:
*Make a list: Simple but incredibly effective, list making before you go to the supermarket/butcher/farm shop can really help to ensure you are only buying what you need. I find it helps me to look at the calender and see what we will be doing on a weekly basis as a family, after all it is pointless buying ingredients for a roast dinner if we aren't going to be in. I also find it useful to plan which meals you will be eating each day as that way you can plan to use any ingredients with a shorter shelf life earlier in the week with meals that involve freezer ingredients or hardier veg later in the week.
*Stock up your store cupboard: January is the perfect time to clean out and stock up the store cupboard, a well stocked cupboard full of beans, pulses, tomatoes, dried herbs, baking ingredients and dried goods such as rice and pasta will mean that you are able to throw together a meal at the last minute with only a few other ingredients in the fridge and can make the difference between a home cooked meal or ordering a take away, I know that is often the case for us!
*Store your leftovers wisely: My husband often jokes about my obsession with food storage and containers but well stored food stays fresher and is more hygienic, do you ever find half open packets in your cupboard that have seen better days? Let's be honest we have all been there... I personally prefer glass storage to plastic, in my experience it lasts much longer, is easier to clean and there have been some concerns about plastic leaching certain compounds like BPA (Bisphenol A) when heated, so glass is a prudent option. I use glass containers for storing leftovers in the fridge, mine have plastic lids but they do not get microwaved. I have some plastic containers for the store cupboard but I am slowly replacing it as it becomes older and has seen better days, bottom line is glass is a more eco friendly option but use what you have.
*Learn to love leftovers: As mentioned above I love using up leftover food for lunches on my days at home, as I never get a chance to eat them at work as I am in the car travelling around, I try and schedule meals that are likely to have leftovers for the days when I will appreciate them the next day. There are a handful of recipes that we consistently make with left over food, they all lend themselves to being able to use up what you have which is great:
Pie: My husband makes the greatest pastry and a pie is a perfect way to use up leftover meat or vegetables, chicken pie with mushrooms, carrots and peas is a firm favourite.
Risotto: I don't think there has ever been a more perfect chuck it all in the pan meal than Risotto, I always keep carnaroli or arborio rice in the cupboard and onions and parmesan in the fridge, when it comes to what else you would like to add the sky is literally the limit, we often have it with butternut squash, peas and tuna, mushrooms and courgettes, seafood, anything goes and often when you just throw it all in it in and hope for the best seems to taste even better.
Tacos: Are a new dish in our house and one that is surprisingly versatile when it comes to eating up leftovers as is also fajitas great for using up peppers and onions and any other veg you may have.
Smoothies and Juices: I am not a big juice person, who has time to clean up all the mess? But I do love a smoothie in the morning, it's a perfect excuse to chuck in that banana that has seen better days or those berries about to turn.
**Note: I know many people that read this blog are vegetarian or vegan, in my household we are not, however I am extremely conscious of sourcing ethically produced meat and limiting my consumption but especially of ensuring that when we do buy meat it does not go to waste, I also am a believer in utilising some of the cuts that otherwise would go to waste such as offal ect... from a planet perspective there are strong arguments to be vegetarian/vegan and if you are I applaud you but for now I am going to continue to be as conscious as possible with what we are buying and using, one of the challenges in the future will be to make more veggie meals so stay tuned**
*Use the Freezer wisely: Something I am not as good at doing as I would like, if you utilize your freezer wisely is can make such a difference to food waste. Instead of buying expensive and out of season berries in winter I am going to make use of the frozen berry mix in my local Farm shop. Even things like certain herbs can be frozen, buying frozen also cuts down on costs substantially. If you have a lot of leftovers that you know you won't be using pop them in the freezer as soon as they have cooled ready for a night when the thought of cooking is too much, it's a good idea to label them with what they are and the date too.
*Prepare for an emergency: Ideally we would all eat extremely fresh nutritious home cooked meals every day, in the real world however where we are all really busy and juggling so much it is easy to succumb to the lure of the takeaway. Health reasons aside the biggest problem I have with takeaways is the crazy amount of unnecessary packaging in which they come, some restaurants abroad will let you take your own container to collect food but in the UK as far as I know you are not allowed to do this due to health and safety. I try and and have an emergency dinner on standby that is healthier than a ready meal, cheaper than a takeaway but still can be put together in a matter of minutes. My current favourite is quinoa and red pepper falafel from the food doctor takes literally seconds to assemble, ten minutes to cook and makes a lovely meal with any other additions you can find in the fridge such as salad, olives and a nice tortilla wrap.
This is very much a journey and a learning curve for me so I would love to hear your suggestions of how you reduce food waste in the comments and if this is something that you you would like to join in with I am hoping to make it an interactive series so I will be tweeting about my successes and failures and tips using the hashtag #Jangreenchallenge so feel free to join in!
If you are a regular reader and mainly here for the beauty don't worry I have plenty of beauty posts planned as well as these monthly challenges and updates!