My journey to becoming a food-waste warrior started at work, where I was researching how to improve farming. My aim was to help farmers use less water, fertilisers and pesticides. But what I discovered startled me. After all the effort and resources that were being invested to get food to our plates, a huge amount of it was going uneaten! It occurred to me that no matter how organically or sustainably we grow our food, if it doesn’t get eaten, it doesn’t do anyone any good. About 40% of all food in the
United States does not get eaten (similar figures for the UK). That’s crazy! It’s like buying five bags of groceries and then dropping two of the bags off in the store car park and not bothering to pick them up! Collectively, consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farmers, supermarkets, or any other part of the food supply chain. The lettuce that went bad, the leftovers that you never got around to eating, and that scary science experiment in the back of the refridgerator you’re hoping will disappear – it all adds up. Think about it. If you don’t eat half the fish you paid £10 for, that’s £5 you are throwing away. In fact, Americans are throwing away an average of $120 each month per household of four in the form of uneaten food. (In the UK, the figure is around £60 per month of wasted food). That’s real money going straight into your garbage instead of paying off credit card bills or adding to your savings account. It hasn’t always been like this. Today we waste 50% more food in the US than we did even in the 1970s. We also waste 10 times more than the average consumer in Southeast Asia. A woman from Hong Kong once told me that when she was a child, her aunts and uncles would inspect her bowl and tell her that each morsel of rice that she had left would turn into a mole on the face of her future husband! Can you imagine if we thought that way about food in our own lives? The good news is that turning around the food-waste trend is not only do-able; it can actually improve your experience with food. Wasting less food is about keeping ingredients fresh. It’s about sleek menus that use up different parts of vegetables. It’s about getting creative with what you have, and getting to know your food – how it ages and how it is best stored. All this only adds to the enjoyment of eating. Food is simply too good to waste. Together we can make a major dent in what’s currently getting tossed – and put a little cash back in our wallets at the same time.
“It’s like buying five bags of groceries and then dropping two of the bags off in the store car park and not bothering to pick them up!”
QUICK AND EASY PICKLES
Use up wrinkly vegetables – you can pickle anything from tomatoes to carrots, and cucumbers. It’s also great for garden surplus, even those that never ripen, like green tomatoes.
INGREDIENTS Vegetables to loosely fill a 1 litre canning jar; 360ml cider vinegar; 240ml water; 50g sugar (optional, if you like sweet pickles); 2 tbsp coarse salt; 1 bay leaf; 1 tbsp mustard seeds; 1 tsp black peppercorns; 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional); ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Pack the vegetables into a sterilised jar, leaving about 2.5 cm at the top.
- In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, water and seasonings. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar and salt have dissolved. Bring to a boil.
- Pour the brine over the vegetables, completely covering. Cool to room temperature and seal with the lid once cooled. After it’s sealed, tip the jar upside down to evenly distribute the spices. Refrigerate for at least one day to let the flavours develop, or for up to one month.
Dana is the author of the Waste Free Kitchen Handbook, published by Chronicle Books.