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Food: Ways Not To Waste!

Updated on November 13, 2015

Delicious!

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Use It Or Lose It!

It can feel like a bleak environment and a worse economy that we're living in in many ways, these days. Unemployment high, house prices high, the kids still expecting flashy presents for Christmas and food prices, it sometimes seems, blowing up skyhigh right through the roof! And there are reminders all around us – TV, radio, internet, conversations down the pub and right there in the kitchen, that wasting food is a bad idea, not environmentally sound, and half the time, not necessary!

But if you go to investigate your kitchen cupboard and fridge shelves, to check out what bits and bobs and oddments you have that really need to be used up, eaten up, made use of, and in some cases to work out from scratch a) why you bought it and b) what the hell to do with it, then cutting waste down to the bone starts to seem like a more tricky task than you'd think. So where do you begin, when it comes to putting every bit of food in your cupboards to its fullest, and tastiest, use? Well, there are a few options that I can think of...

Bread!

Yeah, bread is a great option for a lot of odd ingredients you might find in your kitchen and feel the need to use up usefully. Of course I'm not talking about the basic ingredients of bread, the flour and salt and yeast and water. (Unless you happen to have bought a bunch of exactly these ingredients because they were on sale, yellow-stickered, too cheap not to throw in your shopping cart, and now you're twiddling your thumbs, wondering what exactly to do with them. Hint: how about bread?)

But also, bread is more than just bread, if you see what I mean. Bread can be modified and flavoured in numberless different ways, according to what you've got that needs using up in a culinary fashion. Glut of cheap onions? Fry 'em up, hey presto, onion bread! Yum! Some old bananas, and you're choosing between the bin, the compost heap and your stomach? Microwave them to a gloopy, syrupy mess, and hey, banana bread, sweet and moreish. Cooked vegetables, herbs and spices you aren't sure what to do with, too much pasta sauce... (Mmm, that's a good one, tomato bread!) it all goes into the dough, and you get a lovely warm loaf or rolls straight out of the oven out of it. The last few olives out of the jar, or vanilla sugar that you're never going to use otherwise to make a shiny, delicious sweet crust. What could be yummier?

Soup

...mmm, maybe soup could be yummier. Steaming hot on a chilly day, chilled in summer, packed full of vitamins and fibre and protein and carbs and a little bit of everything, soup, it's the perfect accompaniment to the bread you've just made! The perfect fate for any vegetables you have lying around nearing their use-by date, excess pasta sauce, left-over meat or cheese or tofu or tempeh. Any crackers that have gone a bit soft, soup was made for them! A little too much scone mix? That translates into dumplings! Soup: what else do you need for life, not much.


Cakes and Biscuits

These are a handy choice if you want to avoid food waste, too – and a delicious and only slightly naughty one, too! Even the fact that you are, in fact, making (and eating) cakes and biscuits, has to be slightly ameliorated by the fact of the lovely virtuous money-saving and green, ecological food-saving you've managed as a result. And if your additions include fruit that really needed using up and was on the verge of going a bit 'off', then of course there's the additional virtuousness of the fibre, vitamins and fruit sugar that make up the addition improving the quality of the delicious naughty sweet stuff that you're treating yourself with. Where's the harm? (Okay, it doesn't completely eradicate the fact of the sugar and fat and naughties that you've also used, but still, you can feel a little bit better about it!) And in addition to fruit, you can also use up nuts and seeds that are a little boring to munch on by themselves, and might as a result get stuck at the back of your supplies and forgotten up until their 'use by' date, such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, tahini, linseeds and hemp. All highly nutritious, but perhaps not quite as yummy by themselves as they're liable to be when combined with a delicious moist cake or crisp, crunchy cookies! If you have any packets of fibre lying forgotten and unused in your cupboards – wheat fibre, oat bran, rice bran, wheatgerm, oatgerm, soy fibre et cetera et cetera – then these are all terrific additions to baked goods too. Your intestinal tract will probably thank you for it! And dried fruit is always great in cookies and cake too, of course: so you know what to do with those dried dates left over from Christmas. Soy and nut milk, cold mashed potato, grated carrots, desiccated coconut, tamarind rind, herbs and spices, these are all possibilities too. Think about it before you throw any of them out!

Juice It!

And Last Of All... Juice!

Juice? But surely that's a luxury item, right, home-made, fresh-squeezed? Well, it depends. Ever been faced by a glut in the allotment? Or had your neighbour insist on handing you a couple of carrier bags of windfall apples over the garden fence? Is your mum convinced that you're shortly about to go down with scurvy, and insists on weighing you down with the 'excess' contents of half of her vegetable trays whenever you pop around? (Half of which is liabe to wind up rotten and thrown out, if you don't find an effective and useful way to consume it before that happens.)


Well, if you quite frequently have an excess of fruit and veg in your kitchen cupboards and refrigerator icebox, then it's time to be realistic and honest about it. When this happens, what's the usual result in your house? If you can truthfully say that you almost always use almost all of the sudden glut of Vitamin-C-rich goodness, then good for you! Even that qualifier of 'almost' means that you're probably doing better than most of us at putting all available nutritional resources to work and not engaging in unnecessary waste.


But if you're anything like me – and I think that probably quite possibly means also, if you're anything like most of us – then when that happens, what you actually wind up with is quite a significant proportion of the ill-gotten fruity and veggy goodness going to waste, mouldering away and winding up just a soggy mess at the bottom of your rubbish bin. Not good! So an alternative cocurse of action, whenever you find yourself with more apples, tomatoes or carrots than you know what to do with, is to drag your old juicer out from the back of the cupboard and get busy with it. And hey presto, lucky you winds up with a few pints of delicious juice, which has to be a lot better than a wasteful end result of just meaning to get around to using it all, but actually letting a quarter or half of it rot!


(What do you mean, you don't have a juicer? Come on, are you sure about that? I'm pretty damn sure that practically everyone has a juicer somewhere, whether it's a Christmas gift from a clueless auntie, or the furtively stowed-away side-effect of that health-kick you went on two... or three... or four years ago. Well, drag it out again! It's going to justify its existence after all! And deliciously so.)


Hey, even the fibre residue left over after juicing doesn't necessarily need to be wasted. Sure, juicing beats wasting the whole fruit or vegetable. But it's even possible to go one better, and use the pulp in baked goods, or soups and stews, depending on whether it's sweet or savoury! Now, I'm not suggesting that's it's possible to use more than a small proportion of the ingredients of a recipe as fruit/veggie pulp, since it's bulky and highly fibrous. But it's still something to think on, even if it's probably not wise or time, space or cost-effective to devote a lot of freezer space to the stuff. But just see, when you start thinking about how to avoid wasting food, and getting more out of your household food shopping, it's amazing what ideas you can come up with!

Wasting Too Much Food?

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