Monday, 28 December 2009

There are more ways than one to avoid food waste

Christmas is a time when food waste can sneak up from behind faster than can you can say boo to the cooked goose on your festive table.

Yesterday, I discussed how we've handled our leftovers this year and I'm pleased to add that apart from a few vegetables, there is now nothing left from our Christmas dinner and with the time on my hands I even managed to make a crumble from the plums that have been sitting in our fridge since autumn.

If you're looking for other ideas on what to do with all the gubbings in your fridge, as well as the the LoveFoodHateWaste recipes, I can recommend a visit to Mrs Green over at MyZeroWaste who has some fantastic suggestions for sorting out your turkey.

And if you prefer to spend your evenings curled up under the blanket with a book rather than huddled around your computer, you'll do well to check out this fabulous book by Kate Colquhoun. Entitled The Thrifty Cookbook, 476 ways to eat well with leftovers, it offers excellent advice on turning old bread into croutons and even shows you how to make gnocci. For those who can't tear yourself away from taking your laptop into the kitchen, you'll be pleased to know there's even a website of the same name with lots of tips and free advice. You can find it at

Of course using up your cooked leftovers to create fantastic meals will do your bin the world of good this Christmas and should never be under-estimated when it comes to saving you cash.

However, there are some other options for managing potential food waste that you may like to consider too, which go beyond feeding the cat or dog, and here are just some of them.

1. Watch the birdie

The RSPB is always appealing for the public to feed garden birds, especially in Winter, and you may be surprised at how much of your Christmas food can be fed to our feathered visitors. Christmas cake and mince pie crumbs as well as more regular food such as rice, breakfast cereals, grated cheese, cooked potato and fruit will all help them join in your festive celebrations. However, the RSPB warns against giving birds cooked turkey fat, stating that it is highly dangerous as it can smear onto feathers and ruin the water-proofing and insulating qualities needed to keep them warm during the winter. For more information, visit

2. Support Food Banks

Using up cooked food or opened jars of food is one thing, but what about unopened food that you have no intention of using? It could be something you've been given as a gift or bought yourself only to find no-one else in the house likes it. Don't just throw it in the bin. That would be a real waste. If you have a local foodbank consider donating it instead.

The Haverhill Food Bank is one such community project, which was created to help local people in Suffolk, with the support of the Trussel Trust, who itself has launched a growing network of food banks around the UK to help feed people in crisis.

The initiative welcomes unopened and in-date tins of food amongst other products to help bridge the gap for those in need for three days until other agencies come to their aid. Anglia Food Bank, operated by the Newmarket charity Newmarket Open Door, also collects and distributes food to vulnerable people and supporting agencies throughout the region.

It may not always be practical or feasible to donate the odd item from your Christmas hamper, especially if you live miles away from your nearest Food Bank, but it could be worth getting in touch to find out if your local community could offer collective support.

Schools, churches and community groups often organise collections of food, so you may be able to help in this way and find a home for your unwanted jars and tins. If you don't know where your nearest food bank is, your local church might have the necessary information, especially as they often get involved in co-ordinating collections of this kind.

3. Share amongst your friends & family

If you open a packet or jar of something that you find is not to your taste, the natural reaction may be to throw it in the bin. Instead of just bunging it into landfill, ask your best friend if they'd like it, or take it around to a family member.

It may feel like an irrelevant offering, but when passing it on highlight that you don't want to waste things uneccesarily and that you've committed to reducing your food waste and the methane associated with it. However, be prepared to be the target of the most obvious jokes that come your way and keep smiling in the knowledge that you're not some mad acquaintance, but someone taking positive action in the right direction.

4. Don't compost too soon.

If you're a fan of composting and keen to reduce your rubbish this way, that's fabulous news. However, beware of composting too soon. Bananas that look worse for wear, as well as the odd bruised apple, can easily be classed as candidates for the compost. Consider making smoothies or banana cake instead and indeed apples can be juiced or chopped and made into crumble or apple cake. And don't forget broccoli stalks. I used to bung these in the compost but have recently discovered they can be tasty additions to soups. More hints and tips about using up fruit and vegetables that might be on their last legs, can be found at You can save yourself stacks of cash.

The final hurdle - there are other ways to avoid landfill.

Of course, there comes a time when your only option is to throw some of your food away. You can save fruit & veg peelings from landfill by composting, either via your council service or through your own facilities at home, but did you know that you can divert your cooked food waste too?

It's not advised that you put untreated cooked food into your compost bin, but if you don't have a council food waste collection, there are still options available to you to avoid sending your waste to landfill. There is an associated cost with each of these options, but it's worth it if you can afford it and you'll also get the added benefit of nutrients being fed back into your garden.

A Wormery (vermicomposting) is a good start and makes great compost too. Wormeries are small enough to fit into the tiniest of gardens and accept all sorts of cooked food waste including pasta, rice, cereals as well as fruit and vegetable peelings. However, they should not be used for meat or fish waste and are also poor processors of citrus fruit peelings. Aside from that, they are very versatile and create a fun experience for children too. More information about composting and wormeries can be found at Recycle Now's Home Composting site,

Bokashi bins are a fabulous alternative for anyone who wants to manage cooked food waste including meat and fish (and bones). A kit comprises a couple of specially adapted bins, with a nozzle for extracting liquid run-off (which itself can be diluted and used as plant feed). Food waste is managed by adding small layers to the bin and sprinkling Bokashi bran on top of each layer. Gradually the layers build up and are then left to ferment for a couple of weeks, before adding to a compost bin, wormery or simply buried in the ground. More info about Bokashi systems can be found at

The Green Cone is a food digester that can be sited in a garden with sufficient drainage. It looks very much like a compost bin and accepts all sorts of food waste including cooked and raw meat as well as bones. More info about The Green Cone can be found at

Reducing food waste has become a major priority in the UK. With 8.3 million tonnes of food being thrown away by households each year, it has become a serious environmental issue. By taking measures to reduce what is wasted in the first place and avoiding landfill wastage, the CO2 savings could be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road...

...and as for financial savings, a family with children could be saving as much as £680 a year.

I can certainly support that statement. By buying less, cooking smaller portions and reusing leftovers, we've already saved ourselves around £1000 during the last couple of years. And that goes for Christmas too. Our Christmas bills this year have significantly dropped in more ways than one.

I just wish I could see the same results on my hips!

As no-one else in the family really likes Christmas cake as much as I do, it looks like I'd better watch out.



mrs green said...

Great article, Mrs A with some fabulous ideas to prevent food waste. Thanks for the link love and for the mention of that book too - it sounds like just my sort of cook book. Off to browse the website now :)

Well done on using the plums; I made applesauce from a home grown apple yesterday LOL!

Andy said...

What an outstandingly interesting and thought-provoking post. And informative as well.

Particularly intersted in the part about the wormery.

I've just started to get in to vermiculture because a wormery is something which is easy to set up and can bring multiple benefits not only in doing my bit for the environment but also save a little money.

Anyone with a small spare spare in their garden can and should do it.

The kids love it too - didn't think they would but they practically see the worms as little pets which work hard!

Here's where I got my inspiration from to get a garden wormery going:

just Gai said...

Just to say I've voted for you and hope you get the award. Wishing you a Green New Year.

Condo Blues said...

Another solution is to pawn your food "waste" off on others. I spent Christmas with my in laws. My father in law was tidying up the kitchen and I mentioned how last Christmas that we spent with my family, I got the turkey carcass to make soup because our hostess didn't have room in her freezer for another one. That made me ask for their turkey carcass which my father in law stripped of meat and had the bones in a bag ready for the trash. Well I grabbed that bag of bones, and plopped it in my slow cooker with spices and water. I have a heap of homemade broth for the freezer and even a little more turkey meat for making soup.


Hi Mrs G - You're welcome. That book is brilliant by the way. I only bought it last week, but am looking forward to trying out loads of ideas from it. It's the kind of book that makes me feel the urge to get rid of all my others :-D Great going with the apple sauce. Home grown is most definitely best! :-D

Hi Andy - thanks for dropping by and for the link. Wormeries are great aren't they and it's good to see them spreading and it's true about them being pets that work hard :-)

Hi Just Gai - thank you soooooooo much for voting for me at the Green Web Awards. I really do appreciate it and "every little helps" :-D

Hi Lisa - LOL, that's fabulous. I really think I should move in with you...I said that about Mrs Green last week... you ladies are so full of great ideas it is so hard to choose (well that's if either of you would have me in the first place). Making stock from chicken or turkey bones is most definitely a top tip to take on board. If you're blogging about it then do remember to submit it to the carnival I'll be promoting later this week :-)

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