Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ornamental melons & food waste

(Photo credit: Bettnet on Flickr Creative Commons License)

How I wish I had the patience to carve fruit like this.  The best I can do is to create an oddity of star-shaped slices from a hacked apple, a technique I learned a while back when trying to reinvigorate my children's interest in fruit.  They were going through that phase, turning up their noses at anything but grapes and for a while much of the produce that I used to cart home from the supermarket would end up in the compost bin.

In short, our home was embellished with a weekly bowl of fruit whose purpose had become increasingly ornamental and it seemed I was the worst offender.  Not only did I keep buying it automatically without thinking the issue through, I'd repeat shopping habits that were just plain daft.

For instance, take my love of melons.  I'd spot them in the supermarket and pop one - or even two - in my trolley in anticipation of enjoying it later, thinking about the mouthwatering taste and refreshing texture.  Then I'd arrive home, unpack, juggle the children and cook dinner and end up too blimmin' knackered to even think about taking a knife to the fruit I'd imagined myself devouring.

This pattern would repeat itself for days, with the melon perched on my kitchen worktop. Against a backdrop of busy family life, thoughts of its stickiness and mess-creating potential would stand in the way of the promise of it tickling the tastebuds.  Eventually, it would just go off, creating that all familiar pungent melon stink and end up being tossed into the compost bin.  The following week it would be replaced by a whole new fresh piece of fruit and the cycle of desire and inconvenience would begin once more.

When I told this story on  Radio 4's Woman's Hour last week, I was met with an incredible response from friends and Twitter followers.  The tale of my ornamental melons attracted a fair portion of light-hearted innuendo banter, but after the laughs were over, reactions settled into shared stories of similar habits that friends recognised in themselves, telling me about their ornamental pineapples and other fruity installations.

It really is startling that - thanks in part to habits like this - as a country we still throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food, which could have been eaten.  That amounts to roughly £50 of food being wasted in domestic bins per month.  Extrapolate the melon story to the contents of the fridge and wasted leftovers, it becomes easy to see how this mounts up.

The experts say that tackling food waste comes down to planning and they are right.  Planning meals, budgeting properly and taking a shopping list really does help.  However, I'd go beyond that and say it also requires much more. Realising the impact on the family budget. awareness of why food waste is such an environmental issue, being able to identify with your own daft habits, developing a conviction to change and then adopting new ideas that enable you to do so are all equally important factors.

Four years ago I was totally pants at managing food waste.  As well as the fruity debacle, I'd think nothing of tossing out-of-date yoghurts in the bin along with leftovers from the serving bowl.   I'm a terrible planner, a half-hearted cook and even now a shopping list still fills me with fear of control as opposed to the helpful guide it should be. 

However, I stumbled through all sorts of changes in my habits.  I stopped buying the stuff that I'd regularly throw out. I swapped the time-consuming huge weekly shop for a couple of very short visits, instead buying only the fresh produce that we really needed and I also got into the habit of using up leftovers.  We saved loads of dosh in the meantime.   I admit that I am by no means the picture of perfection.  Threats from my husband, who sometimes reveals an unusal desire to post up some of my more dodgy looking carrots, could bear witness to that.  But addressing food waste has really made an enormous impact on our household.

So, if food waste is your thing and you are now determined to do something about it, don't just take my word for it.  I can tickle you away from using your rubbish bin, but for some really decent advice you'll find no better website than www.lovefoodhatewaste.com.  It's full of facts and figures to get you motivated and is packed with top tips that range from using up veg that might appear to be at death's door, recipes for leftovers, how best to use the freezer and understanding date-labelling.  If you use Facebook, you can also keep in touch with updates via the new Love Food Hate Waste community page.

Now coming back to those melons...I've just done a quick calculation and reckon I've probably saved somewhere in the region of £300 in the last three and a half years... and that ladies and gentleman is without the "Two for £3" deals. 

Flippin' 'eck. 


For once I declare myself officially speechless!


Joddle said...

I agree 100% that short shopping trips (in my case a daily shop) help to limit food waste.

Also like you, I tend not to buy anything with good intentions. If I buy fruit it will be wasted. Far better just to buy a single piece of fruit while out!

Almost Mrs Average said...

Thanks Joddle, it really does make reducing waste easier doesn't it and shopping is far quicker too. Well done on the fruit waste...a guaranteed solution :)

RubbishGeek said...

my mother-in-law had the same situation with ornamental pineapples! As we well know - if you've not planned how to eat it, don't buy it!! :)

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin