|Toasthenge on Beans|
Of course (and for the first time without even a hint of sarcasm) I am already missing my little darlings. They've been great company over the summer, but geesh do they sometimes give me trouble on the food waste front!
And most people with kids will know the battle.
Take the other day for instance, I thought I was onto a winner by serving up 'Toasthenge on Beans' - my historically successful reversal of 'Beans on Toast', in which they are guaranteed to eat the crusts. A throw-back to when the kids were little, its success has been proven time and time again and even at the ages of 9 and 11 it's still an easy favourite and a guaranteed zero waste coup...
.... until... the moment when I served up lunch on Tuesday and my 9yo announced that he wasn't actually hungry because he'd only gone and helped himself to a chocolate spread sandwich just 30 minutes earlier.
I admire his self-sufficiency... but AARGH!
I'd already had a full plate of beans with toast, his brother had his own Toasthenge and my husband turned his nose up saying... "well, you know it's not my kind of thing!"
No way was he bending his baked bean phobia to become my Zero Waste hero.
So, I took a page out of my mother's book!
"If you don't have it now, you'll eat it at dinner," I grumbled, then remembered dinner would be a much more delicious home-made fish pie with vegetables, so my threats instantly felt like an own goal!
Trying to reduce food waste when you've got kids is a challenge, especially when they go through their fussy stages, and I remember from my own childhood how I hated breadcrusts and many of the vegetables that the adults liked. Mealtimes used to sometimes feel like an endurance test, especially with my late mother's 'waste not want not' mantra, which she regularly served up with a full plate of nosh that looked like it was meant for climbing not eating. I could never complain that we weren't well fed and am now very grateful for her dedication to home-cooking.
Maybe that's why I find myself more flexible these days. I want my children to enjoy everything they eat and balance it to their own appetites too, trying to offer a healthy range of meals, which they can serve themselves and have seconds if they then wish.
But I also want them to be adventurous in their tastes and approach to food, and unless managed carefully this can easily become an enemy of zero waste ambitions, especially with a pre-teen who has his own thoughts about how adventurous he wants to be and sees fruit and vegetables as the adversary to his happy status-quo.
Now you can imagine my evil joy last Hallowe'en when he saw me making pumpkin soup. As he looked on with intrigue he immediately turned his nose up at it, saying he really didn't like the look of it. However, several hours later, and without complaint, he lapped up a bowlful... which I'd served up to him and his brother as a pasta sauce.
So, when it comes to encouraging kids to join you in your zero waste ambitions and maintain a healthy diet, there is some hope! I can't claim to be an expert, more of an intrepid explorer, but if it's of any help, here's what's worked for us.
1. Keep offering up those vegetables, but tell them to help themselves rather than filling their plate for them with something that they may not be likely to finish. What's left in the serving bowl can then be used as ingredients for other meals.
2. Soups are fab for hiding nutritious veg. If they don't like 'soup', serve it as a pasta sauce or mix it up with rice. Stir fries are good too, especially as they introduce exciting flavours.
3. Smoothies and milkshakes are a great alternative for picky fruit eaters.
4. And have you discovered Fruity Pasta? Use up grapes, apples and even chopped up orange segments to add to pasta. Grate over some cheddar cheese and you'll have yourself an instant taste explosion that even adults will like.
5. Finally, be creative and follow in the footsteps of the marketeers, which can be particularly helpful for the younger ones. Pirate Island - featuring mash, gravy and a variation of veg and diced meat - was always more appealing to our younger diners than the more unadventurous sounding 'Sunday Roast'.
We still get some plate waste but much less than I think we would if we didn't move with the ebb and flow of their changing appetites. I also think it's important for them to know why what they eat is so important.
While my husband reminds them about the importance of the 'five-a-day' message, I will occasionally throw in the economical and moral issue of food waste - not in a nagging parental ambush kind of way, but in a way that enables them to at least understand the wider context.
So, yes, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids - or rather the one who helped himself to a sandwich - I wouldn't have had any food waste this week. That Toasthenge would have been eaten, as planned and without grumble.
But thankfully stuff like that doesn't go to landfill. Oh no! I made a sad attempt to rescue the cold beans when I returned from a late meeting that evening, but I couldn't bear the soggy cold toast, so I've since fed that serving of Toasthenge to my wormery, along with a couple of slices of defrosted bread that suddenly developed a case of mouldy measles in yesterday's humid heat.
And of course, that bread would have been used up for Beans on Toast, if Mr C had welcomed that for lunch.
So, I suppose I can't put all the blame on the kids.
And as for that bread, I should have just left it in the freezer just that little bit longer.
When it comes to our food waste tally, we are definitely all in it together.
More information about Zero Waste Week 2013 can be found at www.zerowasteweek.co.uk. Do sign up and make your pledge. In return, you'll get some great tips.