Food waste is a huge topic, and one that overwhelms many – it’s one of those “can I really ever make a difference?” thoughts we might be having on a regular basis, but here’s the thing: If we all ask that and resign ourselves to a ‘no’ then we become a part of the problem. Tough love time, now. Things are dire. I truly do understand, though. When you are wearing a million hats throughout the day, cooking a meal that is not only nutritious but also ‘considered’ is a difficult feat – often both practically due to low skill level from not having been taught to make cooking second nature through to culturally with marketers telling us food is too hard or beneath us, so we’d better leave it to our saviours in the supermarket aisles making it easier for us. Nooooooo, we’d better not! This is why I was so excited to interview Alex Elliott-Howery, founder of Cornersmith and author of her new and 3rd book “Use it all” on the podcast recently to discuss this shared topic of passion. Must be something in the name 😉 but Alex makes the whole idea of “using it all” seem more exciting than challenging. This post uncovers some of Alex’s top tips for how to buy less and use it all that were discussed on the show and in her book.
How do I fall in love with cooking?
Ah this is the great question isn’t it? A combination of skill and connection is my answer, which means you don’t have to have grown up cooking and exposed to produce to change your story. Alex and I spoke about her first introduction to cooking and the importance of your environment as a child. While your childhood may not have involved cooking with your family, this is definitely something you should think about introducing with your own kids so theirs can be a tale of “start as you wish to continue” – MUCH easier. Getting them involved with meal prep – not just licking a chocolate cake bowl – not only sets them up when they’re older but also makes them more inclined to try the food at mealtime.
As a mum with young children, Alex began to experiment in her own kitchen because packaged baby foods weren’t her thing. The more she read about our food system, the more she realised how broken it was, and so it became her creative pursuit to flip the food system on its head. Alex began to work with the seasons to understand how the ingredients can be used to their advantage… hello pickling and fermenting. Alex said that once she started understanding each ingredient she would easily have at least six recipes come to mind. This meant that she would buy less and use it all.
“Understand the seasons and you understand the food.”
How did we get here?
The introduction of imported fruit and vegetables meant that year-round we could buy mangoes, instead of waiting for the warmer weather when our own mangoes were in season. This way of shopping has given way to the “I feel like” epidemic of fussy eaters. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, you can now choose your cuisine and the ingredients will be available to you. The end result, however, is a fridge and pantry with half-used jars and other random ingredients that are forgotten and end up in the bin. If fussy eating is an issue in your home, please consider banishing it with my Fussy Eating Education Bundle packed with resources on the Low Tox Life site.
So, what can my little house do about the fact that of all food produced, the world wastes between 30-40% of it? A lot! I wanted to pull some of the goodness from the chat with Alex for peeps who are more the reading types, or to perhaps give you a little insight into how wonderful this conversation was and encourage you to make time for a listen.
5 simple ways you can reduce food waste in your household by Alex Elliott-Howery
- Eat Seasonally: Say “see ya later” to mangoes from California and asparagus from Peru, wait until summer. By understanding your ingredients, you’ll learn what flavours go with each other which makes it easier to cook with them. When you truly understand your food, you’ll be able to look at an ingredient and have six recipes come to mind.
- Food Storage: Learn how to store fruits and vegetables well so that they last e.g. Cut the leaves off the celery to use as herbs when cooking, or add them to pesto. Cut off the base and store in the freezer for your next batch of bone broth. Wrap the celery stalks in a damp cloth or cut them to length and store them in a container in the fridge topped with some water. This puts a value on the food you buy.
- Understand Traditional Food Crafts: There is a reason why certain food crafts existed e.g. pickling and fermenting. When ingredients are in season and there is an abundance, take advantage and preserve for later use. In the past, people valued food so much that they didn’t want it to go to waste.
- Portion Sizes: One of the easiest ways to reduce food waste is to learn how much your family eats so that you don’t end up with leftover pasta or rice that sits in the fridge for far too long and needs to be thrown out. The best way to shop this way is at a bulk food shop.
- Batch Cook: When you go to the markets and see that an ingredient is in season and cheap as chips, take advantage! E.g. silverbeet. Buy it in bulk and sautée it in some butter with salt and pepper and lemon juice. One night use 2 cups for the filling of a spinach pie, then use some for a curry with coconut cream, chickpeas, and curry powder. Or say you have a lot of carrot and pumpkin, roast it up and use to make a soup, curry pockets, or fish cakes.
Grab a copy of the all-new “Use It All” book.
So there we have it. Five super easy ways to reduce food waste and save money at the same time. I hope this helps you feel more excited and less overwhelmed about how to tackle food waste one household at a time.
Low Tox. Happy us. Happy planet