It’s a new year! Did you make any resolutions? Set an intention? Pick a goal? Choose a “word” for the year ahead? I’m still working on all that, reeling a little from 2017 to be honest, but one thing I’m constantly trying to work on (and not just around the time of New Year’s resolutions) is reducing the amount of food waste we produce, a goal I share with many of you, I’m sure. It’s also something I try to instill in my students (from cooking club to the lunch room) so when I was offered a copy of My zero-waste kitchen, I jumped at the chance to take a look, because I’m often asked for resources to educate kids about reducing food waste (from other teachers and parents).
From the publisher:
Learn how to reduce food waste with quick tips and simple solutions in My Zero-waste Kitchen.
Live sustainably and embrace the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. In My Zero-waste Kitchen, find creative and unexpected ways to eliminate trash, save money, and give leftovers a new life. Plus, learn how to grow your own vegetables and herbs from scraps, and how to nourish your plants with compost.
With 15 nutritious and versatile recipes in which nothing goes to waste, this guide shares the secrets to smart shopping, meal planning, and the nutritional value of often-discarded food products. Turn beetroot peelings into delicious falafel, pesto, or a melt-in-your-mouth cake. Revive produce nearing the end of its shelf life with “flexi” recipes-for risotto, stir-fry, smoothies, and more.
The tips and tricks in My Zero-waste Kitchen show how easy it is to live more sustainably without making a complete lifestyle change.
Although it’s not strictly-speaking a kids’ book, it definitely speaks to kids because it presents information in an appealing way (the book layout is bright and fun) and in a “can do” way – showing them all the little things they can do around their own kitchens that can help them live more sustainably. For an adult who thinks that making change is complicated, this is a wonderful starting point and I can see this being a great book for kids and their parents to work from together.
For me, it was the little kick start I needed over the holidays as I contemplated the year ahead and was a great reminder of all the little things I can do that can help reduce food (and other) waste. Here are my takeaways from the book!
Ten small changes to make a big difference
1. Ask questions
Can you eat it? Can you reuse it? Can you compost it? Can you recycle it? Instead of blindly tossing “waste”, ask questions. You might be able to reduce your kitchen waste just by asking yourself a few questions. Don’t contribute to the 60% of waste that ends up in landfill instead of being recycled!
2. Take the time to store it right!
Foods that are stored correctly have a much longer “shelf life”. It’s a small way you can reduce food waste but an important one.
3. Don’t discard ends and skins!
Smoothies are one way to use up fruits and veggies on their last legs but did you know that you can probably use much more of them than you think? Whole strawberries, kiwi and banana skins and even apple cores (stalk removed) can also be added along with all those leftover greens to make a zero-waste smoothie (I even learned that you can use banana peel in cakes if you whizz it in a food processor with a little water
4. Plan, plan, plan (and cook once, eat three times!)
One of the best ways to save money and reduce waste in the kitchen is to plan you meals ahead. Though it might seem tedious, if you spend just a little bit of time prepping vegetables, cooking rice and grains and marinading meats on the weekend, it really does set you up for better eating during the week (both at night and for lunches if you take your own to work or school). The book gives the great example of cooking a roast chicken dinner on a Sunday whose leftovers can be turned into any number of dishes during the week (veggie fritters, stir fry, tacos, salad etc…). Learning to use leftovers is a really easy way to work on getting to zero-waste and saves money (and helps you eat better!) too!
5. Your composter is your friend!
Do you actually know for sure what you can and can’t compost? By learning the rules for your local green bin waste programme if that’s what you do with food waste or simply by learning about the types of food you can actually compost, you’ll be making sure compostables don’t end up in landfill (which makes it virtually impossible for them to actually, well, compost). Chewing gum, wine and beer and even wine corks are all a-ok for a composter!
6. Learn when to compost
It’s all very well to use veggies and fruits on their last legs but there does come a point when they are no good any more. My zero-waste kitchen teaches you what to look for to know when to toss those shrivelled fruits and veggies!
7. Shop smart!
Part of meal planning (see #3) is smart shopping. Learn how to shop in bulk (and what to buy), what to look for with “bargain” fruits and veggies (they may be beyond using) and where to shop for what ingredients (shopping at a market will result in less packaging which, in turn, contributes to a zero-waste house). Once you’ve shopped, store your food correctly for longer “shelf life” (see #2).
8. Your freezer is your friend!
Did you know you can freeze opened wine (I know – who has leftover wine, but actually, a one or two person household might well do)? Leftover wine can add a lot of flavour to soups and stews so don’t toss the last little bit of the bottle. Freeze in icecube trays and then use as needed! Learning how and what to freeze can save you loads of money and cut down on waste and this year, I’m committed to using my freezer for more than storing ice cream!
9. (Re)Grow your own!
We’re not all in a position to grow all our own fruits and veggies (but if you can, do it!) but we can all try to re-grow those veggie ends (celery, spring onions, potatoes). If you’ve got kids or work with them, re-growing is a great way to teach how to move towards zero waste.
10. It’s not just about the food!
When we talk about “zero waste” we’re not just talking about food waste. Packaging, food wraps, foil, even sponges all fall under the “kitchen waste” umbrella and the book gives some great tips for thinking outside the box and reusing or recycling those items (refresh your kitchen sponge in a microwave to kill bacteria, for example). Don’t forget to look beyond the food when you’re looking to reduce waste!
Along with practical tips, the book offers some “starter” recipes – ideas for using up foods on their last legs (including eggs and bread) or parts of fruits and vegetables you never imagined you’d use as well as some wonderful starting points for conversations about food waste (for the whole family). Highly recommended as a do-able “way in” for families to the sometimes complicated topic of food waste.
What about you – what are you doing to reduce food waste this year?
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Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of “My Zero Waste Kitchen” for review purposes. I was not asked to write about the book, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% my own.