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Journalist and writer

Archive for January 2009

Diary of a food throwaway. Week 4: a good one for the landfill

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By Jove, I think I’ve almost done it.
I’m four weeks into my challenge to reduce the amount of food I chuck away and this week has been excellent.
Hardly anything has been discarded, which means less rubbish for the landfill. Leftovers have, by and large, been used up, bread that is past its best has been whizzed into breadcrumbs and frozen and there are no out of date yoghurts lurking in the deeper recesses of the fridge. Yet.
Shopping lists have been drawn up for years in this household; it’s a weekly chore, but it means that every item put into the trolley is destined for a dish or two. Very little is bought on spec, although of course there are times when a new item or a few treat are bought.
Despite this, some of it never reaches our stomachs. It just goes from fridge to bin or compost.
So, why has the past week been so different? To be honest, I’m not sure and it’ll take a few weeks to see if this is an emerging pattern or a blip.
Interestingly, the food bill has not decreased while this experiment has been undertaken – so what is happening? Are we being sensible with the items we buy?
I did wonder last week if I was eating more to stop food going off and being thrown away. I’m not entirely sure that is the case, but I think I’m far more aware of what is in my cupboards and what needs to be consumed. This is especially the case of food in cold storage. The 16 tins of tomatoes in my store cupboard will keep for some time yet. (And, yes, I’ve been asked not to buy any more for a while…)
That said, there are two large tubs of Greek yoghurt that need to be eaten in the next couple of days, so I’d better get creative so they don’t get added to my list of shame.
Talking of which, here’s this week’s very short list:
2oz (approx) of cheddar
Half a packet of cereal hoops
A courgette (composted).
An estimated cost of this food is £1.50, which equates to £78 wastage over a year. This is huge progress, but before I give myself a pat on the back, it has to be sustained and not a one-off.
I’m looking forward to next week.


Written by CommonPeople

January 29, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Jayne's posts

Diary of a throwaway foodie: week 3

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Another week of shame, but I have noticed a pattern developing already with my throwaway food habits.

This is the third week of tracking the food that I throw away and it is developing into an obsession. There is much heart-searching when I chuck something out that could have been used if it weren’t for the fact that I was too lazy to do anything with it.

As much as anything, it’s what to include and not include in the list. The crusts from the children’s packed lunches? No. But uneaten yoghurts, yes, because they couldn’t be eaten after hours in a bag in an overheated classroom.

The leftovers on the dinner plate or in the breakfast bowl? No, because they couldn’t be reused anyway. But extra portions of dinner that have to be chucked out after a day because no one could be bothered to cover it up and stick it in the fridge? Yes, because it is wasteful.

The beginning of the week is efficient food-wise with very little being discarded, which is great. It seems to be Throwaway Thursday when it goes wrong: when you realise that there is little left in the fridge before the weekend shop and what is left is out of date.

I have noticed that I am eating more leftovers: whether or not that has an impact on my waistline is something I’ll have to watch out for. Am I eating more just so I don’t add it to my list? That is a possibility, but it isn’t deliberate, perhaps subconscious (well it was, until I thought about it. It’ll be a deliberate choice now, of course).

Part of this self-inflicted challenge was to look at the amount of rubbish I threw away, too, although it is very much a minor walk-on role. However, only one full bag of refuse was collected by the bin men this week (I didn’t put in the half used bag), which means that only 30 litres of unrecyclable waste has gone to the landfill.

I was very excited to receive a new bin this week (my life is not one great long party!), which means that the local authority will soon be changing its doorstep recycling collection to include yoghurt pots, Tetra packs, plastics, plastic bags, cardboard and greetings cards alongside the usual paper, glass and tins.

But, to the main point, which is my food shame. Here it is:

A half tub of vegetarian pate

Full pack of coriander*

125g of cottage cheese

Half a pint of skimmed milk

One mango

2 Frube yoghurts (should have frozen them and forgot)

Half a small tub of creamed cheese

3 pots of fruit yoghurt

One-quarter of a white loaf

Three lollipops (junk!)

Six small chocolate bars that no one liked (part of a raffle prize at Christmas)

Comic pear*

(*denotes it was composted).

I’ve totted this grand list to about £4.80. I’ve not included the sweets as we didn’t buy them. Over a year that would be £249.60, so about the same as last week.

Despite my efforts, I’m not improving at all. Time to think of a new strategy for next week!

Written by CommonPeople

January 23, 2009 at 3:20 pm

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I don’t eat meat. Should I let my children eat it?

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Sometimes, the things you once said come back to bite you.
It might have been utttered because you believed the “promise” you made on a particular subject would never materialise. Or it might have been said rashly to gloss over the problem, so it could be filed under “things to tackle in the distant future” category of your brain.
I find myself in a situation where something I said nine years ago – and repeated seven years ago –  has come back to haunt me. It’s my fault and it has put me right in the middle of an ethical dilemma.
The problem is this: I don’t eat meat. My partner does, but we eat vegetarian meals at home. He is happy with this arrangement – but takes the opportunity when he can to eat meat. I am fine with that, too.
When we had children, he agreed that we could bring them up on a meat-free diet.
It has slipped slightly as I – and the family – now eat fish (strictly speaking this makes me a pescetarian, but it sounds like a cop out and slightly ludicrous).
So, what was the promise I made? It was this:
If, when the children are old enough to understand how/why animals are killed for meat and they are happy with that they can eat it.
The trouble is, I imagined them to be happy non-meat eaters, skipping in a rose-tinted world of Quorn and vegetarian meals.
Over the past few months, though, they have decided they want to eat meat. They’ve seen programmes about animal husbandry and how the creatures are slaughtered for the plate; they have simultaneously said “how cruel” and “I want to eat meat” when discussions have taken place about farming practices; they claim they understand what it is all about.
Now I want to backtrack; I want to go back on what I have said before. I did muse about compromising and allowing them to eat only organic meat, but even that upsets me.
There are a myriad problems with my attitude – and I understand that I might be appearing selfish, childish and too controlling. I appreciate that I am setting a bad example by doing a u-turn on this issue.
If I keep resisting their urge to eat meat (although they did eat some at Christmas), they’ll probably run to McDonalds (another bugbear of mine) and trough down a Big Mac as soon as they are old enough to go on their own.
If I allow them the occasional meaty meal, then the “forbidden fruit” aspect of it could dissipate and they might – just might – decide that they don’t want to eat it anyway.
I’m not one for banging on about animal cruelty. It was my choice not to eat meat. The reasons were personal and I don’t tut or berate anyone for choosing to eat pork, beef, chicken etc.
The fact that I eat fish probably negates all my arguments about a meat-free diet.
No one is asking me to forego my beliefs and eat animal flesh; the whole family knows that 99 per cent of the time the meals on the table will not contain meat.
But, why can’t I let this one go? I’m wracking my brains and know I’ll probably have to make a decision soon – before it is taken out of my hands.

Written by CommonPeople

January 22, 2009 at 11:46 am

The throwaway foodie – week 2

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Another week and another load of food goes to waste in my household.

thought I’d done quite well this week, but the results below speak for themselves.

The previous post explains what I’m doing, but basically, I am tracking all the food that goes to waste in my house that should have been used.

It might be that fruit has rotted when it could have been eaten (obviously) or turned into something else; yoghurts that should have been consumed before the use-by date; or anything that could have been wrapped up to munch on at a later time.

It’s something I’ve had a bee in my bonnet for a long time, but have decided to do something about it now.

This week my attention was drawn to http://www.therubbishdiet.co.uk/, which is an inspirational read and will ensure that my drive to produce less waste every week will happen.

 It made me realise that while my efforts were laudable, they were way off what I could be doing. Admittedly I was a little despondent at first when I read Almost Mrs Average’s posts from Bury St Edmunds. She is almost gaining superhuman qualities when it comes to disposal of waste, but I am determined to slim my bin.

The great news this week was that neighbouring streets have started to receive their new small capacity bins from the local council, which means our old bins can soon be used for doorstep cardboard and plastics recycling. It might mean my garage will be clear (ish).

I’ve annoyed myself this week, however, my throwing away food that was grown on our allotment. As far as I’m concerned that is unforgiveable: waste of time and effort (by the man of the house) and a waste of food.

So, this week’s list of shame is:

Half a pack of cherry tomatoes*


Half  a bag of potatoes*

Large cabbage (from the allotment)*

Two-thirds of a jar of horseradish sauce

One large homemade pizza (it should have been covered up and eaten for lunch. One hundred lazy points and a big red FAIL for me).

Five Santa biscuits (left mouldering in the back of a cupboard)

Two small pots of yoghurt

Two-thirds of a large pot of yoghurt.

(*denotes that it was composted.)

I have made a conservative estimate about the money I’ve essentially incinerated and it’s about £4.50. I’ve not counted the cabbage from the allotment. Over a year that would £234, which is way below average (Government figures put that at about £420). But it is more than last week – and who wouldn’t rather have that £234 in their pocket than on the composter or in the landfill?

The challenge this week is to use the celery I bought for a recipe that required just one stick. I’m adamant I won’t let the rest rot in the fridge.

And I must try harder next week. Onwards and upwards!


Written by CommonPeople

January 16, 2009 at 11:32 am

Waste not, want not. The diary of a throwaway foodie

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I am wasteful. There. I said it.

 Despite having similar genetic tendencies to Scrooge at times, I do find that I throw a lot of food away that I should have used – or, with a bit of care, made into something delicious.

 Instead, yoghurts, vegetables and other fresh produce deteriorate away in the fridge and cupboards, only to re-emerge in a state quite different from when it went in.

 It’s a waste. And I’m fed up of it.

 According to WRAP, households across the UK throw away 6.7 million tonnes of food – that’s about one-third of the food we buy. That’s a hell of a lot of meals.

 On its website, WRAP (wrap.org.uk) says: 

 “The environmental costs of food waste are enormous.  It is estimated that 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food production, distribution and storage.  If we stopped wasting food that could have been eaten we could prevent at least 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions each year.  The majority of these emissions are associated with embedded energy but a significant proportion arises as a result of food waste going to landfill sites.  Once in landfill food breakdown produces methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.”

It has been campaigning for a while to get us to reduce the amount of food we chuck away and while I’ve been aware of it and have always striven to minimise waste, it just doesn’t happen.

 That piece of bread crust that never gets eaten? Sometimes I’ll turn it into breadcrumbs and stick it in the freezer. Sometimes it goes on the bird table. Occasionally, it has become so mouldy that it goes in the bin.

Bananas that have become too ripe to eat? I know I could whip up my easy banana cake in a few minutes, but sometimes I cannot be bothered. The only thing that gets fed, then, is my garden composter.

Oranges that have been in the fruit basket too long? Yum – nice, home made orange juice. No – usually in the bin (not always the composter because of the acidity).

 Oh, yes, I do recycle. Cardboard, plastic and Tetra packs are taken to the local municipal tip; the local authority collects paper, bottles and cans; I send my dead batteries to a special recycling plant (I’ve been meaning to buy rechargeable for years…) and veg and fruit peelings/mouldering vegetables/tea bags, coffee grounds are sent to the three composting bins in my garden.

 When my children were babies I used washable nappies.

 I’ve managed to cut down on the amount of waste that goes into the landfill by half – there are usually two 30 litre bin bags in my bin a week (and that’s for a family of four).

 All this is very laudable, but I’m not ready to polish my halo just yet.

 I still throw away too much food. Which is not just a waste of food, but money.

 Now we are at the nub of it. Last year, a government study found that surplus food that was thrown away added £420 a year to our food bills.

 The Cabinet Office report said the average UK household threw away £8 of leftovers a week.

 In an effort to stop being wasteful, I’m naming and shaming myself.

 I am going to write a blog post every week about every morsel of food that I throw away and could have used.

 There may not be many readers to this exciting diary entry, but it’ll be there, potentially, for all to see and view my shame.

 Hopefully, the list of discarded items will decrease and I will be able to work out each month how much I could have saved if I hadn’t bought it or if I’d used it properly.

So, the list of shame for this week is:

One out of date egg;

250ml of pineapple juice

100g of tinned sweetcorn

half a large pot of natural yoghurt

two half packs of celery (should have gone in the compost but I couldn’t bear to get them out of the wrapper, so went in the bin. FAIL)

a Frube yoghurt

two mini pittas

two slices of Quorn ham

half a pack of pre-packed salad (bad enough buying it in the first place) and a handful of grapes (in the compost bin)

half a pack of Walker’s cheese and onion crisps

1 mini Yulelog cake bar.

I reckon that comes to about £3.50 worth of food which, over a year, would equate to £182 – about two weeks’ worth of shopping. We’ll see how I get on.

Written by CommonPeople

January 9, 2009 at 3:49 pm

A resolution not to make a resolution

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It’s a new year and that is traditionally the time to make resolutions, those pledges you make to yourself that will make you a better person, a cleverer and wittier one, a fitter and healthier body.

Me? I can’t be doing with any of that anymore. I know whatever I promise to do will either never be pursued or will be abandoned after a few weeks.

The resolutions I’ve made, which have never come to fruition, include:

·         Enrolling into a French class

·         Joining a gym

·         Going on a computer course

·         Losing weight

·         Learning Spanish/Italian/German

·         Reading more/watching less TV

·         Trying to have more patience

·         Walking more

·         Cycling more

So, the best option, so as not to disappoint myself again, is to forget about resolutions. That way I can’t let myself down again.

Hold on, though. Isn’t that a New Year’s resolution? And one I can keep?

So, have I made a resolution, or not?

Now I am confused.

Written by CommonPeople

January 1, 2009 at 3:53 pm