By - posted on February 29, 2020

Love Food

All this month as part of our New Year’s Resolution, our team has been learning to love their food. We’ve researched the most common reasons food goes to waste, how to make the most of our food and, when all else fails, how to rot our food

Overbuying

One of the main reasons food ends up in the bin is overbuying. ‘An extra just in case’ or great bargain when purchasing multi-packs… all of these will cost us extra money and cost the planet even more.

Take a snap your fridge before you leave – a “Fridge Shelfie”; this reminds you of your remaining food, and helps you plan your meals better.

Take a shopping list with you; the little note that tracks those need-to-buy groceries. It’s not a bargain if it ends up in the bin! If you won’t eat it in time, leave it on the shelf. Stick to your trusty list.

Food Neglect

A spontaneous meal out or takeaway is fun sometimes, but not so much if we neglect the food we have in our cupboards, fridges and freezers. Make food go further.

Our lives are busy and meal prepping was an attractive solution. Preparing double, triple, or even more portions of meals and dividing them into different containers meant we always had ready-made meals on hand. That not only saved time but also encouraged us to eat healthier foods instead of reaching for quick processed snacks, as well as ensured we used up the ingredients we bought.

We turned to the #FlungTogetherFood hashtag for creative recipes on making the most out of what we had in the fridge and were inspired by the Bootstrap Cook, who has plenty of ideas for what to cook with forgotten tins from the back of the cupboard and how to use up fresh items to avoid food waste. Soups are also always a great option to use up veg that are past their best: www.bbcgoodfood.com/search/recipes?query=soup

Food Storage

Storing food correctly can make it last longer. But only half of us know that our fridge should be below 5°C. The average UK fridge temperature is set at 7°C, which is too high for milk and other food items that can perish quickly when not stored at the right temperature. www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/article/chill-fridge-out We checked our fridge settings so milk and other food items could last up to three days longer.

Freezing food we didn’t have time to eat was also important. It’s like hitting the pause button. Lots of people don’t realise it’s safe to freeze food right up to the use-by date, and then defrost in the fridge when you want it. You can freeze almost all foods (except those with a high water content, like lettuce or cucumber)! www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/article/be-freezer-hero

Composting

For those times when our food didn’t quite make it to our plates in time, we turned to composting – the art of decomposing organic matter. It’s a highly sustainable way of not only reducing food waste, but also “producing” a valuable addition for gardens and plants.

We tried to demystify the process for those who were new to it by answering some frequently asked questions:

  1. Is making home compost complicated, messy, or smelly?
    • These are all true if you compost the wrong way. Composting the right way is a very simple approach: Simply layer organic materials and a dash of soil to create a concoction that turns into humus. We will discuss other composting methods later!
    • Compost is not smelly! It actually has a pleasant deep, rich, earthy smell if done properly.
  2. What are the different ways to compost?
    • Raw food waste composting
      • As simple as collecting garden waste or diverting organic materials from your bin (such as fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and filters, and eggshells) and then gathering them in a pile or bin. Over the course of a year or so, the material will decompose. See next photo for more detailed instructions.
    • Bokashi
      • Bokashi, or effective micro-organisms, utilise beneficial anaerobic microorganisms which have been used for centuries to ferment foods safely and without bad odours. It’s also a good system for householders wanting to compost food waste without attracting vermin and the resulting fermented food waste.
    • Wormeries
      • Worms can eat about half their own body weight a day if conditions are right; they can only eat food that is soft and partially rotten. So if you have a kilo of worms you can feed them about half a kilo a day.
    • Green Cone
      • The Green cone comprises of a ‘washing basket’ buried in the ground with a double skinned cone on top. It is designed so that soil creatures, especially worms, will be attracted to feed on the materials and taken away into the surrounding soil. You have to set Green cones up carefully on level ground so that the seam between basket and top sections is level with the soil all round. They will last for several years in one spot but will eventually need moving.
  3. What are the steps for composting?
    • Step 1: Combine Green and Brown Materials
      • Once you have chosen a compost bin and site for it there are a few simple rules to follow. Ideally start your compost bin in spring and for best results combine a mixture of soft, green, nitrogen-rich material and dry, brown, carbon-rich material in roughly even quantities.
    • Step 2: Moisten Your Pile
      • Sprinkle water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge. Don’t add too much water, otherwise, the microorganisms in your pile will become waterlogged and drown. If this happens, your pile will rot instead of compost.
    • Step 3: Stir Up Your Pile
      • Keep adding to this initial pile at regular intervals. When the heap or bin is full, it will start to heat up as the decomposition process gets underway. After a couple of weeks when it begins to cool down, turn the heap with a fork, mixing up the contents thoroughly and adding water if it is drying out. If turned regularly and in warm conditions your compost will be ready in about 2-4 months.
    • Step 4: Feed Your Garden
      • When the compost no longer gives off heat and becomes dry, brown, and crumbly, the compost is finished and ready to feed to the garden. The pile will be about half its original size and have an earthy smell to it.
      • Add about 4 to 6 inches of compost to your flower beds and into your pots at the beginning of each planting season. Some gardeners make what’s known as compost tea with some of their finished compost. This involves allowing fully formed compost to “steep” in water for several days, then straining it to use as a homemade liquid fertiliser.
    • More details:
  4. What are the dos and don’ts of composting?
    • The trick is to aim for equal amounts of “green” waste and “brown” waste to keep your compost healthy. “Green” waste includes moist matter like fruits and vegetables and “brown” waste is dry matter can be items like wood shavings, dry leaves, or even old newspapers.
Collect these materials to start your compost pile right: Avoid these items for a successful compost pile:
Green, nitrogen rich material:
✔ Grass cuttings
✔ Soft prunings
✔ Annual plant and weed remains before they have set seed
✔ Fruit and vegetable scraps
✔ Old cut flowers
✔ Tea bags and coffee grounds
Brown, carbon-rich material:
✔ Cardboard (torn up)
✔ Newspaper
✔ Paper bags and scrunched up paper
✔ Straw
❌ Anything containing meat, oil, fat, or grease
❌ Diseased plant materials
❌ Cooked food
❌ Dog or cat litter
❌ Disposable nappies
❌ Dairy products
❌ Coal ash
❌ Perennial weeds (e.g. bindweed)

Solving Problems:

A slimy compost heap is usually due to too much of one material such as grass clippings, and not enough air in the heap. To solve this problem, remove the slimy layer and add material such as straw, shredded hedge clippings or crumpled paper. Turn your heap periodically to get more air in. Dry and fibrous compost with little rotting is usually caused by too little moisture and too much brown material. A cold compost heap doesn’t mean it isn’t decomposing, just that the process will take a little longer.

The Verdict

So how did we do? We wrote shopping lists, meal prepped, stored our food better, made soup from leftover veg and tried composting (with a second-hand bin).

A recent WRAP report shows food waste is falling but there is plenty more we can be doing: http://wrap.org.uk/content/food-waste-falls-7-person-three-years

We hope our tEC tips will inspire you to love your food as much as we do.