Monday, November 16, 2009

Food waste woes

Nothing makes my blood boil as much as wasted food. Yes, brace yourselves, I'm going to have a little rant - sorry. Did you know that approximately one in every five bags of groceries the average Australian household takes home will end up getting thrown in the bin? That surveys have found that up to 50% of the average Australian household's wheelie bin will be filled with food? When you consider these statistics in relation to the fact that every year roughly 15 million children die of hunger, its enough to turn me off my lunch.
We used to waste a fair bit of food, particularly when we were going to a fruit and vegie market and would tend to get a little overexcited buying more than we could ever use (because it was so cheap!). Now I try to plan meals around what needs using. I would like to say that I have a carefully constructed shopping list based on a weekly meal plan before even going to the supermarket in the first place, but I'm really just not that person!
I think its helped us to waste less vegies now that we are growing some of our own. For example, we used to be in the habit of buying a lettuce and then letting is moulder away in the crisper. Now that we grow our own lettuce, we just pick what we need for each meal.
I've also picked up a few tips for what to do with bits of leftovers that seem too good to throw away. I think these all originally came from Nigella Lawson (my culinary guru) - they work well for us.
* Freeze the rind of used up lumps of parmesan and then add them whole to a pot of soup during cooking (and remove before serving!) - it adds a great flavour
* If you don't fancy the last couple of mouthfuls of your glass of red wine, freeze it in an icecube tray. These small portions of wine come in handy for cooking and for marinating meat.
* If a recipe calls for egg yolk only freeze the egg white. It'll always come in handy at some point.
We've also recently developed some constructive ways of dealing with our food scraps. I used to think that sending food scraps to landfill didn't really matter because it would break down, but what I didn't realise is that this sort of organic waste will actually release a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. I am now a proud worm mama. The Beloved Husband thinks I'm a bit strange, but I think my earthworms are cute, and I enjoy feeding my worm farm scraps from the kitchen. The added bonus of this is, of course, that worm poo is great for the garden. Whatever the worms won't have (they're a bit fussy) goes to my parents' chooks in return for the occasional egg.
The trouble with having such a bee in my bonnet about food wastage is that when you're trying to feed a Booba you can end up throwing a LOT of it straight into the bin! I once heard someone say that you cannot force a baby to do two things - eat or sleep. So true! So it can feel very frustrating seeing so much waste when it is to a large extent out of your control. However the following are a few useful little pieces of wisdom I've gleaned regarding trying to minimise the amount of baby food that ends up in the bin:
* It seems fairly obvious, but its probably worth stating anyway - don't prepare too much! Err on the side of preparing less than you think they'll eat, and then you can always whip a bit more of something else if they're still peckish. I think that huge mountains of babyfood will probably exacerbate your own feelings of frustration if they won't eat it all, and overwhelm the tacker.
* If you wouldn't eat it, a baby probably won't either! Sometimes I think when we get so wrapped up in concocting nutritious little somethings for our darlings we forget about the taste factor. Occasionally when I have been getting frustrated at The Booba for not yumming down whatever feast I have prepared for him I have eaten a spoonful of his food myself to demonstrate how 'delicious' it is - and then struggled not to gag! So I'm trying to make it my new rule of thumb that I will not serve The Booba food that I would not countenance eating myself, and I always taste it first. The added benefit of this is that, if he won't eat it anyway, at least I can finish it off myself.
* Don't even bother trying to feed solids to an overtired baby. You'll just end up scraping it all off the cieling. When The Booba is a bit tired or grizzly I err on the side of offering him his favourite familiar flavours in minimally challenging textures (ie puree) because I know he will be much more likely to eat it.
* Prepare your own baby food. There are numerous reasons, both nutritional and environmental, for not feeding a baby processed food. For the sake of this argument though the main point would be that it can be a lot more difficult to control portion sizes when dealing with food that comes in packets. The Booba only has homemade food but its really not as much trouble as it may sound. I tend to make large batches and freeze them in ice cube trays (often this will just be a set aside portion of our own meal, prior to seasoning, which has been blended). A 1 kg tub of natural yoghurt in the fridge means I can serve him just as much as I think he'll eat. When it comes to fresh fruit I grate or mash his portion and usually finish the piece of fruit myself (I think my diet has actually been improved this way! - I never used to eat fruit).
* Be patient. Babies take ages to eat, especially if its food they have to chew and they don't have many teeth!

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