As the supermarket shelves empty due to panic stockpiling, now is not a bad time to think about how you buy, use and dispose of food. In the current circumstances, buying what you don't need/more than you need may be depriving someone else who does actually need it. My mother, for example, could not find bread nor eggs, forcing her to repeatedly venture to the supermarkets in search of them, putting herself at risk (she is elderly and has a heart condition, so is in the top 1% of people at risk of dying from COVID-19).
The people who can help her with her shopping either do not have the transport to do so or, by the time they finish work and can go to the shops, the shelves are empty. Online delivery is not an option as all the slots here have been booked into next month by people stockpiling. She is not the worst off. She is still mobile. Some people are not. Some people have even more serious conditions that put them at even more risk. Many supermarkets here in the UK have started rationing certain products and/or introducing shopping slots for the elderly and disabled, but still the shelves are empty of certain necessities.
Please people, stop stockpiling and have a thought for others!
In addition, did you know that around one third of the food produced around the world goes to waste? Did you know that this waste accounts for something like 8-10% of the world's greenhouse gases, so is seriously damaging our environment and our future?
Apart from buying less, I have a few suggestions:
- Keep an eye on what you have in your fridge and kitchen and try to use it before it goes off. There are eco friendly devices that can help keep vegetables etc. fresher for longer and there are Apps that help you to plan recipes around what you already have.
- For those of you in areas where supermarkets, local convenience stores, restaurants, cafes, bakeries etc. etc. are still operating, there may be Apps that allow you to buy unsold food that is still fresh, but would otherwise be thrown away, at discounted prices. You save money, you help to save the environment, and you might just be helping to save businesses that are really struggling to survive right now. It is better for them to get something, rather than nothing, for unsold food. Apps in the UK (might be available elsewhere, I'm not sure), include Karma and Too Good to Go.
- Go through your freezer and larder. Is there stuff lurking in there that you could use for your next meal? Get creative with recipes so you don't automatically have to go and buy more food. Think about what you could donate to a food bank or similar charity. There are also Apps where you can give unwanted food to your neighbours.
- Talking of the freezer, it's very easy to freeze bread, fruit and all sorts of things before they go off so they can be consumed later. Do be mindful though of food safety and don't refreeze stuff that it's not safe to do.
- If you have time on your hands, which many of us do, or are looking for ways to keep young ones occupied, think about using some of your foodstuffs to make jams, chutneys etc. Over ripe bananas are perfect for making banana cake/bread and I recently made up a few jars of chutney from courgettes and tomatoes I knew I wouldn't get through. If you put them in nice jars and label them, these can make great homemade gifts.
- Is bread scarce at your supermarket? Think about baking your own, especially if you have that "unwanted gift" of a breadmaker sitting around. I bet if you baked it yourself, you would be more reluctant to throw it away!
- Inevitably, you will have some scraps to throw away, such as peelings, egg shells, used tea bags and coffee grounds. If your local council has a food waste collection scheme, please use it. If you have a garden, try composting (could save you money too, as well as reducing the environmentally damaging peat based compost you might be buying).
I am slowing working through my cupboards and freezer. I am actually astounded by how often I think, "I have nothing to eat.. better pop to the shops," when actually I have lots of food. Previous guests leave so much behind. Don't throw it away! Think of how you might use it, or give it to someone who will.
Oh and I didn’t mention anything about growing your own fruit, veg an herbs. I am not good with that stuff in my shady garden but maybe other people have tips? My mother grew an abundance tomatoes, aubergines/eggplant, chillis and all sorts on her sunny terrace until the squirrels came and stole the lot!
@Huma0 Is your garden in full shade all day? If it gets at least a few hours of sun, you should be able to grow salad greens like lettuce, spinach, chives, swiss chard, etc. They grow quickly and leafy greens are the best veggies we could be eating right now, full of vitamins and minerals and disease-fighting compounds.
One side of the garden does get a bit of sun earlier in the day, but unfortunately, we don't get that many sunny days overall. Space is also very limited, as it's mostly paved with a skinny flower bed on each side, one in total shade. I have some containers also.
The roof terrace above the kitchen extension gets a bit more sun and I used to successfully grow some annuals up there, amongst other things. However, it started leaking very badly and the roof had to be redone, which was very costly. The roofers told me not to keep so many pots on it, so I have now limited it to a few small pots. There are some herbs growing there as well as flowers, but I think my gardening skills are a bit hit and miss! The herbs will do very well for a while and then suddenly die
Here's a few thoughts on those ripe bananas- peel them before you freeze them, it's a hassle getting the skins off otherwise & consider the merits of dipping frozen banana chunks into melted chocolate and re-chilling or rolling in cocoa powder as an alternative. You can puree the banana & spread it on slices of stale bread sprinkle on a little sugar and run it under the broiler for a scant few minutes to caramelize & of course, banana daiquiris!
Sometimes the problem with starting a compost pile is lots of rich & soggy stuff (kitchen waste) and not enough dry & less rich stuff- dried leaves & grasses etc.- that's when one gets the stinky, slimy anaerobic stuff. You can shred up new paper and mix it in if you don't have access to lots of leaves.
If your garden is a mossy and ferny grotto of tranquility then consider window boxes as a place to grow a few fresh herbs, if that isn't practicable perhaps sprout some seeds or beans. Sunflower seed sprouts are buttery, cress sprouts are peppery & mung bean sprouts are crunchy. On the subject of alfalfa sprouts I will not comment.
I always add finely chopped carrot tops to soups when I have carrots with tops & lettuce that is wilted but still edible is also a enriching layer of flavor minced and simmered into soup.
We have been baking our own bread for decades & it was a wee bit annoying when flour became a panic buying target (finally found some at the Asian market) I hope folks follow thru & try doing their own baking- it's pretty easy and what a comforting aroma! I use a lot of beans in my cooking, being a reluctant vegan and have finally managed to successfully soak & simmer black chana (garbanzo, chickpea ) into something succulent. This has been on my bucket list for a long time, especially after my favorite Indian restaurant changed hands & the new owners didn't want to bother with the old recipe & swapped out for regular chana. The black chana take a very very very long time to finish cooking so I can almost see their point but the flavor is something else!
I am still using the stupid "lavender scented" toilet paper for my sins - I bought a case of normal stuff to not inflict the other on Tom & he also bought some to avoid using the funky stuff plus, there's the supply we kept for guests. Our neighbors know where to go if they run low. How much can anyone go thru in a month, anyway? XO Sally
@Sally221 next time I will peel the bananas first! I didn't think about that and just chucked them in the freezer, skins and all.
@Sarah977 @Sally221 When I was attempting to compost myself, rather than using the council's scheme, I would add shredded egg boxes, cereal boxes and the cardboard you get inside toilet rolls. So, I never got that slimey mush. I had the opposite problem. Nothing seems to actually decompose in there, and yes I did try adding the compost accelerator powder. My housemate at the time kindly used to stir it for me, but he would report back that there was food sitting in there still looking fresh after months! I just don't get it.
Only conclusion is that it just wouldn't work where it was sitting, i.e. in full shade, or that I just have an ineffective composter. I went for style over substance. It's wooden, painted and looks like a beehive, so is much prettier than the usual ones.
@Huma0 Hmm, that is odd. We are super lazy composters, we definitely don't hose it down and turn it as often as directions indicate. We basically throw stuff in there, turn it every few weeks, we don't put all the leaves from the yard in the composter, but we end up with 1 or 2 bins full of very black soil every year. The composter is in a back corner in the yard, so pretty shady but possibly the hot, hot summers are doing our work for us? The only paper we put in the composter is the tea bags though.
Also, let me put in a good word for quick bread for using overripe fruits. It is so easy even I can do it, no yeast. Just flour, sugar, baking powder & soda, oil or butter and voila. A loaf of bread. They can also be made savory instead of sweet.
We have trouble growing vegetables since we planted a giant maple tree in the back yard which grew about 10x faster than we had expected so the back yard is super shady now. We only do herbs and usually 1 tomato plant or 1 hot pepper plant.
Yes it is a bit strange. I gave up on it, but maybe will give it another go this year when the temperatures warm up. It's still very cold and wintery here right now.
I have, however, had success in making leaf mould, so that's what I do with all those fallen leaves. It takes a bit longer in my garden than perhaps in others, but gets there eventually. I have a big bag ready for spring planting and mulching and another in progress for next year. The rest of the garden waste goes into the council composting scheme.
My garden will soon be overrun with squirrels. The little critters already steal my tulip and crocus bulbs, but I am sure would be all over the veggies unless they were very well protected. My three cats are no help. They realised ages ago that it's really hard to catch a squirrel!
And while we are on the subjet of toilet paper...
Still none to be found in the supermarkets near me. A staff member told me that people are queuing up outside the store before it opens and then fighting for it. He said, you can come first thing, but good luck!
I managed to find some (at double price) in the pharmacy. Not sure they should be taking advantage of the situation in this way, but couldn't find it anywhere else at that time. I bought a pack of four rolls, i.e. what we needed. Later, one of my guests brought back a four pack from Scotland! Apparently, people were not going so crazy there - at least not at that point.
So, we are ok for now, especially as there are no guests left and none likely to come. A staff member in another local supermarket took me aside the other day and whisphered, "Madam, do you need some toilet paper?" He told me they were getting it in every day, but now only putting half on the shelves for the stockpilers and half in the storeroom so they could offer one pack to their regular customers. I told him that he was very kind, but that we were okay for now. I might have to take him up on the offer down the line though!
While I'm no eco-warrior (by any stretch of the imagination), we're not ones for waste, be it energy or food. My husband is from Venezuela where food isn't the free and easy it is here, so the hangover of his heritage means we're careful with what gets put in the bin.
Like many (just perhaps not from these shores), your dinner leftovers will often be your lunch the next day. It might not be very sexy (sometimes), but putting food in my stomach versus the bin has to be the right thing to do, anytime.
Last night's dinner was rice, so it's arancini balls for lunch (yay!).
@Gordon0 yes I am sure culture plays a strong part. My family are from Pakistan and, although Pakistanis tend to cook way too much when they have guests over, they don't waste stuff so much. I was brought up the old fashioned, "You can't leave the table until you finish everything on your plate. There are children starving in Africa," way. So, I've never liked to waste food, or stuff in general.
I used to work for the Energy Saving Trust, so I am very conscious of energy efficiency, but I was before that anyway, as that's just how I was brought up.
Leftovers for lunch may not be sexy, but makes total sense. It cuts down on cooking time and saves you money. Less overpackaged, ready made shop sandwiches needed.
@Gordon0 my father did take it a bit too far one time though.
He told me if I didn't finish those eggs, he was going to put them on my head. I refused to eat them. My mother came home from work to find him frantically trying to wash the eggs from my hair. The hot water had helped to really cook them in. My mother was not impressed. He said, "I told her I was going to do it, so I had to follow through!"
I once had to put a brand new Silver Surfer lunch box in the garbage as my son wouldn't stop bonking his friends with it while we were on a field trip & I made the fatal "If you don't stop that right now" threat. Man, it was a wrench to do it but wasn't the whole class impressed! When I came in to do ceramics projects with the classes word was out that I was a mom who didn't play around. I learned a valuable lesson too, don't say it if you don't want to have to follow thru!
@Sally221 "Sometimes the problem with starting a compost pile is lots of rich & soggy stuff (kitchen waste) and not enough dry & less rich stuff- dried leaves & grasses etc.- that's when one gets the stinky, slimy anaerobic stuff."
Yes, for a compost pile to work properly, it has to be a mix of kitchen food waste, dry leaves or other dry material, green garden and grass clippings and some soil (there's usually enough soil on the roots of weeds you pull to provide that). And has to be stirred around every once in awhile, too. If you live near a seaweed beach, seaweed is great to throw in,as well. There's a lot of cows and horses in my area as well, and sometimes I'll don gloves and fill a feed bag with it and add it to the compost.