I have grown up in post communist Poland in 1980s and 90s, which has shaped my approach to consumerism and sustainability. When I was small everything was in short supply, though I only know this from stories. By the time I have my own memories things were easy to buy, no more queuing for hours to get bread and other basics. There were no supermarkets, no plastic bags and buying your groceries from the open air markets from the farmer were quite the norm. There were no issues with packaging (you brought your own bags or basket) and no use-by/sell-by dates, people used common sense (and their senses) when it came to usability of products.
When Poland joined EU in 2004 people thought it was a joke or a strange rumor that from now on fruit and veg will have to look a certain way. No one was ever bothered, as long as the food tasted good and wasn’t off at the point of sale. Luckily most of the EU regulations have been lifted in 2008.
When I came to UK with my English boyfriend (and now Daddy) I found it quite funny, how he relied on use by dates to tell him if the food is still good, rather than giving it a good look and a sniff. Sometimes when I look at food packaging, which has information about use by date in a few languages, I try to read as many as I can make out and surprisingly the advise is different for different countries. So clearly the date has nothing to do with the actual usability of food, but the legislation of given country.
When I saw Hugh Fernley-Whittingstal’s campaing #wastenot I had to join in. I’m a big admirer of Hugh’s energy when it comes to fighting worthy food battles (his campaign was key to stop sale of battery eggs and the fish campaign forced some supermarkets and brands to provide sustainably caught fish and more transparency in labeling and traceability of catch). Through his River Cottage cookbooks I have learnt to respect food. His creative recipes helped me be less rigid when creating meals – if you can make hummus out of bread and beetroot, than you can do anything!
This time Hugh is fighting with enormous waste caused by supermarkets’ cosmetic standards (who has a problem with a slightly bent carrot or parsnip?!), but also waste produced by British households. An average home throws away 2 days’ worth of food every week. That’s a lot of food and money!
Why we waste food
I have signed up to Hugh’s war on waste (#wastenot campaign). It has really motivated me to make sure we don’t waste any food. To do that I have first analysed why and what we are wasting.
toddler – Little F is not a fussy eater, but he doesn’t always eat what’s put in front of him (though he was perfectly happy to eat that meal before). I usually keep what’s left for lunch the next day, but still I often find myself throwing it out.
pregnancy – I am pregnant and I am having strong cravings and strong, albeit temporary, food aversions – something I didn’t have to cope with in my first pregnancy. I do keep last night’s dinner for lunch the next day, but I often can’t face it. I look at the food and if I don’t want to eat it I don’t. If it’s not something I want it feels like forcing myself to eat cardboard…
cooking experiments – because I don’t like wasting food I often create meals out of what happens to be in my fridge, rather than going out shopping. Sometimes it’s a success, sometimes a disaster. If it’s really bad the food will not get eaten.
veg box delivery – now that I am heavily pregnant and can’t carry heavy shopping bags (or push bag laden buggy) we do have some food deliveries, including fruit and veg box delivery. It has introduced me to some new things I now love, like persimmons, but we have also receive things I found out I don’t like – for example Russian kale and radicchio whose bitter taste does not agree with me. We were also sent a pumpkin. I don’t particularly like pumpkins with their sweet and sickly flesh, but I try them every year in new recipes – if you try things often enough apparently you start liking them (it goes for babies and adults). This year I’ve cooked 3/4 of a pumpkin in a couple of recipes, but the rest will sadly not get used.
salad leaves – there’s always a handful or two which gets wasted at the back of the fridge
How to stop wasting food
Now that I know why the waste happens, here’s a few things I will try to do about it.
toddler – offer smaller portions and top up if needed
pregnancy – not much I can do here I’m afraid. I’ll have to wait this out and hope my usual food appetites will return once the baby is born
cooking experiments – I will try to research a little more and look at various recipes, which include what I happen to have in my fridge, to minimize chances of a disaster
veg box – I’ll keep an eye on what the delivery will bring and ask to remove/replace items I know we won’t eat
salad leaves – I’ll use these up in omelettes and soups
Hugh’s is doing the hard work of dealing with the supermarkets, but he needs your help. If you would like to see less food wasted and better deal for the farmers all you need to do is sign this letter to pledge your support to the campaign. You can also follow the campaign on Facebook or Twitter.