There has been a lot made of food waste in the newspapers this past few days. Starting with a bold headline, on Wednesday, “£1000 a year, per household, thrown away”, blaming BOGOF offers and confusing date labels. Then today the supermarkets refuted the claims. The plain fact is that food IS thrown away by households every day. Food that is perfectly edible!
Any packed food now has a date. Best Before; Sell by; Use By; All have been invented and used for reasons that may be completely different to what you think they are and use them for. Most are just a guide for the consumer but are used for stock rotation and tracking during transportation.
From the dawn of the ‘Supermarket’ in the 60’s and the advent of refrigeration for all, the consumer has lost the knowledge once passed down from Mother to Child. Food became so cheap and plentiful it didn’t matter. Then Government, Supermarket Buyers and the Health Departments got involved! Dates ruled!
but they didn’t teach us what they ment, what they were there for.
I was eleven before we had a fridge, 14 before a freezer came in the house. My grandparents lived with us and had never had refrigeration, shops didn’t have refrigeration. We relied on a bucket of water and a damp cloth over the food, a marble shelved larder room and a concrete lined hole in the ground in the north side of the garden in the shade of a tree. I learnt to use my eyes, smell and feel. Here are the rules I use, they may not be verified, been assessed by the food hygienic etc but I and my family have never had food poisoning. We also use a hierarchy, an order of use.
FRUIT; is the easiest to tell if it’s ‘fresh’ (although if it’s january and your buying strawberry’s?!) But wrinkly apples/pears are fine to cook into pies and crumbles, even fruit leathers (Yummy). Brown Banana’s are good for cooking in cake or Banoffee pie. I will even dry slices of fruit to store and use later in the year as a compot over porridge. And of course you can freeze them till you have enough for jams!
FISH; will get you with a strong ammonia smell before any other indicator!
CHEESE; is the most misconceived! 2 Weeks before Christmas I was in a supermarket looking at a pack of mixed cheese with a short date and heavily reduced! The lady next to me commented That while it’s a bargain it’s no good for Christmas because of the sell by date!
The traditional hard cheese making method includes long term storage in cool, dark, dry conditions to mature for anything up to 5 years. Soft cheese, such as brie need a cool/warmish room to ‘mature’ and get runny! My favourite, Blue vein/Stilton style cheeses, are in fact veined with mould! so if you find mould on a cheese at home just cut it off! (Hubbie and I constantly argue on that one).
Our hierarchy is as follows;
Fresh and seasonal bought in regular amounts or home grown are best.
Next, a little old maybe dry or wrinkled use it in cooking and preserving.
Next; feed it to your chickens/pigs (or a friends one)
Last; uncooked veg and fruit matter is fit for a compost bin.
cooked food is turned into soups, casseroles, pie fillings and savoury additions to mince, rice or a ommlett.
With care full menu planning, shopping list and buying only what you need for the next few days, you can stop any food waste. Councils and organisations can do more with anaerobic digestion (similar to composting) but fuel and soil conditioners can be derived from it (but that’s another blog subject)