I always feel good when we’ve eaten the food that I filled the fridge with at the beginning of the week. It means that we’ve kept to our plan and not overlooked what was in there in favour of other options. Obviously on occasions we have last minute changes of plan and what I anticipated making for dinner stays in the fridge. This is when I will use the freezer to store the meal for me until a time when we need it. The freezer is literally like the pause button for a meal or food that would otherwise go to waste.
In America the statistics on food waste and food insecurity are staggering. 1 out of every 8 Americans struggles to put enough food on the table. This is an even harder fact to swallow when you hear that 40% of the food in The United States is never even eaten and it goes to waste! An average family of four wastes $1500 per year on throwing food away. Just think what your family could do with that much extra in a year!
Why is there so much food waste in first world countries? This is probably due to people being obsessed with the aesthetics of the food that they buy. Vegetables and fruit are prone to bruising and discolouration and shoppers do not like this. People tend to like regular shaped that looks pleasing to the eye. Wonky bananas and knobbly potatoes tend not to sell as well. Food does not need to look perfect. It certainly did not look that way when it came out of the ground!
The Obama Administration launched a public-private campaign to halve the volume of food waste in America by 2030 by focusing on food efficiency, recycling, decoding of confusing food labelling and ways to deliver food to people suffering with food insecurity. This is not an easy task but one that is of such importance to the country.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has a website and campaign called Save The Food. I’ve spent a long time reading through their really excellent website. There are tips and facts on how to reduce food waste in your own home and it is clearly written and easy to understand. It is definitely worth reading even if you think you may know how to use up the food at home as there are some really good and novel ideas.
Planning in advance is key to managing the contents of our fridge. I will usually sit down on a weekend and menu plan for the few days ahead. Now that school has started again I am very reliant on my plan because we do not arrive home till late so dinner needs to be ready and waiting each evening. After a summer on the shelf my slow cooker (crock pot) is out of hibernation and ready for action! Checking the fridge and freezer is the first thing I’ll do so I know what I have to use up before buying new ingredients. Once I’ve come up with the menu then I’ll make a shopping list and go back to my pantry to double-check the store cupboard ingredients that I have in there already. It’s so easy to buy a duplicate tin of beans when there is one sitting right there ready to be used. I tend to make our family favourites on a rotating on/off two week schedule but I do enjoy sitting down with a recipe book and deciding on a new recipe to try.
The Save The Food website recommend making the most of your freezer. Food can be frozen in individual portions for convenience and these can vary in size from child to adult portions. It can be easier to slice whole loaves of bread before freezing so then it is possible to defrost individual slices as you go along thereby wasting less. Eggs can be scrambled raw and frozen so they can be easily defrosted and cooked! When I freeze leftovers I will always label the freezer bag with how many people it will serve when it is reheated. This way whilst going through the freezer I can work out what I can cook depending on how many of us are home for dinner. Keeping the freezer bags airtight will reduce the chance of freezer burn. Whilst freezer burn may change the appearance and flavour of the food slightly it is still safe to eat. I remember as a young child helping my mum suck the air out of freezer bags using a straw! Today’s bags with zips and seals make this easier but I still remember her advice and make sure all the air is out. I have passed this advice down onto my children so hopefully they will remember it too!
Over the summer I was lucky enough to get to help out at the Campus Kitchen at Brightwater Culinary School – A Center for the Study of Food in Bentonville, Arkansas. The Campus Kitchen Project aims to create student run kitchens to use up extra food on university campuses (which would otherwise go to waste) to be turned into nutritious meals for those struggling with food insecurity. Cooking is one of my main passions so to be able to spend time in a professional kitchen creating meals for people who would otherwise go hungry was amazing. The experience impacted how I looked at food waste in my own home too.
Last weekend I was looking at the very dark bananas on the side in my kitchen. Banana bread would spring to most people’s mind. I also had some greek yogurt that needed to be used up and a small amount of some cinnamon sugar I made whilst using up some over ripe peaches a few weeks ago. I created my own recipe for Greek Yogurt Cinnamon Banana Bread. It turned out to be a very light version of what can be a heavy bake. My daughter Kate served it with the last of the S’mores Halo Top ice cream we had in the freezer. This flavour combination was utterly divine. So much so we had to buy more ice cream so I could take a photo of it to share with you! I definitely suggest you try this flavour combination!
Here is the recipe and I hope you can try it next time you are using up the black bananas in your house!
Greek Yogurt Cinnamon Banana Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick unsalted butter) softened
1 cup sugar with 1 scant teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
pinch of salt
2 very ripe mashed bananas
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C
- Spray a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf tin with non stick baking spray (I use a silicone loaf tin)
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs. Conttinue beating this in.
- Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in gently.
- Add the bananas and yogurt and mix gently.
- Pour into the tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour and 10 mins. Check with a skewer at this point (it should come out clean) and if necessary bake for a further 10 mins.
- Cool in the tin for 15 mins and then remove to cool further on a wire rack.
- Eat and enjoy!
Credit to Save The Food and NRDC.org for the tips and photos from their campaign.