Greetings and welcome to Zero Waste Week 2020 which runs from today until 11 September. This year’s campaign is focused on food waste and I’ve been keeping an audit of the food my family of four has wasted over the past seven days. Environmentalists and voyeurs can rejoice as I shall now reveal the results!
I’ll go into the audit in detail in just a moment, but various patterns emerged from this audit (which I revealed last week I was going to undertake). Firstly, I’m pleased to say that we wasted much less food than I imagined,
Roughly speaking, we wasted about five-kilos of food. About two and a half kilos of that, however, was inedible fruit or vegetable peelings. Along with all our food waste, this was collected and recycled by our local authority
That said, I did notice some areas where we could definitely improve our behaviour. Before I shine a light on them, I feel the need to say a few words about the significance of last week.
This was not a typical week
Last week was atypical for my family. In fact, if you were to look at a calendar and pick out the most random week of the entire year for my family, it would have been the past week. Considreing this is 2020, that’s a bold statement but I stand by it nonetheless.
Why was it so random? After six months of having both of our children at home thanks to lockdown and school holidays, they returned to school. In the case of our eldest daughter, she didn’t just return to school, she started secondary school.
As you might imagine, this had an impact on the audit’s results. We had to make decisions about whether children were having packed lunches or food provided by the school and so on.
I confess we also got a couple of take aways (not typical for us). We got one part of the way through the week simply because Mrs Adams and I were knackered and more than a little stressed about the children going back into the classroom. We got one at the end of the week as a treat for the kids to celebrate the return to school.
What the food audit revealed
I won’t list absolutely everything we ate and wasted because I am sure you would find that very dull. I’ll stick to the bigger points the audit revealed.
First of all, I found out our approach to milk consumption needs immediate improvement. One morning Izzy and I had breakfast cereal. Having finished our cereal, I noticed we’d both left a lot of milk in the bowl.
This is quite a typical scene after breakfast and so I tipped the milk into a measuring jug. Each of us had wasted about 100ml of milk. We don’t have breakfast cereal every day, but I could see how we, as a family, are wasting lots of milk and there’s absolutely no excuse for this.
On the Sunday we had a roast meal. Stuffing was made that was never eaten. This would have been about 200grammes in weight and it just hung around in the fridge until I put it in the recycling. The correct thing to do is to make the stuffing mix and cook what you think you’ll use. Any excess stuffing mix can be frozen and cooked at a later date.
On this occasion it was all cooked in one go. It shouldn’t have been and quite a lot was wasted. Another lesson learned.
You probably want to know all about those take away meals, right? The first take away we had was take-away pizza. Pretty much everything was eaten save for 100 grammes of crusts that weren’t eaten because they were too chewy. I’m pleased to say there was no waste from the second meal at all.
A quick note about take-aways and eating out. Although we all do it (we do, right?) try to keep it to a minimum. When your food is prepared by someone else, you completely lose control of how food waste is treated.
There was also a food waste incident that I take full responsibility for. I put this down to “starting school confusion.”
Unsure whether Helen would eat at the school canteen or have packed lunches, I sent her in to school on the first day with a packed lunch. She in fact ate at the canteen. Although she did eat some of the food I prepared for her during the day, some of it came home and wasn’t in a state to be eaten.
As I say, this was a one-off caused by the confusion of starting at a new school and being unsure what food would even be available because of the COVID-19 measures in place. It hasn’t happened since and I can’t see how it could happen again.
Unfortunately, I do see another potential cause of waste in the coming week. Mrs Adams did the food shopping at the weekend and I asked her to get food for packed lunches. With Helen eating at the school canteen for the foreseeable future, we only needed enough to provide Izzy with a packed lunch.
As both children had packed lunches prior to lockdown, it looks like Mrs Adams bought enough bagels and other bread products for both children. I shall freeze what I can, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if some of this goes to waste.
Let me be crystal clear that I’m not pointing the finger of blame at Mrs Adams. It all goes back to this being an atypical week. Both children were last at school six months ago and back then they both had packed lunches. Both of us have got to get used to new buying habits where we’re only buying and providing packed lunches for one child.
What I have learned
I have learned several things from this exercise. First of all, I am horrified at how much milk we are, literally, pouring down the sink. That stops with immediate effect.
Regarding the mistakes made with packed lunches, they were avoidable but little mistakes like this are a part of family life and the aim of Zero Waste Week is not to be judgmental. We’ve made the mistakes once, the trick will be not to repeat them.
I don’t foresee us ever becoming a ‘two take-away a week family’ so I am not too concerned about that. What does concern me about take-aways is the amount of packaging waste our family produced by eating take-away twice in one week. There’s no other word for it, the amount of packaging waste was obscene.
The other thing I learned was that the overwhelming much more of our food waste was peelings from fruit and vegetables. I didn’t expect quite so much of our food waste to be this kind of inedible by-product so this was a source of comfort.
How you can get involved
You can find out more about Zero Waste Week by following this link. You can also carry out your own food waste audit using this printable audit document. I would encourage you to as I have found this a fascinating exercise.
Do also leave a comment below with your own suggestions for reducing food waste. We all need to do out bit to help the environment so sharing ideas would be a great way of doing that.