Food waste is a huge bugbear of mine (did you know that here in the west, a recent survey* found that we waste between 95 and 115 kg of food every year?). As you know, although I’m not perfect, I’m really interested in working towards our household being much more sustainable, and food waste is a big part of this. Whether it’s throwing out squishy fruit or that slightly soft half a red pepper, I’m often guilty of not trying hard enough (or not being creative enough) to reduce our food waste. So what can we do about it? Well, for one thing I’ve stopped buying bagged salads, which seem to be one of the things most likely to go off. I also freeze a lot of stuff I don’t use, but it’s often not convenient/not possible to then defrost something when you need it. Step forward FoodSaver, who contacted me with a zero waste challenge that I couldn’t resist having a crack at.
FoodSaver are the brand behind the brilliant vacuum sealing machines that I’ve been spotting on social media recently and I was especially interested in the FoodSaver fresh food storage containers that remove the air with a simple sealing system which prevents air and moisture from getting to the food, while locking in all the flavour, plus keeping the contents fresh for up to five times longer than traditional storage methods. They also have vacuum sealing bags that go with the system that can be washed and reused – so much more sustainable than plastic food bags. On to the challenge then: to make the best of my weekly food shop using up as many scraps and leftovers as possible, making sure no food is wasted. Is it possible? I was determined to give it a go.
By vacuum sealing food bought on sale and reducing household waste by up to 87%, the average UK family could save up to £600 per year using the FoodSaver System. Food is meant to be prepared, shared, savoured and shared again, and the FoodSaver System ensures food will remain as tasty and flavoursome as the day you sealed it. Vacuum sealing captures all the nutritional attributes of food, ensuring that when you are ready to eat there is no sacrifice in quality or flavour.
FoodSaver Fresh Containers may look like a traditional storage container, but they really come to life when used with a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System. All FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing Systems come equipped with an Accessory Hose, which can in turn be used with the Fresh Containers to extract all the air from the containers before creating an airtight seal that keeps the air out, and the freshness in. Perfect for fruits, salads, biscuits, nuts and leftovers – use the FoodSaver Fresh Containers at home or for on the move. Once sealed the lid will be locked, so perfect for leftovers for lunch or freshly prepared salads. Keep your lunchtimes Fresh with FoodSaver!
Sunday: roast chicken
I roasted a whole chicken accompanied by roast potatoes, roasted parsnips, steamed veg and gravy. There wasn’t much left over, but I took the time to pick over the chicken and save as much as I could. It all went straight into a FoodSaver storage container, with the leftover veg going in a separate one.
Monday: chicken and vegetable soup
I often do soup on a Monday, accompanied by some fresh rolls from the supermarket, or some of my homemade rye bread rolls , if I’ve had time to make them. It’s barely a recipe, and I change it according to what I’ve got lying about, but I like it as it feels thrifty and tastes delicious. The longer you can let it cook, the more flavour you’ll get from the bones, but you can always add a stock cube or two as well. I always throw in any leftovers from the roast, including any roast potatoes (just chop them up). The initial boiling is a good time to use up any less-then-pretty veg you might have hanging about as they don’t go into the final soup. You will need:
Leftover bones from the roast chicken (or you can use a pack of chicken legs)
Any old veg: carrots, leeks, spring onions or red/white onions are perfect, roughly chopped
Chicken stock cubes
Leftover meat and veg from your roast dinner
2 handfuls spring greens or cabbage, sliced (I often have these in the freezer)
Couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Firstly, pop all the chicken bones into a big pan and cover generously with water. Add in the old veg. Bring to the boil, then turn it down and allow to simmer for about an hour, skimming off any scum.
Strain the stock, discarding the bones and old veg now, and give it a taste. If it needs a bit more oomph, sprinkle in one or two chicken stock cubes.
Now add in all the leftovers from the roast dinner – all the meat you picked off the bones and all the leftover veg (and potatoes if you have any), as well as the fresh spring greens/cabbage and any fresh herbs you might have. I usually have thyme in the garden.
Put the soup back on the heat and cook for about another 5-10 ish minutes or until your greens are just tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve with fresh rolls or crusty bread.
Tuesday: veggie curry
We tend to stick to at least one meat free meal a week, so I made my favourite veggie lentil chilli. Its a brilliant, thrifty dish using vegetables that I pick up from our local farm shop. We just ate it straight from the bowl, with some grated cheddar and a warm tortilla wrap. The leftover chilli went into a FoodSaver container. So far so sustainable.
Wednesday: shepherd’s pie
No leftovers at all with this one! I made a really simple cottage pie (I won’t bore you with the recipe, but I have this one here if you need it), but served it with a mixture of swede and sweet potato instead of normal mash.
Thursday: chicken fajitas
I was really busy on this day, so the clever little FoodSaver containers really came into their own. I made up the chicken fajita mixture early and sealed it in one of the containers, popping it in the fridge so it was all ready to cook later (and had all afternoon to marinate). I also chopped all the onions and peppers and sealed them into their own container.
Later, it was just a case of quickly stir frying the filling and they were ready to stuff into wraps. Easy peasy.
Friday – Mr E’s birthday
We’re out to dinner tonight because it’s Mr E’s birthday, but I’m pretty sure – apart from a few peelings and the inedible bits from the inside of peppers, that we didn’t throw anything away. I even used up some old, bendy carrots and leeks in the soup, and I whizzed up some stale bread and sealed it in a FoodSaver bag in the freezer to use in meatballs, so I’m feeling pretty accomplished right now.
Thanks to FoodSaver for sending me their brilliant vacuum sealing system and for the inspiration to take part in the FoodSaver challenge. For more info, visit the FoodSaver website, and be sure to follow #FoodSaverChallenge and #ZeroWasteNovember hashtage for more inspiration.