Winging It Without Waste

I am a (charmingly) chaotic cook. I think about main meals about an hour before I need to serve them up. Breakfast surprises even myself each morning; I get it on the table pretty much before my brain has woken up! Furthermore my shopping lists rarely contain much more than a reminder to pick up loo roll and I have not ever written a meal plan unless it was for Christmas Day. One year I didn’t even plan that but spent a lovely few hours pottering in the kitchen with my veggie box while the others watched Mary Poppins and we still feasted on a glorious roast with ALL the trimmings.

Recently I’ve been trawling through countless zero waste blogs and the most common advice where food is concerned seems to revolve around planning. Which got me thinking because we haven’t ever needed to use our council-provided food-waste box. So, for those of you that are perpetual wingers of the kitchen arena, here is how I do it!

Get a regular organic delivery. Organic food lovingly raised, harvested or produced tends to be on the expensive side. While it’s easy to chuck out a bag of discounted supermarket pre-prepped veggies gone to mush, I defy you to forget about that proud head of kale that takes up half your fridge. And because a) it tastes so much better and b) is seasonal – meaning you aren’t bored of using the same produce month-in-month-out it’s more exciting to use. In addition, I find our locally grown, non-air freighted, non Modified Atmosphere Packaged veggies stay fresh much longer anyway. Probably because they actually are fresh!

Don’t buy crap. Self explanatory really! If you buy crap you are unlikely to have much appetite or respect for it. So, unless you are a junk food binger (I’m not judging, I’ve been there) you probably won’t want to eat it all. And you probably don’t want to force feed it to anyone else either. And your compost bin won’t want it. So instead you hold it in your hand going what the hell did I buy this for? And, with no sensible answer other than it was on offer and I was PMSing and I just wanted to get out of the shop with the bright lights and other peoples screaming children and get home to have a cup of tea you chuck it out. Because it isn’t food. It’s crap.

Learn to improvise. I’d never have the ingredients I’d need if I followed recipes. But I do love cookery books for the inspiration. Most evenings I just grab some meat out of our tiny fridge (hopefully I remembered to defrost something the night before!), chop up whichever veg looks like it needs using up sooner rather than later and then decide which herbs, spices or sauces will complete the dish. Here are some examples:

Raise non-picky kids. I made a deal with myself when our girls were young. I would cook good, healthy, delicious meals and expect them to either eat them or go without. They love their food and it is rare that they don’t finish what’s on their plates.
Raise non-picky pets. Once a week Simon prepares a large bowl of raw meat, eggs (including the shells), yoghurt and vegetables for Ella-the-dog and Poppy-the-cat. This gets divided into five portions (for one meal a day) and then they get raw bones, chicken gizzards, the pickings from the stock bones and any pan-scrapings or leftovers to top up or fill in the gaps. Until recently we’ve also always had free-range rabbits that got the cores and outer leaves of leafy veg like cabbages and the ends of root veg  like carrot tops. These bits now either get given to the dog or added to the compost bin.

The compost bin is a last resort and takes on any veg peelings that the pets don’t want; copious coffee grounds; tea bags, egg shells, the grotty bits from the sink strainer that fits in the plughole, the meat bones, and all of the egg boxes, paper and cardboard (largely used to package our organic veg) that we’ve used. In return we get great garden compost for free!

And that, my friends, is how we roll. Is there anything I haven’t covered? What are your top tips for winging it without waste?

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8 thoughts on “Winging It Without Waste

  1. Cooking for me has always been a challenge; my sister inherited the cooking gene, knowing exactly what foods and flavours fit together, no recipe required. It’s admirable! I usually follow recipes, but have lately been encouraged to “wing it” because of a few food waste blogs I read. It makes sense, just throwing something together with food you have on hand. Less is wasted that way, since recipes are so particular 🙂

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    • Hi Nadine! I think it’s a both a confidence trick and a hang-up I have with planning ahead. I could never manage to revise for exams, practise for concerts or follow an exercise schedule either. I almost have to be under stress to perform!
      How is your winging it going?!

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  2. I love cooking this way too but rarely manage it since having a family. Son happily ate everything we did till he made friends with a fussy eater at about age 3! So now I am a careful planner but do really enjoy a plan free use it up meal that only has to suit me when the boys are out at footie training on a Friday eve.

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  3. I’m a winger too; with a naturally inbuilt detest of meal planning! However, I *do* write a list of what needs using up within the next 48 hours and ‘plan’ my meals around that. I love the challenge of creating a meal from nothing and it’s a fab way to discover a new favourite family dish. Sadly my cat *is* fussy (he has a jaw issue) but my garden birds and chickens are grateful receivers of all sorts of things 🙂

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  4. Yay for winging! And for challenges too. Fresh food keeps your brain inspired doesn’t it? Sorry to hear about your cats jaw 😦
    But chickens?! They eat everything don’t they? Duel purpose bins and food providers 😉 I like the idea of having chickens, makes me happy when I hear other people take that responsibility on instead!

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