Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guest Blog: Food Wastage Project (Vikki Kay)

The Four Pounds of Cheese Project was started by Online Pastry Chef Jenni Field (blog ‘The Balanced Pastry Chef’) as a way to raise awareness about food waste in the United States and around the world. The project name comes from an article in the July, 2011 issue ‘National Geographic Magazine’ entitled ‘How to Feed A Growing Planet’. In the article, there is graphical representation of an average of how much of several categories of food Americans purchase (and waste) each year. The average American purchases 28 pounds of cheese per year, and ends up throwing away four pounds, or about 14% of what they purchase.

During the week of August 1-7, 2011, participants took photographs of all the food waste they created every day and then posted it to a blog. Because I haven’t got a blog, I am hijacking my sister’s! The goal is to help us all to be aware of the issue of food waste and to encourage us all to reduce our waste as much as possible.

For me, this is a matter of money wastage. I try to buy organic, or if this is too expensive, reach for unsprayed, local produce as often as I can. Although our fruit and vege scraps go into the compost bin (and some will soon be going to our new hens when their taj mahal is constructed), the food scraps are clearly worth more money as food than compost. On the other hand, as another blogger has pointed out, finishing off the plate when you are already full, is also wasting food, so it is better to reuse leftovers in the next meal/s than finishing a plate for the sake of it (see here).

Day 1: Was disappointed to have to compost one feral lemonade and one rotten apple. Also regretting celery stalks and carrot ends which were organic, and could’ve been made into vege stock or soup if I had a system of storage for the stock ingredients or a soup on the menu for today or tomorrow. Cleaned out the egg shell to go to sister’s chooks (baked, and ground fine, and added to their scraps).

Day 2: Once again found rotten fruit; it means I’m not checking the fruit bowls to use the oldest pieces first. Whole kiwifruit and half an apple. Thinking about the amount of citrus skins that are going in: there are lots of things I could use them for, too. See for example: and here.  Although, maybe a pomelo peel is taking it a bit far (that baby is THICK!).

Day 3:  Today success – ate the cucumber end, and a tomato end, and roasted potatoes without trimming off the eyes. And we didn’t *die*. Some apple and pear cores went into our smoothie, as did one baby cos lettuce stalk; one citrus skin went onto the meat as a marinade. My husband cut up our bulk meat tonight. The tough gristle he trimmed is going next-door to our neighbour’s dog with 2 bits of cartilage from our y-bone dinner. I thought I could take the y-bones to dad’s place because he buries bones, but apparently, he doesn’t do it anymore because unless they are buried very deeply dogs, scrub turkeys and other scavengers dig them up. Due to council regulations we cannot burn bones. Some more advanced composters will add them to compost, but we don’t fall into that category. So they were ‘wasted’.

Day 4: Tricky day as we were not at home, and had to box up our scraps to bring home with us! However, the orange and lemon peels and pith were all blitzed up and put into the freezer for future baking use (or meat marinade, which made the meat taste very gourmet in my opinion!).

Day 5: Sadly, I bought sourdough multi-grain bread that was right on its used-by date and it developed mold even though I stuck it straight in the freezer. Perhaps I didn’t check it closely enough at the shop. Some pieces I trimmed the mold off before toasting and eating, but the last slice I just gave up on. Another over-ripe lemonade. The coriander scraps I actually ate the next day. We had people over, and the chunk of cake and the bread crusts were their left-overs. I do not count cake as ‘food’, due to the anti-nutrient qualities of the sugar. It went in the rubbish bin. I did compost the white bread, but again, I don’t believe that its combination of over-processed ingredients (and chemicals) should be regarded as ‘food’, and as such I did not reuse the leftovers as I would’ve with fruit discarded by another child for example.

The eggshells I had left-over from my baking, and I did bother to wash them, but it is a very annoying job.

Day 6: A few things that you will *not* find in my scraps... Root vegetables and tubers are never peeled in my kitchen. Even when potatoes are mashed, you hardly notice the skins, and I prefer the taste. Carrots, turnips, and Swedes just get washed and diced. Pumpkin skin can be a bit tough (I call it *crunchy*), but for a long time it’s only been visitors to our table leaving the skin behind on the plate (which will end up in a stew or stock). Naturally, I am careful to wash all my fruit and and vegetables when I am using the peel. I had a great natural-bristle scrubbing brush, but it deteriorated eventually, and I am happy to use my Enjo Fruit & Veg Cloth (although any microfibre cloth is good for removing surface ick). My Vitamix helps reduce wastage, too: I blend kiwifruit fuzz, and apple and pear cores into smoothies (their seeds are very healthful in small quantities), and after roasting whole pumpkins, I blitz them seeds’n’all into soup (tastes nuttier). Broccoli and cauliflower stems are diced into stir-fries, and the hard cabbage and silverbeet stems, and the thick cauliflower outer leaves can be added to stocks (I have tried various methods of cooking them, but they were too tough) and blitzed after a LONG time in the pot. Cheese that is tasting too mature goes into cheese sauce, and milk goes into potato bake, custard, or rice pudding before it goes off.

These eggshells I didn’t bother washing, but I will crush up and put in my compost.

Today I made another heap of lemonade and orange peel into a citrus butter that I spread on my homemade sourdough rye bread – delicious!!!  Recipe: In Vitamix I blitzed one whole orange with three other lots of citrus peel (I used peel from two oranges and a lemonade fruit). Add honey to taste.

Day 7: We spent the day with friends, and I couldn’t fit the wasted food in a photo: there was too much of it. I didn’t offer to take the compostables with me, so they all went in the rubbish bin, as did too many outer leaves of lettuce, *generous* trimmings from other salad veges, prawn shells (dubious as to whether I would have made stock out of this, but apparently chooks love them), large amounts of strawberry tops (instead of just the greenery), and, (my biggest wince factor) the food that our hosts’ children did not finish off their plates. But, as with all habits, changing the public perception is a big part of producing less waste, and as we all try to get the word out and lead by example, hopefully there will be more impetus to get better value for our money, waste less food and be kinder to the environment.

My Conclusions:

1. I waste a lot of water in my kitchen! I am going to set up a medium-sized bucket in my sink to catch the water while I wait (interminably) for it to turn hot. This *may* mean that I actually water my vege garden more regularly (another source of waste – if I don’t look after my plants, they die!!!). I can also use steamer water, soaking pots water and (just quietly) kettle emptying water (which does go on… I won’t name any names…).

2. I make bone broth/stock at least once a month, so I will put another empty (yoghurt) bucket in the freezer for my organic vege scraps and peels. Other bloggers use a snap-lock bag for the same purpose. When I whack the bones in the saucepan, I can chuck the scraps in, too.

3. As the weather is getting warmer, we will be having smoothies every day. Cores and greens scraps can go daily into the smoothies; will probably keep a smaller container in the fridge so these bits aren’t left out overnight. Citrus peels are still an issue, I can’t add too much to a smoothie because they are way too strongly flavoured; I am going to use more of the ideas in the websites above.

I don’t think these three ideas will add substantially to my cooking prep or clean-up time, but will cut my food waste by up to a half. Then later on I can think about what to do with other areas of waste that irk me – bones, and pineapple skins (blitz and strain??) for example, and work on reducing the plastic bag/bottle/container usage and wastage somehow!!!

Well, it was fun sharing briefly with you all, and thanks Kathie, for letting me blather on.

(You're welcome Vikki - I found this all very interesting and although I am quite happy in the knowledge that I have no compulsion to eat cucumber/tomato ends, I really do need to be more vigilant in checking scraps for further use.  I know watermelon rind is actually extremely high in good stuff & can be juiced, so will look forward to trying that!  Also, Nigella always adds strips of lemon peel to her chicken/meat marinades.  I must try to get into the habit of zesting or peeling a lemon/orange/lime before juicing it so as to get the maximum out of it.  Thank VIK!)


  1. did i get the eggs in the end? Wendy

  2. Well done!!! Wow, you do an amazing job of using bits that we often compost (namely peels&seeds, etc). Even so, a lot gets "wasted." This was such a consciousness-raising exercise. I hope everyone came away with lots of good ideas--I, too, decided to start saving water from rinsing veggies/waiting to get hot/soaking nuts and use for watering the plants.

  3. My kids are getting into the habit, too, of emptying their own water bottles (from school) into the dog's bowl or onto the garden, when they get home, rather than just thoughtlessly tipping it down the sink. I must say, it is handy having a dog too, I like to think she gets "higher" quality feed from some of our leftovers than if we just gave him dry bikkies all the time. Having said that, there are certain dinner remnants I wouldn't dare waste on her either!!!

  4. VK, you can get a little device for your sink that catches the cold water while you're waiting for it to turn hot. It feeds it back into some compartment, and you can use it again. It's an Australian invention, but I can't remember the name. Chile somehting? I think.

  5. Glad to hear the vitamix is not getting dusty! Think of all those wonderful enzymes you are getting! Fantastic article Vikki - Kathies blog is great too, well done Kathie for losing all that weight and maintaining such a healthy lifestyle for yourself and family!