Posts Tagged With: food waste

Cupboard Living in a time of Covid 19

When I decided to start a food blog at the start of 2014, my original intention was to document my adventures cooking as much from my cupboards as was possible. I had lots of cupboard staples – I’ve always been a sucker for being tempted by new ingredients that are reasonably shelf stable – and I thought it would be a fun way to work through the back log, while hopefully saving some pennies at the same time. The blog has drifted in focus over the last few – six! – years that I’ve been writing it, but in the current circumstances, it feels like a good time to bring the blog back to basics. It might even be helpful, entertaining to other folks stuck in their houses right now.

I should add at this juncture, that I’m not actually in quarantine at the moment, of all things I was supposed to be on holiday this week – my parents were coming up for mother’s day and a friend was supposed to be visiting from Oz – so I had done a certain amount of pre-stocking up and meal planning ahead of time. I’m just trying to be a good citizen and only go food shopping once a week so that means less perishables and no ‘popping out’ for things I’d forgotten.

The idea of bringing the blog back to basics came about as I was making my beloved beetroot risotto, having found some leftover red wine that needed used up I was excited to discover that I actually had everything I needed for the meal already in the cupboard. I’m going to need to do more of this, I thought, and at least I’ll get through some of that pile of beans and pulses in the cupboard.

It’s been a good opportunity to inventory my cupboards to see what I actually have in there. Since I’ve lived in my new flat I’ve been pretty decent about rotating my cans so that things get used up in something approaching date order – just the other day my stir-fry was enlivened by a tin of water chestnuts I’d forgotten about – and the plan of putting the little extras – cashew nuts, pine nuts, flaked almonds and sesame seeds – in pretty little mini kilner jars on my work-top has been great at both reminding me to use them and preventing me finding sad musty packets when I go looking for something else in the cupboard. I must confess I was surprised by how few cans of tomatoes I have – why do I always end up with either 6 tins or 1? And having seen Jack Monroe’s intriguing recipe for sweet and sour beans, I’m mystified as to what happened to my jar of dried black beans…

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Revolving Into the New Year

Once again January is upon us and it is time to assess how well last year’s challenges went and pick new ones for the coming year. I can easily sum up how last year’s challenges went in one word: badly. I had some unmitigated successes in terms of trying new things and learning skills in the kitchen but none of them were the ones I started the year planning to do. While some of that can be blamed on the upheaval of moving into my own place, it’s coming up on a year now, I should know by now what that life looks like and adjust my cooking habits accordingly. Instead of just falling back on the easiest option.

The smallest and yet most pressing challenge is to get back into writing regularly hear again. While I was better during the last quarter of 2019 – I even managed the rare endeavour of a December blog post – there were months when I didn’t post at all, largely because I didn’t cook much over those months that was worth writing about, in fact most of my culinary achievements over the autumn – learning to roll sushi and getting back into baking bread in particular – came about largely because I wanted something to write about here. Blogging about food and cooking interesting food have become a self-fulfilling circle, feeding into each other, one hobby encouraging the other. So I want to do more of that this year. I don’t want to set myself any ridiculous targets – life, and my job in particular, has a tendency to laugh in the face of such plans – just get back into the habit of posting at least once every month, ideally twice.

To this end I want to focus on two ideas. First up the long running project for the whole year, I want to get back into batch cooking. Back when I worked my previous job I was much better at doing regular bulk cooks, despite the limitations of my tiny icebox freezer. Now that I have an actual decently sized freezer, I somehow don’t remember that bulk cooking is now a thing that I can do. Occasionally freezing an extra portion of curry to save it from going off when plans change is all well and good, but I’m really not taking advantage of my freezer. Instead I’m relying too much on oven-ready freezer foods, when with a bit of forethought, I could be eating both healthier and saving a whole lot of effort. (And, you know, money!) I’ve got a funky new recipe book out of the library – I’ve already made, and frozen, tasty soup – to get me off to flying start

This leads me onto my second idea. While the cupboard clear outs that came with moving house reset the timer on a lot of things in my cupboards, my general lethargy and lack of adventurous cookery last year means those cupboard staples are building up again. I’m definitely better about circulating my tins after my ‘all the tinned tomatoes in the world’ debacle last January and having a spice rack on the outside of my cupboards means I both keep better track of what spices I have/need replenished and I’m more inclined to remember to use the more unusual ones as they’re right there when I’m cooking. There was a time, before I started this blog, when I kept an actual paper inventory of what was in my cupboard and made actual weekly meal plans based on what needed used up and food shopped accordingly. I don’t think I need to be that anal about it but I do think some accountability in terms of meal planning – instead of nebulous plans based on browsing recipe books when I’m hungry – would not go amiss.

So I want to do a couple of cook-up my cupboards challenges, October already has a tag so that seems a good time for the second one, while there’s no time like the present to do the first one. I need to have a clear out of my cupboards, see what’s actually there, what needs used up soonest and plan what I’m going to cook to achieve that. I bet I find enough ‘new ingredients’ to make another post for the tail end of that challenge while I’m at it…

Categories: challenges, january cook-up, October cook-up | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

An Attempt at Living Better

This week I’m taking part in the Live Better challenge – specifically the reduce food waste one. Largely because wasting food is something I know I do more than I’m comfortable with. Not that we waste tons of food in our house in general terms and eve then we have a compost bin so the vast majority of what does have to go out ends up enriching the garden soil – and hopefully turning into more food!

However, its not as though I’m immune to the frankly horrifying monetary stats so spending less on food by getting better at using the stuff we’ve already got does also have a tempting element to it. I did in fact have a grand plan at the start of last year to start a food project where I’d bulk buy cupboard staples (flour, pasta, rice, lentils and pulses of various kinds) and see how far I could stretch them and blog about it. A good plan, a fun plan even – I love cooking and I like having an excuse to photograph the successes – but it went the way of all New Year’s resolutions. So here I am, a year on, looking hopefully at my cupboards and hoping that a week’s challenge might kick off some better, longer-term habits.

Handily, last week I did a big shop based on – yes you guessed it – using up the random stuff kicking about in the fridge and cupboards. So the ideal place to start this challenge then. I started on a Tuesday rather than a Monday, mainly because I only stumbled across the challenge yesterday while reading the paper over lunch. Breakfast and lunch for the next couple of days are easy because I already had cereal, rolls, sandwich fillings (cold meat and mayonnaise) and fruit bought for that purpose, so I’ll be focusing mostly on dinner.

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