In this blog you’ll find the five most wasted food products, and some inspiration for what to do with them so they don’t have to go to waste! Find five recipes that are easy and quick to save you time, money and get a delicious meal on the table, following a zero-waste policy. Be a hero in the kitchen and try them!

#1 Bread

Bread & Butter Pudding

240 million slices of bread are thrown in the bin every year. Unbelievable! Let’s fill our bellies instead of bins using the leftover bread to make this amazing bread and butter pudding. Too easy and to good to let it go to waste!

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg (if you want to keep it vegan, use 2 tablespoons chia seeds that are soaked for 15 mins in 6 tablespoons of water)
  • 6-8 slices of bread
  • 2-3 tablespoons of butter (if you want to keep it vegan, use dairy-free margarine)
  • 500-750 ml (dairy-free) milk of any kind you have left in the fridge.
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • 40 grams of chopped dates/raisins
  • 50 grams of jam (any of your taste)

Cooking method

Grease an oven proof dish. Cut the bread into triangles and spread butter/margarine no both sides. Layer half the bread triangles on the base of the dish. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of sugar over the bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon and half of the dates/raisins.

Layer the rest of the bread over the top. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, cinnamon, and the remaining dates/raisins. Mix the egg/chia seed mixture with 500ml of milk. Gently pour the milk mixture over the bread. Set the pudding aside for 30 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the milk.

Preheat your oven to 180⁰C.

Once the bread has had time to soak, if there is no milk left, gently tip over another 100-250ml depending on how much liquid was absorbed. The amount of liquid you will need will largely depend on the thickness of your bread. Sprinkle the top of the pudding with the remaining sugar and some more cinnamon. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the pudding is just beginning to go slightly golden on top. Remove from the oven, gently spread jam over the top and then place back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Serve and indulge!

#2 Milk

Rice Pudding

When I was younger, I had to drink my glass of milk before going to school. It was supposed to make me strong and healthy and, according to the advertisement in that time, milk was “The White Engine”. Whatever all the opinions on that might be right now, milk remains the number #2 of most wasted food products. Every year we pour 5.9 million glasses of milk down the sink. Rice pudding is a classic example of the easiest, filling recipe you can make and drizzled with cinnamon or honey it makes up for the best plate of comfort food out there.

Ingredients

  • 1 liter of milk
  • 100 grams of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 95 grams of white rice
  • optional: 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • optional: ground cinnamon
  • Optional: roasted nuts

Cooking method

In a large saucepan, combine about 80% of the milk, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in rice and reduce heat to low. Be sure to adjust the heat so that it is at a gentle simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook for 50 to 60 minutes. Mixture should thicken up to the consistency of yogurt. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla (optional).

Let cool and then refrigerate. The last bit of milk is stirred in just before serving. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. I like to sprinkle some roasted nuts on top, or whatever sweetener I have in my cupboard (raisins, berries, apple etc.)

#3 Potatoes

Potato Soup

5.8 million kilos of potatoes end up in the bin each year. So; before that happens, let’s make this delicious soup of it! Like I promised, it’s easy, fast and only requires a few ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 5 large potatoes
  • 2 green onions, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon basil
  • Salt and pepper,
  • Water
  • 650 ml of milk (for the vegan version use any plant-based milk)

Cooking method

Peel and roughly chop potatoes. Discard tops and bottoms of green onions and mince the remaining pieces. Add potatoes and onions to a medium-sized saucepan and cover with water. Boil on high for 30 minutes, adding more water to the pot as needed, until potatoes as well cooked and soft. Remove pot from heat and drain the water over a strainer until it is just under the level of your cooked potatoes. Return any onions and basil the strainer catches to the pot.

Add the millk to the potatoes and mash until mostly smooth, leaving a few small chunks for a hearty texture. Add more milk, a dash at a time, until soup reaches your preferred consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste, don’t be shy and use a lot. Return pot to the stove and heat, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Serve garnished with additional green onions if desired.

#4 Cheese

Pasta Quattro Formaggi

First of all: cheese can last long! Probably longer than you think. Also: don’t be afraid of mould on cheese; you can scrape it off and use it for cooking anyway (disclaimer: I’m not a medical practitioner, this is just from my own experience). Remember; with cheese you can make an easy bechamel sauce, to pour over your cauliflower, or use in lasagna. This can be frozen, too, to preserve it for longer. Keeping it simple, I present to you a four-cheeses pasta, Italian style.

Ingredients

  • 1 package pasta (your choice)
  • 240 ml milk
  • 80 grams of soft cheese of your choice (mozzarella, ricotta)
  • 80 grams of blue cheese of your choice (gorgonzola, Danish blue)
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • Pinch white pepper
  • two types of grated cheese of your choice (parmigiano, pecorino,
  • Fine sea salt (to taste)

Cooking method

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add whichever type of pasta you choose. tir, bring back to a boil and start timing according to your desired degree of doneness and instructions on the package. While the pasta is cooking, in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat. Add the soft cheeses, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until they are melted and the mixture is homogeneous. Add the nutmeg and white pepper.About 1 minute before the pasta is done, remove it from heat and drain it. Transfer the drained pasta to a large skillet and stir in the milk-and-cheese mixture and the grated cheeses. Cook, shaking the pan continuously and vigorously until the sauce has thickened and the pasta is perfectly al dente and coated in the cheese sauce. Season to taste with fine sea salt.

Serve hot, with additional grated cheese for topping, if desired, and a green salad or vegetables.

#5 Apples

Easy Apple Sauce

1.3 million apples are thrown away. Every. Year. Staggering. And sucha shame for such a great product! Who doesn’t love the apple-break? Store them in a dry and cool place to keep them for longer. Another option is to make apple sauce to go with your vegetables. This is the simplest thing you’ll ever make, maximum outcome. I remember my mom always used to make her own apple sauce and whenever we had dinner guests over it would steal the show.

Ingredients

  • 4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into cubes
  • 180 ml water
  • 40 grams of sugar (use less or more to taste)
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Cooking method

Can you even call this a cooking method? It’s literally; putting everything in a saucepan, heat it over a medium heat for about 15 minutes and mash with a fork/potato masher. Enjoy!

“Oh c’mon, it’s just one straw” Said 8 billion people.

Straws are made in ten minutes, used up in twenty and stick around in the natural environment for a lifetime. These and other issues regarding waste disposal were discussed at the end of April, on this blog. We dove into the bin, untangled waste, looked into waste streams, researched plastic disposal and drew not-so-rosy conclusions. A world-wide trash epidemic is polluting our groundwater and oceans. Sad news, but that should never be the conclusion! At the beginning of May me and three TBYW’ers took on a challenge to keep as much matter out of landfill as possible: the zero-waste challenge. Halfway through the month I present a personal update and easy tips and tricks for going zero-waste.

As I tend to be  radical, the last thing I disposed on the last day before the journey, was my own trash bin. We took one final walk to the sidewalk in front of my house and after an short goodbye we parted ways. I was ready.

Waste-free travel

My personal zero-waste journey started in Italy. The first day of the challenge was perfectly timed as that was the day that me and my mom went on a week-long camping trip to Sardinia. My first mistake was not telling her about the challenge, as I found a pile of disposable cutlery in her suitcase. Oops! Quickly swapped the plastics for two sets of regular cutlery and we were good to go. Zero-waste on a trip does require some preparational work. Tip one: DIY. To fill your toiletries bag, minimalist packing is the key. I brought my own reusable make-up remover wipes (an old towel cut in round shapes, nothing fancy), DIY waste-free deodorant, DIY waste-free toothpaste (I used the same recipe as deo for efficiency seasons) and a bamboo toothbrush. My deodorant recipe is: coconut oil:baking soda:cornstarch using a 1:1:1 ratio, plus  a few drops of essential oil of your preference.

Depending on your skin, mix and match the ingredients until the effect of the product is optimal for you. I used peppermint essential oil for deodorant because I used the same recipe for toothpaste which is not recommended, I prefer a nice smell such as lemongrass and a bit of tea tree as a deodorant. For travelling, however, I chose efficiency over comfort.

Tip two: pack smart. Bring as much of the essential inventory as you need: think of a reusable coffee-cup, cutlery, sugar, salt/pepper in tiny containers, reusable wipes (an old towel cut into rectangles) etcetera. My dish soap also served the purpose of detergent and did an excellent job. Really, you don’t need a different product for every specific purpose. Such an easy way to save money, weight and space!

Tip three: Leave little room for interpretation when shopping in a foreign country (in which you don’t speak the language). Expressing a clear “no” when at the market the assistants want to put your produce in a plastic bag. Don’t be shy in using non-verbal communication in case you want to use your own reusable linen bag for bread, or your own container to bring olives or cheese. Some shop assistants respond positively, some shop assistant do not approve, to put it lightly. Like when we did our first round of groceries and got our first round of waste in as well.

The lady behind the cashier took the onions and unleashed a waterfall of Italian words that made clear that we weren’t supposed to take loose onions. She stormed out and came back with a plastic net of onions. You can call it a lack of backbone, but we didn’t have the nerve to decline her onions and bought them in the net. I was already proud to resist her clear dissatisfaction over the fact that we hadn’t used plastic bags to cover the rest of the fresh produce in the first place.  In any case: be as clear as you can but don’t worry if it does not work out.

Waste-free alternative to plastic disposable spoons

Tip four: Be easy on yourself. The road towards a zero waste life will only be sustainable if you enjoy it. You won’t enjoy it if you are too hard on yourself, simple as that. It’s fun, it’s an experiment, it’s not about perfection. Don’t think in terms of failing: think in terms of learning curve. This is essential to not feel discouraged if anything unexpected happens. Like when I ordered coffee and got it in a styrofoam cup. Shit (plastic) happens! As long as, instead of using a plastic spoon to stir the coffee you use your sunglasses, it’s not the end of the world. We extended the lifetime of the cup with three rounds of coffee in the morning and wine in the afternoon. After that coffee-flavoured wine (or wine-flavoured coffee) wasn’t enjoyable anymore and the cup was added to the trash.

Zero Waste at home

All-purpose cleaner recipe

After the return it was time to become a waste-free domestic princess. I was already able to do some of my preparations during the first of a series of TBYW zero waste workshops (check out the Facebook for upcoming workshops). The DIY cleaning products workshop provided for the ingredients, bought in bulk from the Soap Queen webshop. We made an all-purpose cleaner and a dish soap.

In the context of step #2 of going zero waste: ‘reduce’, I critically went over my cupboard with cleaning products. Do I really need a different cleaner for the surfaces in my room, the bathroom and the kitchen top? The answer is no. So far All I use is dish soap and the all purpose cleaner and my room is clean so: can confirm, I’m surviving with at least half the cleaning products I thought I needed. This actually goes for many of the different products I use in my life. Once you’ve made an inventory of what those products that you need are, continue to tip five: Make zero-waste swaps. The most important ones to get started are:

eCoffee to-go cup

Tip six is: look up what possibilities there are in your neighbourhood to shop bulk and package-free. The Turkish shops and the markets are by far the most cheap alternatives I have found in my surroundings. For inspiration in the city of Amsterdam, check out https://www.hetzerowasteproject.nl/p/bulk-boodschappenadressen.html to see what you can get where. I went to the Delicious Foods store at the Westerstraat and got a 5% discount for bringing my own bags and jars! Today’s yield: hemp seed, flax seed, tea, chickpeas, coconut flakes, almonds and cashews (the latter three to make my own milk later on: recipes will follow!).

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: once starting this journey, do not start throwing away wasteful products now that you have them anyway. Use it up, recycle or compost what can be recycled or composted. Your ultimate guide to composting you can find here.

My final tip is to shop second hand. Check your local thrift shop to get what you need, or go to secondhand clothes shops. An online possibility with a range somewhat broader than the Episode vintage-style  is United Wardrobe. When you buy second hand, often you have less/zero packaging and you’ll discard the use of resources that are needed to produce new stuff.

Finally, I can’t emphasize enough how this is not something you do overnight, and you shouldn’t expect that. It really isn’t about doing it perfectly, it is about making an educated decision on what and how you consume, and doing that for the better. You have the power to make choices that will lead to a more sustainable system, everyday. We are so privileged to have such a great range of options to make in what we buy and where that comes from, so why not make a choice that contributes to keeping the planet a bit more free from waste?

If you want to know more and follow some great zero-waste workshops, keep an eye on TBYW’s social media channels https://www.facebook.com/TBYWA/ and join the workshops!  

Every single thing which you are holding, sitting on or nibbling is water. In the same way as plants and produce need water to grow, the computer you are typing on required liters of water during its manufacturing. The same goes for the clothes that you are wearing or the soaps and detergents that you use at home. We might not think of the water that is used in these products because we don’t see it bottled or coming out of our taps, but we are still consuming it. Our use of water resources directly impacts fresh water systems which is all the lakes and ponds, rivers, streams, springs, bogs, and wetlands

How much are we consuming?

Well, a lot actually given that from all the water on earth, only 3% is fresh water of which only 1% is readily available for our consumption (FAO, 2013). The Water footprint network (WFN) has estimated the average global consumption to be 1,240 m3 per year per person, with variations across regions and countries (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011). Countries like Peru, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo use on average 600 to 800 m3 of fresh water per year per person. While countries like the USA and Russia have a much higher average of 2,100 to 2,500 m3 per year per person.


© The Water Footprint Network

In 2002 Arjen Y. Hoekstra (a water management professor at the University of Twente) presented the concept of The Water Footprint. This serves as a tool that tells us how much water is required to produce the goods and the services that we consume, be it food, clothing, or the running of a multinational company. It quantifies the impact of humans’ consumption patterns on freshwater system by looking at the full production process from the supply chain to the end user. This means that is looks at the water that is used directly and indirectly in the process. In so doing, making government, companies, and individuals are accountable for their water use (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011).

What is wrong with a large water footprint?

Many people have the misconception that water’s status of renewability means that it is endless source. A renewable resource is not endless; rather it means that the natural rain cycle replenishes the resource. Water is continually moving throughout the planet, with each climate receiving its own kind and volume of precipitation so its availability in regions varies. If a community overuses or pollutes its water source, the source can temporarily run out. However through conservation efforts water resources can eventually be restored.

In the Netherlands the total water footprint is 23,000 million m3 per year meaning that every individual living in the Netherlands consumes 4,000 litres of water per day. However only 5% of this is internal, while the other 95% is external (Ibid). Water use in a globalised world means that products are not always consumed in their country of origin, water consumption is externalised to the countries producing the goods and services. This however does not mean that the consuming countries are not accountable for their consumption.

Rather, global water consumption is tracked at river basin and aquifer level, which is particularly useful to understand the implications of water consumption or pollution within that region. It especially matters in regions prone to water scarcity in countries like Chile, Malta or Kuwait, as further extraction or pollution of their water resources can be detrimental to their national water resources and global water systems.

The water food print is made up of three components; blue water, green water, and grey water.


© The Water Footprint network

So, by knowing how much and where, the water footprint informs us on how better manage our use of fresh water resources.

Why does this matter?

Let’s imagine that all the freshwater available to us for consumption was a 1 litre bottle. This one bottle of water needs to serve all freshwater ecosystems with their species, as well as our growing industries and communities. Global estimates suggest that of this single source of freshwater 70% goes to growing our food, mainly for irrigation in agriculture (FAO, 2014).

Water use in food production varies from crop irrigation to food processing i.e. cleaning, sanitizing, peeling, cooling. It is essential therefore for our food supply chain to have a healthy constant source of fresh water to grow produce and feed animals. Yet, one-third of food produced for human consumption is thrown out (FAO, 2014).

Some of the most commonly wasted food are bread, milk, and apples.

Using the Water Footprint product gallery, we can now look at the estimated water costs of these products.

Bread

The global average water footprint of wheat is 1827 litres per kg

Milk

The global average water footprint of milk is 1020 litres per kg.

Apple

On average, one apple costs 125 litres of water.

Meat

The global average water footprint of beef is 15400 litres per kg.

The Water footprint shows us that it is not just the valuable food being wasted but also such finite resources as water. FAO (2013) estimates that globally, the blue water footprint i.e. the consumption of surface and groundwater resources of food wastage is about 250 km3. While conservative estimates of water loss caused by discarded food indicate that about half of the water withdrawn for irrigation is lost. Once food is dumped, it sits landfills which leads to harmful soluble substances (via leachates and runoff) to seep into the ground. This pollutes waterways and groundwater which negatively impact both land and aquatic biodiversity  (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011).

What can we do to shrink our Water footprint?

There are many positive contributions we can make.

We can start off by calculating our personal water footprint. This will give us a clearer idea of how much water our lifestyle requires and how sustainable this is. Once we know this we can start making more conscious decisions about our dietary choices and consumption habits.

Of course, this does not fall on us individuals. It is also important to voice our concern and let governmental representatives know that we care about water and want it to be used and managed in a sustainable way across the globe. We can do this by electing representatives with a sound water policy and being an active global water citizen.

In that way governments can set up coherent policies which look at multiple industries, and work to ensure sustainable production of produce and services from importing countries. Similarly, industries need to implement resource efficiency in their production process and ensure transparency in their water use.

Happily, this shows how by learning to reuse food, reducing our food waste, and recycling food scraps we’d also be making a contribution to shrinking our water footpring. By fighting food waste we’re also alleviating pressure from water sources and assuring the sustainability of fresh water systems. In our mission to fight food waste we’d;

  • Reduce blue water consumption for irrigation in agriculture
  • Require less blue water for food processing
  • Downsize the amount of food waste in landfills and the resulting leachates and run off
  • Reduce the possibility of contamination of waterways and groundwater 

Looks like a win- win!

Sources

FAO. (2013). Food wastage footprint Impact on natural resources Summary report. FAO.

FAO. (2014). Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report. FAO.

Fao. (2014). Mitigation of societal costs and benefits of food waste. Fao.

FAO. (2014). The Water-Energy-Food Nexus; A new approach in support of food security and sustainable agriculture. Rome: FAO.

Hoekstra, A. Y., Chapagain, A. K., Aldaya, M. M., & Mekonnen, M. M. (2011). The Water Footprint Assessment Manual; Setting the global standard. London: EarthScan.

There is nothing quite like opening a fully stocked and perfectly organized squeaky clean fridge. It becomes a well-chilled sanctuary for our precious food and delectable offerings to our late-night cravings. Yet, this sanctuary at times becomes a cemetery where unfortunately sometimes our food rots. It’s either because it’s forgotten in some part of the fridge, it’s not stored well, it sits in an unclean space, or because of poor grocery planning. However there are things you can do to avoid this and turn your fridge into a tool to avoid and reduce of food waste at home. Here are some tips.

Temperature

Keep it cool.

Set your refrigerator between 1°C to 5 °C. If it’s any warmer, you run the risk of growing harmful bacteria but if it’s any colder some of your food may begin to freeze.

Organising your fridge

Top shelf; Here temperatures are constant so it’s best to keep drinks. Also, this is the first part of the fridge that you’ll look at, so it’s a good idea to keep leftovers stored in clear containers.  

Middle shelves; Keep dairy here. Your milk, yogurts, cheese, and eggs should go here. Also, milk should be put at the back of the shelf since this is the coldest bit.

Bottom shelf; This is the coldest shelf, which makes it an ideal place to store raw ingredients. Things like raw meat and fish should be kept here in tight packaging to avoid dripping and cross-contamination.

Drawer; These tend to retain some moisture which is good for produce. You can place your fruits and vegetables here. If you have multiple drawers, use them to separate ethylene producing fruits and vegetables like apples and avocados, from sensitive ones to avoid quick spoilage.

Door; Even though most refrigerator models come with beverage and egg shelves on their door, this is not a good place to keep them. This part of the fridge is prone to temperature fluctuations and is actually the warmest part of the fridge, so avoid storing highly perishable foods. Instead keep your condiments and well-preserved foods here.

Top of the fridge; Usually this part is quite warm so avoid storing any food here. Instead you can keep some small kitchen appliances and utensils, or just your pile of cookbooks.

© Appliance Service Station Inc.

Storing Principles

FIFO –  First In, First out; Always move the food that is already there, and it closest to expiration date to the front of the shelves. That way you have a better visualisation of what you need to consume first and you’ll make have space in the back for the new groceries. This also helps to avoid finding a stray yoghurt from 3 months ago in the back of the shelf.

Markers. Set. Go; It’s very likely that you are not the only one using the fridge so labelling the shelves into sections can be a helpful way to keep the fridge organised. Food should also be labelled to avoid the ‘What is this, and when did I make it?’, sure a quick sniff can be suggestive of the answer but better to play it safe and just label it.

Air it out; Air needs to circulate in your fridge to avoid parts of the fridge from becoming too warm or too cold. When you over stock your fridge there isn’t enough air circulation and this can create warm or cold pockets causing food to spoil quicker.

Eat-me first!; This is really handy. Just take any organizing box and stick a post-it saying ‘Eat me first!’ then place all the food which is going to perish soon and needs to be eaten. This will convince everyone in the house to reach for these items before trying anything else.

Keep it together; Food keeps for longer when it’s still whole. Meat, fruit, and veggies expire quickly when they have been chopped, sliced and diced. Keep your foods whole until you’re ready to consume them.

Plastic – not – fantastic; The unfortunate trend of plastic wrapped produce is bad for MULTIPLE reasons, one of these being that food actually spoils quicker. Instead use glass containers, paper bags and,  mason jars or a damp tea towel for fresh herbs and leafy vegetables.

Tidy up; In order to keep food good for as long as possible, it’s important that it stays in a clean space. So keep your fridge tidy, clean up any spills and make sure to wash the insides every month.

© Gardner’s Supply Company

While we’ve been talking about what goes in to the fridge, it’s equally important to talk about what doesn’t. This may be to avoid altering the texture or flavour of the food, or even it going bad. It can also be to simply save space and keep a tidy ventilated fridge.

  • Foods you shouldn’t refrigerate; potatoes, onions, garlic, honey, tomatoes
  • Foods that can but don’t need to refrigerated; peanut butter, oils, apples, butter
  • Food you must refrigerate; milk, cheese, eggs, meat

What other tips do you follow to keep your fridge in check and avoid wasting food?