When it comes to cash flow each month, food is the biggest drain on my bank account. Whilst frantically Googling ways to reduce my spending, I came across compleating - a movement to reduce the seven million tonnes of household food waste in the UK each year by eating the parts of ingredients you'd normally chuck in the bin. On a more selfish note, reducing your food waste can save you nearly £20 a month.' That's a lot of Haribo. I decided to give it a whirl. Here's how I got on.
"PUT DOWN THE BROCCOLI STALKS MOTHER!"
It was with these words that I embarked upon my voyage of culinary discovery to cook for a week using bits and pieces I'd been raised (MOTHER!) to throw in the bin (broccoli stalks, potato peels) and whatever was in the fridge.
Yes, I'm 32 and live with my mother. And, yes, I didn't get pudding that evening and had to go to bed at nine. And, yes, it has been said that my Hinge profile should include fewer (some say no) photos of me and my mum, but dammit, I had a job to do, and this is what I did.
Determined to use the broccoli stalks that had nearly been binned, I put them in a tupperware box in the fridge, and began my adventure with a loaded sweet potato skins recipe. Spuds are the most wasted foodstuff in the country, with the average household throwing away 170 of them a year. That's a lot of wasted potatoes.
The actual recipe for my sweet potatoes includes beans, but I forgot to buy them. I also used Cheddar rather than Manchego as we had some of it knocking about in the fridge. The results are ugly as sin but divine in taste.
Note that I left the skins on. Packed with vitamins, there's no need to peel, apart from the green pigment (with white/red potatoes) or any other strange bobbly bits.
Skins. Fab noughties telly show, fantastic meal accompaniment in potato, carrot or even turnip form should you be a fan of the turnip (which I am not - it looks like a fat carrot that's had a fright).
Tuesday was easy. I used some of Sunday's chicken, along with (skin-laden) potatoes and carrots and broccoli. It saved me a packet!
My mum (yeah, yeah, still living at home) made liver and bacon on Friday, meaning we could enjoy it and our marathon of The Chase in relative peace.
By Wednesday, the liver and bacon was still going strong - not in the pig's case - and fine to eat. I also roasted the stalks from the broccoli and they were the business. A little more bitter than broccoli itself, but similar. Like Ed and Dave Miliband, if you think about it that way.
Slight segue, but good to know: 'Use by' refers to food that goes off quickly; 'Best before' to quality of food, not safety; 'sell by' or 'display until' are for stock control purposes (often), and so food saying this is usually fine to eat after that date. Just don't leave it a year. Or ten.
On Day Four, my strict approach to food came into its own (even if being grounded since Sunday didn't) when I made a cauliflower pizza.
Now, as you'll see, I kind of cremated it. I also used an egg too many, if you can imagine such a thing. However, it tasted grate, with grated cauliflower (geddit?) as the base along with hazelnuts, tomato sauce we had in the larder, and some broccoli. I grated the entire cauliflower, along with the stalk, and put the leaves to one side to use on another day.
Day Five: Sunday's chicken was still within its 'use by', as it were, along with freezer veggies and rice. No waste!
On Saturday, I really went to town.
There was bread in the cupboard and it was harder than Conor McGregor, He-Man, and Optimus Prime combined.
But it was still usable. All I needed to do was throw it in with some cheese, tomatoes, milk leeks and (vitally) eggs, and I had this little beauty. The average UK household throws away the equivalent of 19 loaves of bread per year (a huge amount of which is perfectly usable end slices and crusts), a staggering amount that could be used to make, well, 19 leek, tomato eggy-bread bakes. To make the recipe, I simply chopped up a couple of leeks (green and white bits), a few tomatoes, and used a pestle and mortar (if you can afford to, invest in one of these; they're around a tenner, but worth the cost) to smashy smashy the hardened bread before mixing it with milk and eggs.
During the week, Mother took leave of her senses, and bought three avocados. Anyone who's met an avocado knows they're mushier than Love Actually after a day or two (unless you get those weird ones that seem to have been dipped in varnish and stay hard for weeks), so to avoid further wastage, I made this cake, going with a non-vegan variety as I had flour, milk and of course shed loads of eggs lying around. And it was amazing. Mother said so, and was a fan of the cauliflower pizza too, much to her surprise.
And to cap off a week of huge culinary - if not visual - success, I rustled up a salad with bacon, tomato and garlic, plus leaves from the cauliflower I'd used to make my pizza a few days earlier. With a drop of oil and a few minutes in the oven, they tasted great; a perfect accompaniment to a salad I'd bought on Day One for my sweet potato dish. Full circle vibez.
So, why not give complEATing a go? Take a look at the Love Food Hate Waste site for more tips, and see what you can rustle up in the kitchen yourself.