Local food diaries: From pensioner to student, who wastes more?

Pic. Waste on our plates. Credit: JBloom.

As part of our series we followed local residents to see what they eat – and throw away – in a bid to record just how much food we waste and how. We invited Charlotte Henderson, from Small Change, Big Difference – a London based campaign working hard within the boroughs to help combat food waste –to offer tips to each resident on simple ways they can reduce waste and stretch their food further.

Luke Vance Barr, student, 23, lives in Nunhead, Lewisham.

Pic. Luke Vance Barr. Credit: Luke Vance Barr

“I live with two housemates, I’m a student and they both work. We do a weekly shop together at Aldi on a Monday. We have a communal part of the shop where we try to plan our meals, and then we also get extra things ourselves. I primarily cook the main meals for everyone and we try to avoid food waste by having leftovers the next day. We also freeze bread. We do throw away a fair bit of fruit and veg, because it goes off quickly.”

Day 1:

Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs, brown bread from freezer

Lunch: Chicken and chorizo risotto.

Dinner: Spicy mince and lettuce cups with rice

Snacks: Haribo and kiwi fruit

Waste: 2 old plums and half a mug of rice.

Day 2:

Breakfast: Coco pops with milk – tangerine

Lunch: Couscous salad w/ feta and chorizo

Dinner: Leftover risotto – chicken and chorizo.

Snacks: Tangerine, raisin biscuit, pitta bread with humus

Waste: Milk from cereal bowl, small bunch of spring onions

Pic. Milk left in a bowl. Credit: Luke Vance Barr

Day 3:

Breakfast: Weetabix with milk

Lunch: Tuna sandwiches

Dinner: Chicken fajitas

Snacks: chicken snack pot from M&S

Waste: Milk from cereal bowl. 4 wraps, half an avocado

Day 4:

Breakfast: Bacon and eggs

Lunch: Pitta Bread and humus

Dinner: Red wine beef stew w/ potatoes

Snacks: Toffee yogurt

Waste: None

Day 5:

Breakfast: Nothing

Lunch: Spaghetti carbonara

Dinner: Takeaway ham and mushroom pizza

Snacks: Strawberry milkshake from McDonalds.

Waste: Threw away egg whites and some pizza crusts.

Day 6:

Breakfast: 2 poached eggs and an avocado

: Thai Soup

Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese

Snacks: None

Waste: Half of soup plus leftover spaghetti

Day 7:

Breakfast: Beans on toast

Lunch: Tuna salad

Dinner: Chicken and leek pie with mash potato

Snacks: Tangerine and packet of Doritos

: A quarter of the mash potato and some chicken. Some sweetcorn at bottom of the tin.

Pic. Leftover chicken pie. Credit: Luke Vance Barr

CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT:“It is so refreshing to hear that you do a communal shop and meal plan together. When living in a house or flat share, this is a great way to prevent doubling up of ingredients which can often end up in the bin!

You mention throwing some fruit and veg away as it goes off quickly, there are a couple of things that might help you out here;

1. Bear in mind the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates. ‘Best before’ is all about quality – if it looks appetising it is ok to eat. Whereas ‘Use by’ is all about safety – it is unsafe to eat an item beyond this date. You may be surprised how long a pack of carrots will keep after their best before date!

2. It might also be worth introducing more tinned and frozen veg as these are packed full of vitamins and will last even longer;

Another option would be to cook a ‘One-Pot-Medley’ dish at the end of each week, where you throw all your leftover bits into a dish to stop them from going to waste.

One thing that might also help you is portioning, as it looks like you are cooking a bit too much and throwing away the excess. Why not invest in some tools like spaghetti measurers or some cheap kitchen scales to help you only cook what you need? You could also get creative and ‘re-purpose’ ingredients, so rather than throwing away that half an avocado or those old plums, blitz up some guac or bake a mixed-fruit crumble – super quick, easy and delicious!”

TOP TIP – Items like egg shells and peelings can be recycled and turned into energy or compost; many local authorities provide a collection. To find out if there is a food waste collection in your area visit… https://www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling

Janet Diamond, 71, retired and from Croydon.

Pic. Janet and Lucinda Diamond. Credit: Nigel Hayward

I don’t produce much food waste. I put a lot of food in the freezer, like meat, bread and veg. We also get fresh vegetables from my allotment. Most of the meals are made from scratch, and I make how much I know I will eat. If the bread goes stale I made breadcrumbs or feed it to the birds.

Day 1:

Breakfast: Porridge and toast

: Cheese on toast

: Cheese and ham pasta from freezer

Snacks: Scones and jam

Waste: None

Day 2:

Breakfast: Bacon sandwich

Lunch: Homemade vegetable soup with rolls

Dinner: Lamb casserole from freezer with dumplings and broccoli. Banana custard.

Waste: None

Day 3:

Breakfast: Porridge and toast

Lunch: Homemade leek and potato soup

Dinner: Homemade cottage pie with cauliflower and peas. Sticky toffee pudding and custard.

Waste: None

Pic. Porridge oats. Credit: Lucinda Diamond

Day 4:

Breakfast: Bacon, egg and toast

Lunch: Beans on toast

Dinner: Homemade fish pie with broccoli. Tinned peaches with custard.

Waste: None

Day 5:

Breakfast: Porridge and toast

Lunch: Roast beef with roast potatoes, cauliflower and green beans. Apple crumble and custard.

Dinner: Pizza from freezer

Waste: None

Day 6:

Breakfast: Porridge and toast.

Lunch: Homemade celery soup and rolls

Dinner: sausages with mashed potato and baked beans.

: None

Pic. Eggs for breakfast. Credit: Lucinda Diamond

Day 7:

Breakfast: Porridge and toast

Lunch: Spaghetti hoops on toast

: Fish and chips.

Waste: None

CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT:“Wow! To have zero waste in a week is something you should be very proud of. You are clearly making good use of your freezer. As you are such a whiz at this, maybe you could challenge yourself to try freezing new items?

You might be surprised for example that you can freeze milk and eggs (break them into a container and either separate or mix them depending on how you plan to use them.) Milk can be frozen into ice cube trays and dropped straight into a cuppa.

One thing I would say is that some ingredients like baked beans, tinned peaches and spaghetti hoops tend to be highly processed with high amounts of salt and sugar. Another option is to simply pick natural alternatives, such as red kidney beans in water, wholegrain pasta, peaches in fruit juice or good old-fashioned fresh fruit.

TOP TIP – Bananas can also be frozen and blended into a healthy ice cream.

Keep up the good work Janet!

Jamie Burnett, 22, lives with his mum Tracy and his dad Darren in Tower Hamlets.

Pic. Jamie Burnett and Tracy Burnett. Credit: Jason Burnett

We try our best not to waste any food. But we never go out of our way to ensure we use it all. We often save left over food for next day lunches. It would be good if we cut done on the amount of meat we eat that’s for sure’

Day 1:

Breakfast: Weetabix and milk

: sandwich. Ham and cheese sandwiches, cheese and onion crisps, and a tangerine

Dinner: Meat pie, peas, and mash

Waste: Leftover milk from cereal.

Day 2:

Breakfast: Weetabix and milk

Lunch: Mixed salads, apricot yogurt and a tangerine

Dinner: Chicken bites, curly fries

Waste: Milk and a small portion of fries

Day 3:

Breakfast: toast with butter

Lunch: Ham sandwich, ready salted crisps, strawberry yogurt and a pear.

Dinner: Chinese takeaway

Waste: end piece of the loaf.

Pic. Chinese takeaway. Credit: Jamie Burnett

Day 4:

Breakfast: fried egg on toast

Lunch: Pasta salad and an apricot yogurt

Dinner: Breaded fish, chips, baked beans and mushrooms

Waste: mushrooms and pasta.

Pic. Fish, chips, beans and mushrooms. Credit: Jamie Burnett

Day 5:

Breakfast: Wheatabix

Lunch: Ham and Cheese sandwich, salt and vinegar crisps and a tangerine

Dinner: Ginsters pasty, potato salad and kitkat.

Waste: Milk, half a pasty, spoon of salad. 2 pears.

Day 6:

Breakfast: Boiled egg and toast

Lunch: Bacon and egg butty and a strawberry yogurt

Dinner: Salmon fillet and asparagus

Waste: None

Day 7:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs and toast.

Lunch: Mixed salad, a strawberry yogurt, and a tangerine.

Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese

Waste: Some lettuce, and pasta and sauce

Pic. Leftover spagetti bolognese. Credit: Jamie Burnett

CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT: “It looks like you are doing pretty well though there are a few small changes that might make a big difference for you.

Firstly, it looks like the milk in your cereal is wasted regularly – milk is one of the top ten wasted items in the UK, so you are not alone! Consider putting a little less in your bowl for a while, and you can always add more.

Bread is also on the top ten list, one quick easy win is to freeze half the loaf when you buy it then use the frozen slices straight from the freezer to make toast.

In terms of eating a more healthy and balanced diet, I would recommend you up the amount of fresh fruit and veg you are having each day. If you are worried you won’t eat it fast enough and will end up throwing it in the bin, you can always buy tinned and frozen fruit and veg which is just as good (as long as you are still having some fresh each day!)” Remember to check the labels for salt and sugar content.

TOP TIP – Bagged lettuce can often go off before we get a chance to eat it. To keep it fresh, place it in a sealed tub with some kitchen roll to absorb the moisture.

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