Yesterday BBC Radio Devon phoned me up and asked me for some top tips about not wasting food for their live programme at 1.15 pm. Apparently, Tesco did a survey and found that 70% of their salad bags are thrown away either by the store because it is 'past its best' or by the consumer because the salad has rotted in the bottom of the fridge.
I told them about a permaculture friend of mine in Bristol. He grows his own veg on a permaculture allotment in the city, forages for crops from productive trees, makes preserves and wines, and has permission to take produce from the skips by his Asian supermarket that is perfectly edible but past its sell by date. He says he lives 'luxuriously below the poverty line' (in other words with minimal need for money) and helps many others do the same.
I also came up with some simple ways of never wasting food for the radio show - ever!
1) The most obvious way to never throw away bought food is grow it yourself. I don't have a great deal of time personally but I have three golden rules for growing my own:
a) Grow what you like - in my case it is crops like spinach, pak choi, tomatoes and lovely prickly skinned cucumbers in my greenhouse, and at least two varieties of asparagus.
b) Grow what is expensive to buy. We try and grow a year's supply of garlic in two beds. It doesn't take that much room and it saves us so much money. Garlic is expensive! We also grow cut-and-come again salads that often self-sow as well. When you can grow a huge amount of salads like rocket, corn salad, land cress, claytonia, lamb's lettuce most of the year round (if you introduce a cold frame), buying those supermarket salads washed in chlorine becomes an anathema.
c) We grow sprouted seeds and grains on our windowsill in the kitchen most of the year round, but especially in the winter months. We grow cress on damp kitchen towel and particularly like sprouting alfala, clover, and broccoli.
2) Buy local. When we do buy veg we buy it from our local greengrocer or the market. They have some lovely seasonal produce and are far cheaper than any supermarket.
3) If you have to go to a supermarket first of all do a menu plan. You then only buy what you absoluely need. If you plan your meals you can stretch an evening recipe to provide lunch the next day or even morph a pasta sauce one day into a pizza topping the next. Don't be seduced by these 2 for 1 deals. You don't need all that perishable food!
4) Finally, compost everything. We have various composting systems for the garden and the kitchen. I have been testing a Hotbin for the last year. It is a highly insulated bin that works hot all year round. It can compost kitchen scraps, grass cuttings with weed seed in it (the heat kills the seed) and even cooked food, though we never ever throw away food. We have written a full product test in Permaculture 78 if you want to know more.
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