Sunday, March 18, 2007

Trying not to throw food away.

I heard on the radio today that the UK is the most wasteful nation in the world when it comes to food, with the average household throwing away 30% of all the food purchased. It sounds pretty awful doesn't it - but sadly, from my own experience, I can well believe it.

From the news reports, the main causes seem to be bad meal planning, picky eaters and people simply buying too much food. I try not to throw food away, but unfortunately, I do it quite regularly. For example, it's quite usual for me to throw half-loaves of bread away because they have gone mouldy in the cupboard.

The other bad thing we do is buy lots of fruit and veg because we think we should be more healthy but not actually eat them. Then every month or so, I have to clear out furry vegetables lurking at the back of the fridge. I'm ashamed to say that today we threw away half a punnet of strawberries, a pack of chillies, a pack of tortilla wraps, some mouldy peppers and a bag of oranges. :(

The supermarkets love this, of course, because they make more money this way. We are encouraged to treat food like every other item; like clothes that we wear once or shoes that we don't really need.

In our local Sainsburys I am always amazed by how much food people are buying - huge deep trolleys piled high with food. People in England don't have big families OK, and this is probably their weekly (or at a push, fortnightly) shop. It all makes sense that 30% of that food is being thrown away.

So, looking in our fridge I thought I would make an effort to use up items that we would otherwise have to throw away (in the future). We had a lot of cheese, 6 pints of milk(!), a tub of creme fraiche and half a block of ham. OK, ham and cheese pasta bake!

I cubed the ham and fried it with some chopped onions and garlic. Then I made a cheese sauce using the classic bechamel sauce as a base, and just adding grated cheese and mustard (one of my favourite ingredients).

I mixed the sauce, the fried ham mixture and a tub of creme fraiche with some half-cooked pasta. Then sprinkled the top with breadcrumbs and more grated cheese, before baking in the oven for about half an hour.

(You don't really need to add creme fraiche, but I was just using up ingredients)

It made a huge amount - I'll have to bring it in for lunch this week. Killing two birds with one stone, I like it!

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