Last weekend in Manchester, locals were invited to attend the Salad Days event with Marks and Spencers, gathered in St Annes Square. As you probably all know, I am a huge fan of food – both cooking it and eating it – and regularly showcase recipes and restaurant reviews on whatemmadid.com. So for the past week, I’ve been taking note of the ingredients I have been purchasing, and the meals I have been rustling up, to make sure that I am effectively utilising the food and ingredients properly. Any food that is leftover or not wanted, I’ve been ensuring I re-use it to create some form of meal – tomorrow’s lunch or a little side dish I can freeze and use again, or dinner for the following evening.
My efforts to tackle food waste was inspired from the Marks and Spencer event, where visitors were able to take part in interactive activities and watch chefs demonstrate how to make the most out of every day food purchases. With support and tips on use by dates, packaging and useful recipes to use up your leftovers- particularly salad ingredients that are often left in fridges during the summer months which can go rotten (hence chucking away).
So my weekly shop and creation of meals showcased below aims to show the impact that small awareness changes can reduce food waste. Here’s a little round up of the week and how I managed to re-use the leftovers…
Nut Burgers with Salad/Vegetables
For this lunch meal, I cooked nut burgers with a serving of vegetables – courgettes, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, onion and a bit of lettuce. I also served with Avocados (I love M&S pack of three, as they are quite small and one whole avocado can be used for one meal) and wholemeal bread. With a meal like this, it’s easy to go overboard with portion sizes of vegetables, so I saved aside the chopped up peppers, courgettes and onions and boxed them up to refrigerate for my evening meal. Come evening, I took the bowl of colourful veggies out of the fridge and worked them into my next meal idea…
This was my evening meal, using the leftover vegetables from my lunch. Peppers, onions and courgettes can be thrown into the pan when frying off mince/quorn to add taste and add vitamins and nutrients into meals. After all, the more colourful the meal, the more healthy it tends to be (natural colours, that is…)
With some of the leftover avocado, I like to serve it up with toasted pita breads with a bit of garlic rubbed in to recreate a version of garlic bread. This was a great way for me to use up any avocado from lunch time. With this meal, I also tried something a little different to use up some leftovers in a clever way. Every time I cook spaghetti I always make too much, so this time the extra spaghetti I saved aside I incorporated into a stir fry for the next day. It may sound a little strange, and of course I still used noodles, but I used less noodles and a little bit of the leftover spaghetti to bulk out the noodles to avoid throwing away the waste.
With meals like this, tomato and veggie ‘mixtures’ that are left over from the pan can be popped into little plastic pots/tubs and stored in the fridge and used again with a sprinkling of cheese as a pasta sauce, to make the most of leftovers. The below is my sauce mixture I popped away for the next day (excused the messy sauce image! It was very tasty though)…
So along came the stir fry! As mentioned above, I used fresh noodles with the leftover spaghetti, and also a handful of beanstrouts. As I used just a little bit of spahgetti, it blended in with the fresh cooked noodles really well, so it tasted lovely. I also threw in some prawns and continued to use the vegetables from the week – so the tomatoes, onions, peppers and courgettes were again used up.
The best thing about making spaghetti and noodle meals along with fresh vegetables is that you can cook really large portions, and then box up the leftovers for lunch the next day. They are a great way to incorporate carbohydrates with fresh vegetables so that you get an ideal sorce of engery and vitamins.
Sausage, Mash and Tomatoes
The following evening I wanted to make a heart warming meal of sausage, sweet potato mash and a side serving of tomatoes. Sometimes, a nice hearty ‘bangers and mash’ meal doesn’t need much on the side, therefore I just used a couple of chopped up cherry tomatoes. It’s such a simple meal, and if you grill the sausages and use sweet potatoes without added milk/cream/butter (perhaps a little bit of butter to add a touch of creaminess, and a splash of almond milk to be aware of fat content), then it’s actually a fairly healthy meal too.
The best thing about making this as an evening meal is that the sausages that I cooked which didn’t get eaten were then turned into a sausage casserole the following evening, also using up the leftover sweet potatoes and tomatoes to bulk out the casserole! A perfect next day dinner…
For this meal, I took the left over sausages from the previous evening and fried them off with chopped onions, tomatoes and spices. Although with a casserole, the beauty is that you can add almost anything you like. Sometimes I pop in a tin of beans and a few tablespoons of BBQ sauce to give it that extra kick. Here, I used up all leftovers to make another hearty, warming meal, which can be served up to eat or put into tupperware and heated up for lunch the next day.
Other Tips and Tricks
– To round-up a busy week of being conscious about food waste, I also tried to stop my bread from going mouldy and throwing away half a loaf (don’t pretend this doesn’t happen often to you…). I did this by purchasing some wholegrain crackers from Marks and Spencer and froze half my loaf of bread so that it wouldn’t all go stale. The crackers are actually healthier than the bread, and I made mini sandwiches by filling two crackers with smashed up avocado or crunch peanut butter. It’s quite hard to explain, but the photographs below kind of do the talking here. These are such a good idea for when you are trying to save your loaf of bread for a little longer or don’t want to defrost what is in the freezer just for a snack. How cute do they look too?
– My final tip is never to under estimate the power of chicken to make lots of different meals. A grilled chicken salad can be made by cooking fillets of chicken breast, and tossing with salad and potatoes, or whatever you like to add to your salads. The leftover chicken, onions and tomatoes can then be added to boiled pasta the following evening for a chicken past meal, or stuffed into pita breads with humus or dressings to make yummy cold sandwiches for the next days lunch.
So there you have it – a round up of my week being more alert and cautious about the food I cook, and how to prevent waste. You’ll notice a lot of the foods I ‘turned around’ so to speak are heavily focused on salads – chicken, peppers, onions, avocados, crackers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes etc – which is great because this is incorporating fresh ingredients and usually the ones packed with the most nutrients.
Do you have any great ways to prevent food waste? Any meals you tend to make which can stretch out for the next days lunch? Feel free to leave a comment!
For more information regarding the M&S Love Food Hate Waste campaign, take a look here.