11 lessons waste food taught me…



So after reviewing Zero waste home by Bea Johnson I said I was going to participate in Zero Waste Week which this year is focusing on food waste. Turns out that even knowing that this week was coming and therefore being more mindful about what was coming in, a lot has still gone out!

I usually have a rough menu plan for the week, however this week I was mindful of trying to use things up so as to not waste them. We often batch cook so have several meals that are quick to heat up on the three nursery nights a week. Saturday is usually wild card night to use anything up but this week it ended up being Wednesday as there were so many things about to go off.

Planned Actual
Monday Butternut squash lasagne (left over from Sunday) Butternut squash lasagne
Tuesday Quorn Pasta bake Quorn Pasta bake
Wednesday Fish Pie (Frozen) Quorn Pasta bake, tofu wiener & coleslaw
Thursday Egg Spaghetti Beetroot & Goats Cheese Salad
Friday Spaghetti Bolognese (Frozen) Spaghetti Bolognese
Saturday Sausages & Frozen Yorkshires (that had been around a while!) Sausages & Yorkshires
Sunday Tagine (made on Saturday) Tagine & Rice

In total I managed to “save” several items

  • Mini mozzarella balls – ended up in the pasta bake.
  • Pasta shells – ended up in the pasta bake.
  • Tofu wieners
  • The end of  some goats cheese.


As for the waste, I’ve decided to try and use each item that has gone as an opportunity to learn. I should be clear, I’m not counting food waste (e.g. vegetable peelings) but rather food I have wasted.  The grand total at the end of the week has been:

  • Half a (mouldy) melon.
  • Half a jar of mayonnaise that had gone funky even by my standards
  • Crackers/bread sticks/oatcakes that were stale.
  • 3 (mouldy) half lemons
  • Half a pot of hummus
  • Half a bag of funky spinach
  • 1 portion of fish pie


Lesson 1. Visibility – Don’t forget you have a melon, or for that matter fish pie in the freezer.

Lesson 2. Correct storage. After eating half a melon, don’t leave the other half covered on the side for 24 hours when it is sweltering. Put it in the fridge.  Equally breadsticks and crackers stored correctly last much longer than in open packets.

Lesson 3. More is not always cost effective. – Although the cost per gram is cheaper in a larger jar, the speed at which I consume mayonnaise would have made a small jar more economical. It’s better to use all of a small jar than half a large jar.

Lesson 4. Using waste food often takes creativity and time. Factor this in to life.  In hindsight the stale crackers & breadsticks could have been used to form the base of a savoury cheese cake, however I have no plans to make this anytime soon due to time constraints.

Lesson 5. Stock rotation 101 – Agree as a household on a where things are kept so food is used sequentially. Clear storage containers would also have helped with this, so I might employ some of Bea Johnson’s go to solution: Jam jars!

Lesson 6. Take responsibility for your own waste – While there are somethings I’m willing to eat, others are my wife’s responsibility. She went away mid week and it didn’t last until she got back. Equally the fish pie was completely my responsibility as she is a vegetarian.

Lesson 7. Pay attention to food you don’t eat as much. This again was the wife’s and while I don’t eat as much of it (she is Popeye) I would have eaten it if I had noticed it before it dissolved.

Lesson 8. If it’s been in the freezer for a year, I’m not eating it – We need a stock rotation system for the freezer for the infrequent items.

Other lessons I have learnt:

Lesson 9. Bizarre combinations of food are edible, even if they won’t make the regular meal plan. Wednesday night’s dinner was left over pasta & quorn bake, tofu wieners and coleslaw.

Lesson 10. Portion appropriately. The pasta bake was more successful this week as I halved the amount of pasta so it fed us all one night with only one portion left over for my lunch (which I had forgotten I didn’t need).

Lesson 11. Don’t stockpile items as whims can change like the wind blows. We currently have 13 tins of chickpeas and 3 packs of cod pieces (plus various other fish in the freezer from when my daughter was eating fish). My action plan at the end of Zero Waste week is to identify oven baked cod recipes I can do easily.


So how have you been doing with reducing your food waste? What are your top tips? Do you have regular offenders that get wasted?




If you are in the mood for a different minimalist challenge, Anne over at Minimalist Sometimes is doing a 21 day declutter challenge getting rid of 231 items in 21 days (Day 1 = 1 item, Day 2 = 2 etc). Current circumstances mean I’m not going to join, however if you need the motivation…

7 thoughts on “11 lessons waste food taught me…

  1. Want to make it an even 12? Learn the difference between ”use by” and “best before” dates.
    – Best before is the date that the manufacturer guarantees the product to taste its best- normally expressed as a month and year. After the best before, the food will most likely still be edible but it may have lost some flavour or texture. Just last night we used some spices such after 18 months were edible.
    – Use by dates which will almost always be a day and a month are normally found on fresh food and you should pay attention to these although there is still leeway. Then you have things like yoghurt which has bacteria in it anyway and will be perfectly fine for a good several days after the date if not better, it tastes more yoghurt you. Use your judgment- give it a sniff and check for any mould. I am still a veggie though so I doubt really know how this applies to meat and fish!

    Learn some tricks like putting eggs in a jug of water. If the egg sits at the bottom, it’s fresh. If it points to the bottom with the fat end point up its still edible but not as fresh as it was. If it floats to the top- chuck it.

    My husbands favourite sport is to go through the thing in our cupboard of doom in the kitchen and reading out to me the best before dates. I mostly ignore him.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I use up veg in a curry more or less every week. If there’s too much, I freeze it and another day bake it in puff pastry to make little pasties. We have them hot or cold; they’re very easy lunches

    Liked by 2 people

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