By Dinner Lady
Sometimes I think our Four and a half bellies challenge is great and I am proud of all that we are achieving and of what the children are learning. After my mother's birthday party last month, Maths Geek looked at all the left overs on the side board and sighed, shaking his head. "Will all this food just be wasted?" And he and my mother discussed how we could use it as left overs, freeze some and offer it to friends. Other times I am slightly embarrassed by our challenge. Like the time when he ordered the plumber, who was fixing our leaking tap, "Please don't keep the water on, Mum doesn't like waste". And sometimes I don't know what to think. A few weeks ago, I came home from picking up The Naughty Knight from nursery. I was muttering that the staff had thrown out the yoghurt and stewed apple I had sent in for his supper because they had forgotten to put it in the fridge. Maths Geek burst into uncontrollable sobs. "But that is ...is...is...just terrible" he cried, "How dare they waste the food?" And on he ranted. I wondered whether I had taken the challenge too far.
Much as I mutter about others, I still continue to throw out too much food, such as the taramasalata and hummus I bought, caving in to Maths Geek's plea for it during the Easter holiday. But I have definitely improved my habits and throw out much less than I used to, for many reasons. Partly because my writing down all that I throw out has helped me become more aware of whether it is buying too much, portion control or managing left overs that is my waste problem. Partly because I buy less in the first place, steering clear of large plastic bags of cheap fruit and veg which leave me with too much produce and too much guilt when it eventually moulds. I am also being more vigilant about what food we have in the fridge and the larder and using stuff up before it crawls to the bin. I have also learned that it is trapping food in plastic bags that produces all the dangerous methane and carbon dioxide gases. And so every time I spoon left overs into the black plastic bag in the kitchen bin I cannot but visualise these gases strangling and slowly killing us. Motivating much of this behaviour, besides an intrinsic desire to do good, is a terror that you, my fellow Dinner Ladies, will tick me off when you read the weekly waste log. I am naming and shaming myself.
We are regularly cautioned with horrifying statistics about the vast amount of food waste, most of which can be avoided, we householders produce. And according to Love Food Hate Waste we householders produce about half of the nation's total food waste. Frightening in some aspects, but heartening, in that we can actually do something about this. Many websites which aim to help us to reduce our food waste advise us that we should plan our weekly meals, look to see what we already have in the larder, write a shopping list accordingly and never deviate from it. We should shop when our bellies are full and without pesky children who nag us to buy their favourite food. Or if we have to take our children, we should also bring along nerves of steel. How right the websites are. The taramasalata that I buy under pressure from Maths Geek always gets thrown out, despite my vows never to buy it again, and when I do, despite my promises that we will eat it all up.
While I can see the benefits of planning, I have to say that since I have stopped planning a week at a time, I am wasting less. Maybe because I did not plan very effectively. But my weekly food menu never took into account left overs, spontaneous invitations to eat elsewhere, tummy bugs and colds and so I was often left with a surplus of fresh produce languishing in the fridge that I would eventually throw out. Now, I do a large monthly supermarket shop for staples. I plan my meals every couple of days, with a clearer idea of what is available and who will be around for what, topping off with fresh produce as needed. I am much better at eyeing up the cream that is about to sour, the bread that is about to go mouldy and thinking what I could create that could put them out of their misery while putting a smile on my family's face.
Of course, like all busy people, holidays and busy times can throw us completely off course. Having attended three interviews in one month, I have been rather preoccupied and ignored lots of rotting food. I felt guilty and rather embarrassed to have to log it here. At times, I felt like throwing in the whole project, thinking "What does it matter if we waste a little here or there?" But then I thought about Maths Geek and his rage at the wasted apple and yoghurt. A little here and there does not matter. But my little here and there mixes with my city's here and there, which in turn escalates into methane and carbon dioxide gases that are dangerous and threatening to ruin our children's future environment. Maths Geek is right to rage, and I shall continue to encourage it, as well as continue to do as much as I can to reduce what I throw out. Perhaps, though, I should channel his rage and ask Maths Geek to create a sticker chart for me - my reward being a visualisation of empty landfill sites and air full of good gases every time I manage to leave empty one of the sections of the weekly waste log.
Read more on: www.fourandahalfbellies.co.uk