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52 ways to save the planet: No. 3 : food, glorious food

This week's bit of effort ties in with my How To Cook Like a Grown Up plan. On Thursday I was in a rush to eat and get back out, so I had takeaway Chinese. Yesterday I was a tad hungover and keen to eat a large filling meal which only took ten minutes to make. So I used the leftover rice from the takeaway, which I had shoved in the fridge, to bulk out a stir fry (tofu, veg, rice and a sweet and sour sauce). No biggy, right?

A whopping great 30% of food bought in Britain ends up in the bins, uneaten until the rats get at it. 30%. The other week I was getting a Virgin train to Oxford and the buffet car was closing whilst I waited in the vestible to get off the train. The person behind the buffet emerged with a clear plastic bag containing at least 20+ sandwiches, still wrapped in their packaging. As the train crawled along at five miles an hour, I asked the buffet person what would become of the food. Did it go to a homeless charity or something? Apparently, it was going to be returned to Rail Gourmet and would then be thrown away. It used to go to a charity but there were 'issues' with the best before dates. As soon as the preprepared food is removed from the fridges, it decays too rapidly to be safe to hand out without risking being sued for compensation over food poisoning. There is no statement about Rail Gourmet's environmental policy, or policy on food waste, on their website. They are a subsidary of Compass Group, who also own Upper Crust and Ritazza, which does have an environmental policy and mentions "reducing waste" - which seems at odds with apparently chucking a load of sandwiches away. There are schemes for disposing of food which is reaching its sell by date but hasn't gone past it's best before date.

I'm as guilty as all hell on food wastage as well, since I often buy stuff and then don't use it before it's gone off due to my previously mentioned disorganisation in the kitchen. Admittedly, I'd be hard-pressed to throw out the average amount of 6lbs (2.7kg for you modern types) but that's mostly because I probably don't have that much in the house.

It's not like I was raised in a profligrate household. I sometimes refer to my childhood as a bizarre mix of The Good Life and The Rotters' Club in that we had out own small orchard and a vegetable patch but we also had tv and teenagers. There was a Waste Not Want Not thing with the food, so I was used to having beefburgers on the Monday which were made with the ground-up leftovers of Sunday's roast beef. But as an adult, I fritter food - and not in the sense of deep frying pineapple etc.

Obviously, it's not a change I can make overnight, or even with any promise of regularity because it depends on what is actually in the house, but from now on all food will get used if it is still edible and leftover takeaway will be saved. I've even googled up some leftovers recipes which aren't about what to do with leftover turkey.

Posted @ 7:27 pm on Sunday, January 15, 2006
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