Sunday, June 9, 2013

Food matters

Tomatoes stored on the bench with a green apple to help them ripen. 
On Wednesday last week, it was World Environment day with the theme of   "Think, eat, save"      -encouraging us all to take care with food, not to waste it.
Think Eat save  is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your foodprint. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.  

At Chez Earthmotherwithin, we are working hard on this one -and have been for some time.
Our strategies:

1. Menu planning. This is where I start by looking in the cupboards and fridges and freezers to see what we have got, and then plan meals for a fortnight around those things. This means that we use up what we have got before it gets too old to use. I used to only plan for the main meal of the day, but increasingly I plan all the meals. This includes ways to tart up leftovers to make them more interesting.  I have a number of meals that I now know will work this way.

I have found it easier to do the menu plan if I pick up one of my many recipe books and use it as inspiration for the meals -this takes me out of the 'boring and humdrum' old favourites.

There are three of us here and we all cook, so a menu plan is posted on the fridge and then anyone can see what is for dinner. DH really likes the menu plan because it solves the problem of deciding what is to eat.

DD likes it because she can see what she is allowed to snack on , and what is an ingredient vital to dinner!

2. Eat less meat. Our aim is to eat vegetarian meals on every second day. Meat is expensive to produce -it needs lots of water and land- and to buy, and so we are supporting our budget and the environment by doing this. Last night for example, we had baked potatoes with coleslaw, sour cream, salsa and cheese, served with cucumber, green beans and tomatoes. It was followed with jam pudding and icecream.

Lettuce pot in the winter sunshine 
3. Grow our own. The idea is simple -become more self sufficient, eat healthy and save on food transportation costs. Over the years we have learned a lot and are still learning. It is fun and healthy work, growing your own food, and you know it is safe to eat too. It is also cheap to do.  We also love giving excess food away to friends. One of them commented on how lovely the freshly picked turnip was that we gave her -smooth thin skin, crisp white flesh. Makes you wonder how old the stuff is that we buy from the supermarket!
We are not self sufficient in food. We try to grow things that are expensive -such as asparagus or avocadoes-or lettuces. This is a little pot of lettuce growing outside my sewing room window. Lettuce is $24.00 a kilo and goes slimy when kept if bought from the supermarket. Lettuce I grow is fresh and picked just before eating.  It costs about $3 for a punnet which will supply us for about 6 weeks -and less if we sew seed rather than buy seedlings.
Eureka lemons in season now. 

We also love the condiments and herbs which make food interesting -lemons and limes, parsley and rosemary, mint and sage. These are very expensive to buy -one lemon for $2 or a bunch of parsley for $3.50! Cheap as chips to grow yourself and your food is so much nicer as a result. Dried herbs are different than fresh ones in taste.

4. Store things carefully.
Apples cooked in the slow cooker and frozen for later enjoyment
Flour for breadmaking is stored in the fridge - I don't have enough room in the freezer or it would go there. Cold conditions make it less likely that weevils will spoil the flour until it is ready to use.  Special containers store carrots, celery, spring onions and the like in the fridge to make them last longer. I use glass containers where possible, because I want to limit our exposure to plastics which might leach into the food we eat, and because glass containers are strong and see through and reusable. I often pick them up from op shops.

5. Preserve what is in excess
This is as simple as freezing leftovers so that they don't spoil until you fish them out for lunch -adding them to a toasted sandwich or popping a pastry top on them to make a pie. It also includes making soup out of tired vegetables and then freezing in portions for later. We make jam out of lemons and limes and tangelos we have grown.  I pickled radishes for garnishes to sandwiches (nicer than I expected) and I have done a little preserving in the hot water bath method.
Pomegranates add a luxury touch to summer salads

6. Have a compost bin and a worm farm for the waste -so it is not wasted! 
My worms are easy to look after and turn the small amount of waste we produce into fertilizer to grow more veggies for free. Food waste in municipal garbage dumps creates harmful methane gas -but compost and worms just do the planet good, naturally.

Here are some suggestions for further reading:

Try your local library for these.

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