I once saw a woman flush three-quarters of a large ice cream cake she had been given down the toilet. Her guests including the cake giver had each eaten a slice and she didn’t want the leftovers sitting around to tempt her off her diet.
If this anecdote shocks you as much as the incident shocked me at the time, you may be overweight because you can’t bear to waste food.
Join the club.
My mother was ten years old the year WWII broke out, and taught me, by example, that wasting food is a crime. Yet many diet books tell you to ignore the principle of good housekeeping and bin leftovers immediately. ‘Waste or waist’, they warn bossily.
Here are ten waste-not-waist-not strategies you may like to try
1. Cook less in the first place. Yes, this is common sense but we don’t always use common sense. Rice, couscous, chips and pasta are some of the most wasted foods. WeightWatchers considers 60g of pasta a large portion whereas Italian cookbooks suggest 75g-100g for a main course and 50-75g for a starter
2. Serve one potato fewer per person than usual and put fewer oven chips in the oven. Just enough is better than too much. We tend to overestimate how many chips or how much rice we’ll need.
3. Use leftover pasta, rice or couscous as a filling for stuffed vegetables or as the carb in a salad
4. Leftover chips make good potato omelettes
5. If there’s enough left to make one portion, put the scraps into a lidded container and into the fridge or freezer NOW. I buy lidded takeaway boxes in bulk from Costco; they’re fantastic because you can see what you’ve got and they’re dishwasher-safe.
6. Almost everything – from fresh coriander relish, to leftover chips, to that one spoonful of cooked peas, works well in scrambled egg or fritata or with a fried egg on top.
7. If you’re wasting a lot of bread, freeze half the day you buy it. Use as required. Pop a slice into the defrost slot of your toaster or allow to defrost on the kitchen counter.
8. Stale white bread (not the steam-baked kind) makes good croutons. Chop into chunks, coat in oil and bake until golden. About ten minutes at 180C. Use a timer as croutons burn easily. People always talk about making breadcrumbs from leftover bread but I have limited uses for breadcrumbs and prefer to use panko for fishcakes and the like.
9. Grated cheese freezes well. Frozen blocks of cheese tend to crumble when sliced.
10. Give your leftovers to the dog – if you want a fat dog. Or freeze the leftovers in treat-sized bundles for the dog. I do this with chicken skin and bits of gristle.
And when you’re in a restaurant…
Feel you need to eat up every last bit just because you’re paying? Even when you know you’ve really really had enough? You won’t waste food if you ask for a doggie bag. At Roxies Diner, an excellent steak restaurant in London’s SW11, I ordered a Thai beef salad. The portion was generous. The leftover strips of my delectable, medium-rare ribeye steak stretched to TWO more salad lunches when combined at home with cooked cauliflower florets, chopped anchovy, capers, chopped parsley and radishes.
What are your tips for avoiding food waste without collecting it on your waist? I’d love to hear them.