Food Waste: Making the best of a bad situation…

Lauren Grindley shows us how to reduce our food waste and the importance of doing so.

Making the best of a bad situation – seems to be the theme of the Coronavirus lockdowns doesn’t it? Here, I’ll discuss how I used the free vegetables I acquired after suddenly being forced to close a busy city centre restaurant as York moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3 just before the third UK lockdown.

Unlike the lockdown in November 2020, there was no prior warning of the move to Tier 3 meaning all hospitality venues had to close down and clear huge amounts of perishable meat, dairy and vegetables the same day. From the restaurant I work in I took home 2 sizeable pallets of vegetables including 12 lemons, 4kg of shallots and a pillowcase sized bag of rocket and basil. 

Unfortunately, I share a small freezer with 3 other housemates so cooking and freezing large quantities wasn’t viable. Instead, I became an amateur home chef and cooked lasagnes, risottos, soups, and curries to feed my housemates. Excluding the pasta and chopped tomatoes added from the store cupboard, all the ingredients for a veg-packed pasta and salad to feed four people (pictured) would have otherwise gone to waste.

Everything made was vegetarian, and the majority vegan, however, this article aims to emphasise circular thinking and inspire the use of innovative, traditional preservation methods rather than to provide a list of recipes. A quick google search of ‘food waste global pandemic’ brought up nearly 50,000,000 results proving it has been a damaging unforeseen impact of the pandemic.

I made an easy pesto by blending rocket and basil with garlic oil, then used some shallots to make a caramelised onion chutney using red wine, vinegar and sugar both of these preserves I am still using 5 weeks later.

Image Credits: Lauren Grindley

I advise researching BBC Good Food recipes, I also explore Instagram for inspiration which is how I came to discover Max La Manna, a zero-waste, plant-based chef and sustainability activist. He shows how to utilise parts of vegetables that are usually discarded such as making your own vegetable stock from potato peels, pepper cores, onion ends and other vegetable scraps (pictured below). This circular, less-waste ethos motivated me to make my own Limoncello (pictured below) from the zest of 12 lemons mixed with vodka and sugar syrup! I then blended the rest of the lemon to make homemade lemonade and the leftover pulp was added to my vegetable stock.

Image Credits: Lauren Grindley

I appreciate not everyone will have as much free time on their hands during this lockdown, but I encourage adopting a less-waste way of thinking when cooking and in everyday life to reduce your environmental impact. Furthermore, after seeing a notice about reduced food availability it got me thinking about the effects of climate change on harvesting seasons and also the uncertainty of how Brexit trade rules may affect UK imports, highlighting the importance of reducing food waste.

Image Credits: Lauren Grindley

About the author: Lauren Grindley is an Environmental Geography graduate interested in all environmental issues, with a current focus on the impacts of food waste and the importance of vegetarian diets. If you make any less-waste recipes make sure to tag WILD magazine (@wild_magazine_uk) or Lauren (@loz__g) on Instagram. Also, if you are planning celebrating post-Covid lockdown La Vecchia Scuola Italian restaurant in York city centre welcomes new customers!!

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