5 tips for a no-waste kitchen
Jean shares her tips for running an efficient kitchen.
My husband Dave and I travel between Auckland and Waihi on a regular basis. Managing the larder, freezer, and fresh growing fruit and vegetables is a task that requires almost military precision.
I really hate waste. There are enough hungry people in the world to make wasting food a crime and it’s absolutely unnecessary if you have a little ingenuity. Timing and planning are the solution, and even if you don’t move from place to place like us you can still use the same tactics.
Assessing what is available and turning it into wholesome tasty meals that are not repetitive and boring requires a little bit of lateral thinking sometimes. Cabbage is a favourite of mine, but even I don’t want it served up for every meal. However, because the cabbages are all planted at the same time we get a glut and cabbage doesn’t freeze or dry well. My answer: great pickles and sauerkraut.
When I can’t spontaneously come up with a recipe my diverse store of recipe books comes out. My books range from very, very old treatises on herbs and spices, family recipes written in old exercise books, to the latest celebrity chef glossy production.
I am a bit of a hoarder as far as cookbooks are concerned and I read them like novels. There is always a recipe book on the bedside table, and bookshelves in the spare room groan under their weight. I discuss recipes with my elderly mum, my daughter in England and my young grandson. Food and talking about food brings us together.
How food is stored and preserved can make a significant difference to wastage in
your household, but for it to work well, it requires precise labelling: what it is, ingredients, when it was stored, use-by dates. There is no use spending time making plum jam that you leave it in the back of the cupboard for years, turning all brown and sugary before you get to it.
Invest in good re-useable containers
I have lots of Tupperware as it was very
® much the rage when I was a young mother. My containers are years old and mostly the same square shape and diameter as the lids are interchangeable. Some are used just for travelling, some to put the last of something in to take to the next ‘home’ for dinner, and some are used to freeze leftovers for when Dave is home alone. Sometimes the dog gets to enjoy these when Dave forgets the dog food. Sometimes I will even freeze leftovers and label it FOR THE DOG.
Invest in good quality storage jars
Over the years I have had the odd infestation of ants – I think our Otahuhu home must sit on a huge ant nest – and mice at the farm which Tessa the dog now takes care of. All my dry cooking ingredients are kept in large antique shop jars at the farm and the country farmhouse theme is carried through to all of my storage. Bottled fruit and jams are stored in the old-style pint preserving jars in large cupboards, ready to jazz up a meal at a moment’s notice. I don’t use a lot of preprepared food unless it is something I have made myself and frozen or preserved. I’ve had dry goods storage containers let me down, allowing an infestation of moths into flour and cereal. I think the moths must have been in the packets when I bought them from the supermarket and in the warmth of the cupboard they had a great time reproducing. I had no choice but to destroy the evidence and have a great clean-up of the pantry, a lesson that cheaper containers can be costly. I then visited all the charity shops I could find to get hold of more Tupperware® that matched my old ones, but still had really good seals, and to find glass jars with tight lids.
Plant lemon trees
When we are at the beach, Dave goes fishing and grows a good vege garden. We also have a few key trees. The mandarin tree is loaded with fruit, and the pear tree delivers a heavy crop, but the most important is the lemon tree. Lemons are an essential ingredient for so many dishes so I have several trees planted on the farm and at home – you never want to be without lemons.
cabbage is a favourite but even I don’t want it for every meal
You never want to be without lemons