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.

Col­lect cook­books

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.

La­bel ev­ery­thing

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

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