15 tips to cut the climate impact of your food (and make it go further)

These are uniquely challenging times, to say the least. If, like the Greenredeem team, you’re not one of the brilliant and brave key workers called upon to keep the country going through this crisis, it’s hard not to feel like a helpless bystander.

While we might not be able to do much to change the course of current events (besides following the latest NHS guidance and supporting our families and friends), we’ve realised there’s still plenty we can be doing to improve our climate impact. 

With this in mind, the Greenredeem team will be spending this whole month working on the theme of Earth Day 2020 – “climate action”. Each week during April, we’ll share a list of the green tasks we’re tackling. Will you join us? Everything will be doable without leaving the house, naturally! 

Last week we looked at 15 eco-friendly maintenance jobs to tackle while we’re at home. This week, we’re thinking about how to cut the climate impact of our diets by making the most of the food we have in stock:  

1. Measure, don’t go by eye

For those of us that have always been inclined to cook by eye, switching to measuring cups and a weighing scale can feel like a faff at first. But once we realised that we’re now eating our fill without getting overfull and our groceries are lasting longer without that extra bit added to the pot “just in case”, we were sold on proper portions. This portion planner can get you started. 

2. Freeze bread and milk before they go off

These staples of the standard British diet are two of our most regularly discarded foods, creating a huge negative climate impact. Yet both can be frozen for later use. 

>> Slice the bread before you freeze it, then use it directly from the freezer when you fancy some toast. You may have to turn your toaster up a few notches to get the same colour from the frozen bread as toasting from fresh. 

>> Milk can be frozen in its container, then defrosted in the fridge overnight. Try to use this older milk up as quickly as you can once defrosted, perhaps in a cheese sauce for pasta or custard for pudding. 

3. Use up leftover cooked potatoes

>> Boiled potatoes can be coarsely grated, then fried into potato rosti. Perfect for brunch with a fried egg on top! 

>> Roast potatoes are crying out to be made into bubble-and-squeak

>> Mashed potatoes can be mixed with a drained tin of fish and some finely chopped onion. Season and form into little patties. Dip these into a beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. Fry until you have lovely golden fishcakes. 

4. Save the oil from tins and jars

When fish, olives, red peppers and other preserved items come packaged in oil, save this tasty stuff to add extra flavour to the dish you’re making. Another benefit of using this oil rather than discarding it, is that we won’t be contributing to sewer-blocking fatbergs which have an awful climate impact.  

>> Use the oil from a jar of olives or antipasti to make a flavourful salad dressing. 

>> Fry fishcakes in the oil from the tin of fish. 

>> Add extra flavour to a store-cupboard puttanesca sauce by using the oil from the anchovy tin to fry the other ingredients. 

5. Fall in love with fried rice

If you’ve got yesterday’s leftover rice in the fridge, a small onion, frozen peas and soy sauce, you’ve got a quick, hearty meal for one. 

The basic recipe for egg fried rice varies according to the cook, but in general we like to scramble the beaten egg first in a little oil, until it starts to dry out. We remove the egg and, in the same pan, stir fry the chopped onion for a few minutes. Add cooked frozen peas, the leftover rice and a tablespoon of soy sauce. Stir until the rice is cooked through, then add the egg back into the pan. Serve hot. 

6. Separate your onions from your potatoes

These guys just don’t get on when stored together, as the presence of the onions accelerates the potatoes’ sprouting. Give the potatoes a separate cool and dark space to live in. 

7. Keep the inside of your fridge as dry as possible

Fruit and vegetables don’t enjoy damp storage conditions, so to stop them from going off more quickly try to keep the inside of the fridge dry. 

>> Put lids on leftovers and liquids. 

>> Clear up spillages. 

>> Check that your fridge moisture drain is clear. If it’s clogged, take a look at last week’s home maintenance blog to find out how to unblock this. 

8. Store veggies in kitchen paper 

To keep lettuce, carrots, courgettes and other vegetables fresher for longer, wrap them in kitchen paper then in plastic bags before putting them into the salad compartment of the fridge. The paper helps prevent mould and stops condensation from softening the veg. 

9. Put sad-looking veg into a curry

Potent curry sauces are the ideal disguise for veg that’s past its best. Soggy salad, bendy carrots, soft onions, wrinkled peppers and more can be transformed by a half-hour’s simmer in a curry. 

10. Add a tin of beans or handful of dried pulses to savoury recipes

Stretch a Bolognese sauce, cottage pie, shepherd’s pie or chunky meat stew further by ‘padding out’ the ingredients with beans or pulses. Dried pulses may need extra liquid and cooking time, so adjust the recipe accordingly. 

11. Save your crusts

Pop the ends of bread and leftover sandwich crusts into a plastic bag in the freezer until you have enough to make breadcrumbs. These can be used for fish cake coatings, in stuffings or to make a crunchy cheesy topping for cottage and shepherd’s pies.  

12. Use up leftover yoghurt

>> Combine with milk to make more yoghurt!

>> Mix with leftover fruit, a spoon of jam, smashed up biscuits or cocoa powder, then freeze for an hour for a sweet frozen yoghurt treat.

>> If a baking recipe calls for milk, you can make up some or all of this with leftover yoghurt. If the batter seems too dry, simply add a bit more until you get the right texture. 

13. Fill up on pancakes

Not just for Shrove Tuesday! Whether you prefer yours with lemon juice and sugar or liberally coated with chopped banana and Nutella, pancakes are a quick way to treat yourself while using up some excess milk. Along with the milk, you’ll need a couple of eggs, a bit of butter and plain flour.  

14. Freeze leftover sauce

Leftover sauce can be used to flavour future meals. Even the smallest amounts of pesto, pasta sauce, Chinese and curry sauce can be frozen in ice cube trays, ready to pop into the pot next time you’re making something similar. 

15. Make ‘crisps’ from what’s in stock

Craving a salty snack? Don’t go out just for that, instead make your own from what’s in the fridge. All of these can be roasted, salted and flavoured: potatoes (naturally!), clean potato peelingstinned chickpeaskalecarrots and beetroot

Lastly, don’t forget food safety

When you’re eating up what’s in stock, be conscious of food safety. No one wants food poisoning on top of everything else that’s going on at the moment! While foods with a ‘Best Before’ date are generally safe to eat after that date, but may no longer be at their tastiest; anything past its ‘Use By’ date or smelling ‘off’ needs to go. To be sure of food safety, use the Still Tasty website to double check whether something’s still OK to eat. 

How are you reducing your climate impact by making food go further? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.

>> Love your spuds – how to keep potatoes fresher for longer

>> Tastier leftovers from the freezer? Yes, with these tips! 

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