There is no way of denying it: we overproduce. Constantly. We throw. Shamelessly. We waste. Consciously. Every day, tonnes of food are thrown away simply because some food legislation has put a standardized limit ‘eat before’ date or due to surplus. Worse, because we buy more than we really need. However, for catering companies, restaurants and cafés, for which food waste is a daily issue, acknowledging it is still something inconsiderable. As if by admitting a truth we all know – although we refuse to believe it ourselves – it would expose them to shame, customers’ disapproval and ultimately to bankruptcy.
It is outrageous how our modern society, one of overproduction and fierce consumerism, has allowed such a phenomenon to build in throughout the past years. The more we produce, the more extra we produce. Competition between brands has led to overproduction at minimal costs, with little benefit to the companies who first started this strategy. The consumers themselves – that is, us – are not left untouched either, constantly manipulated by massive advertising campaigns and never-ending varieties to choose from, producing a crowd that is completely lost in the ocean of quantity – often over quality, but that is another story to be told. The saying goes, ‘you are what you eat’. It isn’t about being a foodie; it’s about being an educated, responsible one. You cannot pretend to be passionate about food without considering the food chain as a whole and measuring its impact not only on our society, but on our ecosystem as a whole. How about what we don’t eat, about what we guiltlessly throw away? It seems so ironic how students often complain about tiny budgets when so much of their grocery shopping goes to waste. On a low budget, we tend to choose quantity over quality, and students are the first victims of this vicious cycle. Bigger packages offer deals that outcompete any individual offer. Yet, I spend less than any of my friends on food. Around £10, up to £15 a week. That’s right, one five. Fair enough, I am vegetarian with vegan aspirations; I am a not-that-tall (hey not so-short-either though) girl. But let’s look at it from another perspective. I tend to go for high quality products, organic whenever I can. Moreover, I love nuts. I’m absolutely nuts about nuts. And my favourite way of spending a chill evening is to bake. All these should significantly increase the cost of my shopping list, and hence counterbalance the advantages of my diet.
So how to minimize your food expenses without starving yourself? There is no secret to it. Only rational thinking, which most of us, as scientists, would be expected to have. And a relentless will to radically change our current mentality. Start with buying local, and seasonal. Strawberries in February will of course cost you thrice as much as they would in June, if not more. Choose your products yourself, rather than already packaged. You’d be amazed to see how cheaper the very same tomatoes are when you pick them alone. Buy ‘simple’, non-processed food. It’s not that hard to make your own morning porridge with basic ingredients rather than buy the ‘ready to eat’ package. Besides, doesn’t food taste so much better when it is homemade?
This article isn’t about dictating the lifestyle you ought to adopt. Mine alone is far from being perfect. It is about raising questions. About starting to be aware of what we consume, or rather how we do so. Last year I joined an app that shares leftovers by a means of bringing the local community together and preventing food waste. I realized one thing, a simple equation: sharing food equals sharing happiness. It feels like you won the lottery when you pick up free food from someone else. It feels even better when you give away what you would otherwise throw away and there is this feeling of achievement too. By putting in common what one wants to get rid of when someone else craves for the same thing, a whole common project of sustainability emerges. And there is nothing more empowering than building a more sustainable future together.
Before you chuck your wrinkly apples, why don’t you give them another chance and treat yourself or your friends with a delicious apple crumble or turn the potatoes and carrots that have been lying around for way too long into a creamy carrot soup? These recipes will fill your palate and your mind – as well as your wallet – with joy. And next time you see that really tempting offer at the shop, think about all the yummy food at home that still waits to be eaten with love. For the love of our planet, start sharing food and preventing food waste. Food tastes much better when it is shared – or when it is free.
Apple and cinnamon oat crumble
- 6-8 apples (wrinkly apples most welcome)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup jumbo oats
- 1 cup sugar (brown for more flavoured crumble)
- 1/3 cup room-temperature butter (salted or not, whatever’s in the fridge) in cubes
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F/Gas 4.
Place the flour, sugar and oats in a large bowl and mix well. Add a few drops of vanilla extract. Add the cubes of butter and rub into the flour mixture. Keep rubbing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Peel and core the apple and cut into cubes, about the size of a big thumb. Place the fruit in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the crumble base on top.
Bake in the oven for 20-35 minutes until the crumble is browned and the fruit mixture bubbling. Serve warm with thick cream, custard or ice cream, or just enjoy plain.