As mums we spend so much time dealing with food. From planning, to shopping, to clearing away, and it takes up a lot of headspace too.
Meal planning is, in my view, one of the simplest and best ways to reduce the stress AND reduce your food waste at the same time (what's better for you, is usually better for the planet).
So, I asked Sarah if she had any general tips and ideas for using up leftovers/scraps, especially on those days where you've got loads of bits of veg in the fridge that need using up, what else can you do with it that's more exciting than a pasta sauce.
Here's Sarah's answer, "My favourite meal to make when there’s just little bits of random vegetables in the drawer is a Korean rice bowl style dish. It's made up of rice, any veggies you like – some cooked, some raw. You can put an egg with it, some salmon, chicken or beef. Make a nice dressing. Add herbs, seeds, roasted peanuts, anything you like. Every time you make it, it’s a different dish and so tasty. It’s a great one to keep everyone happy as you just put all the bits in the middle of the table so everyone can just create their own dish from what’s there. You separate out the rice, veggies, protein etc. And it's pretty as a picture, you eat with your eyes before you’ve even dived in."
Putting all the different parts of a meal separately on the table is what Sarah calls 'pick n mix style family dinner' and it is a brilliant way to encourage fussy eaters to try new things.
Sarah adds, "Stir fries are a good option; soups, curries etc and you can stretch them out by digging into your store cupboard and using tinned pulses like beans and lentils, to make it go further. Tray bakes are also a great way of reviving veg that’s past it’s best, and a fritatta is another good way. You can add leftover pasta or potato in there too. It's about getting creative."
So there you go. Next time you've got bits and bobs of veg lying around in your fridge, give one of these ideas a go.
And here are another few tips for using up leftovers:
Carrot, beetroot, parsnip, potato peelings can be turned into crisps by baking them with a drizzle of olive oil salt and pepper (if you need to peel your veg at all).
Peelings can also go into a box in freezer and be turned into a veg stock so you’re using the whole of the ingredient, the whole vegetable.
"You can even pamper yourself with leftovers. The brown avocado you can’t face eating but is a £'s worth of disappointment. Add it to some yoghurt that’s on the turn and make it into a face mask. Squishy grapes or tomatoes that no one wants to eat can be mixed with coconut oil and made into a face scrub. There are endless opportunities", assures Sarah. Find out more about how she can help with reducing food waste here.
As for meal planning, I asked Sarah, how does it work when you’ve got different needs for different people. I myself am vegetarian, for example, and my kids often annoyingly like very different food from each other (apart from pasta pesto which always wins).
Sarah suggests that rather than thinking of a specific recipe, for example, bolognese, you break the meal down into it’s component parts. Ask, what carb are you going to have, what veg, what protein, what sauces/extras. So that there’s something for everyone. Not everyone has to have the same carb or as much. You can cater to everyone’s needs but you’re still making one meal. You can have some raw veg and cooked. Add interest with sauces, nuts and seeds to pull it all together.
And finally, in terms of getting a bit more of a variety of meals or foods into your life, Sarah recommend just choosing one new vegetable or fruit per week; or cooking one new meal a fortnight so slowly this becomes part of your repertoire and family meal times become a bit more interesting again.
Of course reducing food waste can go way beyond not buying more than you need, and using up leftovers rather than binning them. There are many apps and locally setup facebook groups now that encourage food sharing, plus with home grown veg and composting, shops and supermarkets selling leftover veg at a discount, it's all heading in the right direction.
PS if you'd like my free 5 day vegan meal plan, just send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll happily get it to you.