Helen Martin: Wasting disease is now epidemic

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YET another government report has been produced on food waste. And alarmingly, the British disregard for one of the planet’s most valuable and essential resources, ­appears to be as bad as ever.

On average, each family throws away enough food a week to make six meals, most of it perfectly edible. It costs them £400 a year. And the total cost nationally? £12.5 billion.

I confess, I simply don’t understand how this happens when most families, even on low incomes, have a freezer.

I don’t think I’m any more mean, any better organised, or any more of a creative cook than anyone else. But the amount of food I waste in a year could fit in a small carrier bag and would comprise mostly dried herbs that have gone out of date by a year or more, and small amounts of pasta, flour or the ends of obscure ingredients bought for a specific recipe that have been pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten about.

After a shopping trip, any fresh meat or poultry that isn’t going to be eaten that night or the next, goes in the freezer. It’s impossible to waste vegetables because anything that’s looking a bit wilted can be chucked into a soup, stew, casserole or a veg curry.

Hard cheese can be grated and mould can be chopped off. Perhaps health and safety wouldn’t agree but I’ve made it this far without ­poisoning myself.

Squidgy fruit can be simmered with sugar for a crumble. And if any dish is unfinished, the end portions can be frozen and used for office lunches.

No-one in my family, unless it’s their birthday, is asked what they want for dinner – though I might offer a few options from time to time. That’s not because I’m a food dictator. It’s because I’m not running a restaurant. The meal is always based on what has to be used first from the fridge, a domestic version of Ready Steady Cook.

Himself will eat anything (except fish, for some peculiar reason). The Young Master eats what’s on the plate, not just because he’s been brought up without a lot of choice but because now he’s running his own home he doesn’t want to waste money either.

With a bit of chilli, a lemon, garlic and a few herbs fresh or dried, anything can be made tasty.

The only reason I can fathom for food waste is that too many people start their evening with the “what in the world do I fancy?” philosophy rather than “what have we got in the fridge?”.

In terms of wastefulness it’s the equivalent of someone turning the tap on and going off to make a phone call, or turning the heating up to max and opening all the windows. In terms of morality, when so many people are starving across the world and turning to food banks at home, it’s obscene.

And of course, by buying too much and throwing it away, they are chucking their own money in the bin too.

The real surprise comes from the percentages. Farmers and food processors are responsible for 27 per cent of waste. Supermarkets, who most would like to blame, are only three per cent. And though the missing twenty per cent is unclear, 50 per cent is laid at family homes. The government’s taxed everything else. With EU targets set to reduce waste by 30 per cent in the next ten years, we have only ourselves to blame if they introduce food waste fines.

Chilcott a scam

IT took Leo Tolstoy six years to write War and Peace – coincidentally, the same length of time Chilcot’s Iraq War inquiry’s been going on. It’ll be months more until it’s concluded and published, by which time it will be a historical document with everyone involved beyond accountability. How pointless.

Murphy’s law for councils is no real solution

THE closer power is to the people, the better . . . or is it?

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy feels city councils such as Edinburgh are “best placed to understand the needs of their community” and might be even stronger if they were connected in a joined “city region” such as Edinburgh and Glasgow with extra powers.

I’d go along with that if it weren’t for one thing. City councils are now as politicised as Holyrood and Westminster, falling into different party-political groups with all the loyalties, alliances, policies, hierarchies, ambitions, goals, priorities and squabbles that brings, some of which interfere with what an area and its people really need.

Power should also lie in the hands of those with the expertise to wield it. And however well-meaning and motivated a councillor is, being elected to the local authority does not instantly and magically confer knowledge, intelligence, fiscal wisdom, far-sighted vision, astute negotiation skills and the know-how to attract and manage inward investment, commercial and industrial development.

Is this really about local accountability, or government divesting itself of its responsibilities?

House tax hits Capital worst

EDINBURGHERS – with our ludicrous property prices – will be penalised more than most by the ten per cent Land and Buildings Transaction Tax on houses from £325,000 and 12 per cent on those from £750,000. . . and nothing extra from those living in multi-million pads.

EDINBURGHERS – with our ludicrous property prices – will be penalised more than most by the ten per cent Land and Buildings Transaction Tax on houses from £325,000 and 12 per cent on those from £750,000. . . and nothing extra from those living in multi-million pads.