An Edinburgh resident who diligently recorded her food waste is advocating more careful consideration of how we buy food.
Many mums who decide to keep a diary might well be tempted to jot down details of their child’s first steps, tooth or word.
Kathleen Vaughn, however, made a point of jotting down every scrap of food that her growing family chucked in the bin. Every day for a year Kathleen took a note of each morsel, from part-eaten fruit to half full bags of wilted salad and jars of curry sauce which were opened, partly used and then left.
At the end, she had a remarkable journal of waste; a record that – when it was all totted up – revealed just how much money she was throwing away every week.
As it turned out, the Vaughn family were not as bad as some of us. The average household chucks away £460 a year in wasted food – Kathleen’s calculations showed they were well under that at £280.
Nevertheless the figure has still made Kathleen, who works for Edinburgh-based environmental charity Changeworks, stop and think that bit more about just how much food waste hits their bin every week.
“I scribbled it all down in a little black notebook that I kept close to the kitchen bins,” said Kathleen, 42. “Then I made it into an online shopping list, so I could see how much it would have cost to buy everything I threw out.
“We were below average, but we were still wasting food.”
Today Kathleen, mum to Morven, five, and Elspeth, three, is even more rigorous when it comes to ensuring her family don’t let food go to waste.
She plans her shopping and meals, is even more aware of what’s in her fridge and cupboards, and when it needs to be used by.
Keeping the diary sounds overwhelming, but Kathleen insists it soon became routine. “It wasn’t a massive commitment, but it’s really helped me see where our ‘danger’ areas are,” she added.
She quickly spotted that a trouble spot was family get-togethers, when Kathleen and husband Simon, 43, would be left with food brought by guests that they couldn’t eat. “Now we package it up and give it back, so they can enjoy it rather than it go to waste in our house,” says Kathleen.
“We also noticed that my husband Simon would pick up a ‘bargain’ in the supermarket – like a cut price packet of sausages – but half the time they went in the bin.
“It was false economy, so we now plan our supermarket visits more carefully.”
Every year Edinburgh generates 33,000 tonnes of food waste - that’s equivalent to 74 million meals per year or the weight of 165 blue whales. Edinburgh households throw away 6500 tonnes of fresh veg and salad and 2000 tonnes of meat.
Now, to help families win the battle of the food waste bin, Zero Waste Scotland (ad ops please link to: www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/whatsinyourkitchen has launched a new recipe book, packed with ideas and ‘food hacks’ designed to encourage us all to be more mindful in the kitchen.
Keeping a note of our food waste can help focus minds on what we waste, says Kathleen.
“I’d recommend everyone to do it, even if it’s just for a month or so,” she adds. “It really makes you think how much money is going straight into the bin!”
To download the What's In Your Kitchen recipe booklet and view videos, go to www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/whatsinyourkitchen
Minestrone Verde Soup
By Scott Archer, from Inspire Catering
Serves: 4 Time: 30 minutes
100g leftover cooked pasta
100g frozen peas
50g green beans, chopped
50g asparagus, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
6 basil leaves
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
1. Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil.
2. Add 1 litre of water, the stock cubes, all remaining vegetables and bring to the boil.
3. Add the pasta to the pan and simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
4. Tear up the basil leaves and add to the soup for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
5. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Tip: No fresh basil? Don’t worry, dried works well too and for a tasty garnish grate over some hard cheese, like parmesan for example.
Hack: These healthy noodles are great for taking to work for lunch. You can also store them in an airtight container in the fridge for a healthy snack any time of day. Can be eaten hot or cold.