Our Zero Waste Pantry Team Leader Marcus Roberts shares his notes on sustainable living.

Just because something has been used doesn’t mean it can never be used again. If we learn to make the most of what we already have, we find that we don’t end up purchasing unnecessary items when we have things in the home that could do the same job.

Below are my tips for making the most of what you have in the home and reducing your footprint on this earth. Collectively, we can implement small steps to make a real, lasting difference.

Think about food waste

One of the greatest contributors to the level of our nation’s food waste is “use by” and “best before” dates. Retailers are legally required to include safe consumption dates or quality dates on their products, but this system of food labelling can lead to many perfectly edible items being thrown away.

We touched on this in our Daylesford Discusses: Food Waste event last year, and the general consensus was that using our senses to gauge whether a food is edible or not is a great way to avoid unnecessary waste – with the exception of products with a strict “use by” date.  

This applies particularly to vegetables and fruits which often end up in the bin. We as customers can decide when they are no longer edible by feeling and smelling them and recognising that advisory dates don’t have to be the final say.

Leftover potatoes

Potatoes are the most wasted food item in the UK, with 4.4 million being disposed every year.

So long as they are still firm to the touch, potatoes are perfectly edible to eat after they’ve sprouted or gone green. Simply cut off these parts and use them as you normally would. 

For leftover mashed or roasted potatoes, these can be used to make potato cakes. Try mixing them with flakes of cooked fish such as trout, haddock or kipper, or with different meats such as ham or mince. All you have to do is add some spices, blend in some flour and lightly fry, like in our easy bubble and squeak recipe.

Leftover mash is also great as a topping for shepherd’s pie or cottage pie, or our vegetarian version made with mushrooms

Bread again

Bread is a household staple and one of the easiest things to reuse yet a million loaves of it get wasted each year. When you buy a good quality, freshly made loaf with no additives or flavouring such as a hearty sourdough, you don’t have to throw it away when it becomes stale.

Consuming spores of mould could be harmful, but if your loaf has just hardened over a couple of days it should still be perfectly edible. Stale bread can be used in a multitude of ways: throw chunks into a panzanella salad; whizz in a blender to make breadcrumbs; add to stuffing, meatloaf, crab cakes, french onion soup, bread and butter pudding – the list goes on and on. 

Tea as fertiliser

Did you know that tea is a great natural fertiliser, and as tea is a natural organic matter, used tea bags increase nutrient levels and improve soil quality as they decompose?

Make sure to check your brand of tea as not all tea bags are compostable.

lemon aid

Try drying citrus peels and using them to add flavour to cakes, biscuits and savoury dishes. The dried peel will last for months if stored in an airtight container.

Dried lemon and lemon rinds also make excellent fire starters. Not only are they better than petroleum-based fire starters, they are 100% natural, releasing a beautiful scent while the fire gets going, and the citrus oil makes the fire catch quickly.

Wine that’s been open too long

If you have wine that has been open for a while and is now undrinkable, this can be used to make your own vinegar. All you need to do is pour the leftover wine into a container with vinegar, ideally a live vinegar such as apple cider vinegar which contains the Mother. The natural bacteria will combine with the wine to start a fermentation process.

You can leave the wine and vinegar to ferment for a few months in a dark, cool place until it becomes tangy. Then you’ll be left with an amazing homemade vinegar that tastes delicious and is packed full of vital nutrients.

Past-its-best wine can also be added to stews, risottos and ragus; the cooking softens the tanginess of the wine and adds bags of flavour.

Reusable containers

I recently moved out to the beautiful Cotswolds to spend some time working at Daylesford farm in the Zero Waste Pantry. It’s been an incredible experience so far, meeting lots of passionate customers who regularly come and do their weekly shop and bring their own containers to refill.

It’s a great thing to watch as each time our customers bring in their containers, they are saving on unnecessary packaging and leaving a smaller footprint from their weekly shop. Wasting less and reusing more really makes all of the difference, so if you have any leftover containers such as jars from cooking sauces or ice cream tubs, keeping them, cleaning them and reusing them can be a great way to live more sustainably. Our Zero Waste Pantry’s easy weighing scales and stickers help you track exactly how much you’ve taken and the cost.

With so much conflicting advice out there, it can be confusing to know where to start. But with small steps that lead to lasting change, making the most of what we’ve got at home can become second nature.

I hope this article has inspired you to reuse items in your own home as part of living a sustainable life. If you have any ideas or tips on ways you can reuse items at home and be more sustainable in your choices, please pop into our Zero Waste Pantry on our Cotswolds farm and leave a suggestion on the message board. We read all customer feedback and it’s a great way of highlighting to others any new ways of using less and getting more out of the things we already have.

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