What a waste!

According to a recently published report by the UK Institute of Mechanical Engineers a huge proportion of the world’s food – between 30 and 50 per cent – is thrown away as waste. Some crops are not even harvested because they do not meet the exacting demands for appearance (rather than flavour) of the big supermarkets. Up to half of all food bought in the US and western Europe is thrown away – a ridiculous effect of affluence and changed shopping behaviour.

I find these figures shocking. Lo Jardinièr and I rarely throw away any food at all. This is partly because we are lucky to have a weekly market and a very good épicerie in the village, within a couple of minutes’ walk from our house. This means that we shop for food every day, buying good quality food quickly and easily without having to do a big weekly shop at a supermarket which almost always leads to waste because it’s impossible to know what you’re going to need for a whole week and to plan to use all the ingredients that supermarket design tempts you to buy. Sadly, if people don’t use their local shops then they close, leaving the wasteland of out-of-town hypermarkets and car parks which are becoming common in all large and even smaller towns across western Europe. There are all kinds of issues involved here to do with planning, food quality and consumer expectations especially, but policies and practices have to change if we are to avoid ‘the tragedy of waste’, as the report calls it, and if we are going to be able to feed the estimated 9 billion people in the world in 2075.

One of the reasons that Lo Jardinièr and I rarely throw away food is that we love leftovers and always use them up in some way. Today’s lunch was a good example of this:

Roast vegetables with feta, chickpeas and tahini dressing

We had some pumpkin, potatoes, onion, garlic, a carrot, a couple of mushrooms, one goats’ cheese and a piece of feta.



We parboiled the potatoes, pumpkin and carrot, chopped into 2 cm cubes. They could have been roasted from raw but we were a bit short of time. We put them all with the sliced onion and peeled garlic cloves in a roasting tray with some olive oil, salt, a whole paprika pepper and some bay leaves and cooked them in the oven until they were soft – about 25 minutes, although it would have taken about an hour if we hadn’t parboiled them first.


When the vegetables were nearly cooked, about 10 minutes before the end of the roasting time, we added the sliced mushrooms, half a tin of chickpeas, and the two cheeses cut into 1 cm cubes.



While the vegetables were cooking I made a tahini dressing by crushing a clove of garlic with some sea salt in a pestle and mortar, adding a teaspoon of paprika, a tablespoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons of tahini and mixing to make a thick sauce or dressing which we poured over the vegetables at the table. A delicious way of using up some of the oddments we had ‘leftover’ in the kitchen!

9 thoughts on “What a waste!

  1. You are definitely the queen of figuring out what to do with assorted ingredients. I too toss out very few things — some do get lost in the refrigerator — but I am the queen of eating food that is about to go off. And if it is really a bit much for me, three dogs get it …. but the real problem is too many people, I think. Too many births, too many deaths in infancy or at an early age. Not to mention miserable lives in the interim.

  2. I completely agree with you – we should shop locally and avoid supermarkets as much as possible. Blink a few times and the small shops will be gone.
    I was horrified by one of the suggestions for cutting bread waste though, long life bread – yuck!

  3. It’s really scary. A lot of people don’t realize those perfectly shaped veg aren’t perfect. Many times they lack flavour or they’ve been treated to look nice. Not that I want moldy food but imperfections don’t mean anything. Any food we don’t consume gets composted so it feeds our next round of veg. Cuts down on the waste!

  4. The culture of waste drives me to despair. You are completely right about how it all works, but I didn’t know till now that it’s 30-50%. Good grief. I admire your creative solution and the playfulness you put into cooking.

  5. We read that report too and talked about it. So much waste, it´s terrible. Like you we waste so little. If we don´t eat it the chickens or dogs do, and if they don´t it´s compost. But then. we (like you) don´t rely on horrible processed food. Yuk 😦

  6. I, too, read a similar article. The amount of food wasted daily is staggering, not to mention the resources required to grow, process, and bring it to market — if it is actually harvested.
    Mom taught me well and I waste little. Having the freedom to go to the market several times a week is a big help in that regard.
    Roasting vegetables, as you did here, is a favorite way of preparing them. I never thought to add feta, though. Maybe next time. 🙂

  7. It’s a thing that concerns me greatly. We’re really careful with shopping and hate waste. That’s a delicious idea with the vegetables and I’m very grateful for the tahini dressing recipe. I always have tahini ( in fact I have big bottles of Egyptian tahina that I get from a middle eastern shop in the Uxbridge Rd on my rare London visits) but did not know about making a dressing from it:)

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