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February 2024
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Reduce and reuse in the kitchen

We’re all used to hearing the slogan reduce, reuse and recycle when it comes to waste in general especially man made products.

When it comes to eating though, it all seems like such hard work and not necessarily that environmentally useful.

A different approach is needed, then?

This is an experiment I’ve been running the last three roast dinners and thought I’d share the results.

Principle 1: Cook once, eat many times

We’re buying bigger which does not sound that eco friendly, but doubling our “joint size” more than tripples our left over meals and reduces packaging.

For Chicken, we keep the joint whole and roast then make use of the left overs, more about that later.

For lamb, beef and pork we take a different approach. A 750-1000g joint can be cut into smaller sections. A good meal is 80g of meat each, so splitting a 750g beef joint into a 350g roast and two 150g meals and one 50g meal gives us three really generous meals – for us the roast on Sunday with sandwiches for tea. Stir fry on Monday with the 50g bit. Spaghetti bolognese on Wednesday and Saturday had two frying steaks served with bread rolls, onions, mushrooms and fresh veg. Or potentially using a portion on Saturday.

Alright for you, buying a big bit of beef, some of us our struggling…

Chicken is the most popular joint for a Sunday roast in the UK. Chicken does not directly produce greenhouse gases and it is still a high protein source for relatively outlay.

As a family, we roast it very plainly and serve with stuffing on Sunday. Let’s look at what can be done with a 1.75kg bird cooked over 90 minutes on a Sunday with roast potatoes and freshly cooked boiled vegetables (say carrots, broccoli, cabbage or leak and sweetcorn. We save 15ml or so of the vegetables and serve the rest with gravy and stuffing.

As soon as Sunday lunch is over, we strip the carcase of meat and reminants of stuffing.

The chicken is covered and left to naturally cool then stored at 0°C until a serving is removed for each dish.

Stock produced in the microwave

One of the issues with a traditionally cooked stock is the hours it needs on the hob, burning energy and producing CO2. This approach uses the microwave and produces enough stock for a couple of meals.

A few freshly boiled vegetables are reserved and some skin off the joint as well as the bones and added to 500ml of plain water and some herbs and seasoning into a litre microwave bowl or jug. Microwave for 14 minutes over three slots, stirring each time. Leave to stand for 2 minutes then sieve out the bones and vegetables leaving a home made stock. We use half for soup that night, cooked while there is still daylight producing some solar power.

Monday: cheat’s curry

I love this as a lazy ready meal with a difference. Buy a great vegetable curry (Thai, Chinese, Indian) and boil your own rice. With 5 minutes to go on the rice, add left over chicken to the rice’s cook pot. Serve with the vegetable curry for a little extra protein.

Tuesday: rissotto

25% of the left over meat is used with the reserved stock to make a tasty chicken, pepper, baby or big sweetcorn and pea rissotto.

Wednesday: stir fry

Chopped vegetables or a premixed stir fry. Requires very little meat to be more generous than a shop bought ready meal.

Thursday: have a break

Treat yourself to something, anything different. All that money you’ve saved allows a take out treat. We often do fish and chips.

Friday: chicken pie

This requires very little meat and if using premade stock and pastry is really quick to make. Think chicken stew with a pastry side. You can put all the vegetables in the pie for a nutritous single meal that’s really filling.

Very comprehensive, but what about Saturday

We cook vegetarian: chilli or pasta or a soup. Or a burger from the mince produced from the meat for Sunday served with home baked rolls or salad. I make a lovely coleslaw.

If we have pasta at the weekend, it tends to be fresh reducing plastic waste.

Our approach means very little waste including electricity to cook the meals but means everything is simply produced at home while we’re both holding down full time jobs.

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