Growing up, I would often see my dad hunched over the kitchen table with a plate of odd bits from the fridge. A little mustard, a few pickled goods, some bread.“Cleaning out the fridge,” he would say. Our Monday meals of Spam and leftover veggie hash patties came from Sunday’s supper, served with ketchup. Was it the healthiest approach? Probably not. But it did make me think about using leftovers,reducing food waste, and eating on a budget from an early age.
As I got older and started cooking and enjoying my time in the kitchen more and more, I turned my obsessive love of cooking into a career. When I first started as a food stylist, I couldn’t believe how much food was thrown away.After securing that perfect burger advertisement or filming a favorite food TV challenge, my colleagues would chuckle as I loaded up my work bins with leftover scraps from shoots to bring home.
I spent weekends pawning off food, which my colleagues didn’t claim, on family and friends, making one too many fruit pies or huge batches of soups with those leftovers. I found it so difficult to throw out food. And so I developed a simple practice of batch cooking week to week, using it as the opportunity to clean out my fridge and freezer, and experiment. And, over the years, my favorite recipes became those that were most adaptable to the ingredients I had kicking around the kitchen. Fancy Fried Rice, for example, combines leftover rice, with whatever bits of this or that I had on hand. Then I can use the leftovers into Packed Peppers the next day. After developing these and more food waste solutions in my own kitchen, I realized there needs to be a book that shares these kinds of practical, everyday solutions for using up the food we typically toss aside. And Cook More, Waste Less was born.
As I have been writing this cookbook, food waste has become an increasingly hot topic, and a global one at that. Globally, 1.3 billion tons of the total food produced is lost before it even reaches the market because of poor farming infrastructures. I don’t even want to tell you how much money that is (spoiler alert: it’s over 1 trillion dollars!). And currently one-third of all the food produced in the world is wasted (while sadly over 800 million people are suffering from malnutrition, 1 in 4 households have encountered food insecurity in the US, while 1 in 8 households have experienced food insecurity in Canada). We all play a part: on average we unwittingly throw away one in every four bags of groceries we buy.
The problem with food waste is multi-fold: when we toss aside perfectly edible food rather than using it, not only are we creating needless waste and negatively impacting the environment by adding more methane into the atmosphere (not to mention, wasting our own valuable dollars), but we are perpetuating the demand for more food to be produced overall; and the more food that is produced, the more detrimental the impact on the environment. Consumer expectations for ever more perfect produce also causes food waste as retailers reject what they don’t thinkthey’ll sell before it even hits shelves. You could write a whole book about global food waste (and yes, there are whole books written on this subject). I’m not here to make you feel guilty. I don’t want to cram facts and food politics down your throat. I know I get overwhelmed by these startling facts. As much as I would love to change food policies and technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of our food systems, it takes a village to make changes and it’s going to take time.
During COVID-19, farmers and food systems have been hit hard, making many of us reflect even more on our own food and consumption habits. Lots more people have chosen to take the time and effort to grow their own food as a result,yet sometimes struggle to use up all the bounty from their garden, facing a different challenge about waste. Along the way I have learned there is only one thing we have immediate, direct control of: our own consumption habits, i.e., how we buy,store, eat, and dispose of our food.
My hope with this cookbook is to show how you can make small changes and work toward minimizing your food waste. Even simple, small shifts in how we buy,cook, and eat food can make a significant difference to the amount of food wast we produce. And if going zero waste feels unattainable, remind yourself regularly,as I do, that it is a goal and not a hard target. Included in these pages are some basic strategies and tools to help you start this zero-waste journey and get you thinking about new ways of planning your meals, and buying and preparing food. The recipes demonstrate creative ideas to use up what is already in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, as well as how to transform leftovers, and how to use the often-overlooked parts of food (from onion skins to banana peels) we might usually throw away.
We won’t solve the world’s problems all at once, and you don’t have to change your life overnight, but we can begin with simple, actionable steps focused on what you’ll eat next—and what you won’t throw away. Whether you are an environmentally or socially conscious eater, someone working with a tight food budget, or just looking for new ideas for what to cook, I hope you enjoy this journey towards zero waste.
Copyright © 2021 by Christine Tizzard. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.