Taking Stock – Our Use It Up Month

We learnt some valuable lessons on a recent holiday to Ireland. It was our third trip to an eco cottage in Donegal. Unfortunately, this time we had a bit of car trouble and found ourselves stranded at the cottage for three days whilst our car was repaired. There are a lot worse places to be stranded in the world and luckily we had enough supplies to last us the three days. My husband and I wrote a list of all our food and worked out a rough meal plan. Then we proceeded to eat just about every last morsel of food. When our car was returned to us and we left on the fourth day all we took away with us were: a few teabags, half a block of cheese, three boiled eggs, a packet of spaghetti and one or two store cupboard essentials we’d taken on holiday. We probably could have managed one or two more meals before my husband would have had to do the 9 mile round trip over the cliff top to Glencolmcille for supplies.

Definitely worse places to be stranded!

Whilst our eldest has always been a great eater, our two younger children can be a little fussier, particularly when it comes to sauces, soup and gravy. They also learnt a valuable lesson in Ireland about eating food they weren’t particularly keen on just because they were hungry and it’s all there was. Normally, I’d never expect my children to finish a plate of food. I would expect them to try new foods and eat what they could, but I would never want to encourage my children to eat just for the sake of it. That’s a dangerous food relationship to set up. (I talk more about avoiding food waste at family mealtimes without setting up problematic ‘clean plate’ expectations here) But this was one occasion when they needed to eat if they didn’t want to go hungry and it was, I feel, an important life lesson. After all, there are plenty of children in the world who have to eat what they’re given whenever they’re given it. I don’t think our youngest daughter will ever forget what will hereafter be referred to as ‘the soup incident’ though, poor thing.

On our way home, my husband and I discussed this turn of events. We’ve had tough times in the past and had to be resourceful with our food, but our week had shown us just how resourceful we could be. It also made us realise that our food inventory at home is bordering on obscene. We have cupboards full of jars, tins and dried goods, two freezers full of frozen leftovers, meals and stand-by quick teas (fish fingers and veggie burgers!), and a fridge full of fresh food. In fact, to confront this problem head-on, here are our worst offenders:

So the upshot of all this is that my husband and I have decided that August will be a Use It Up Month. There are a couple of exceptions to this: milk, butter, eggs, cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, flour for baking and Marmite (a store cupboard staple that is just running out). I’m also going to instigate a ‘use it up shelf’ in the fridge. This was a tip I read on a zero waste FB group and I immediately loved it. A group member said that all the odds and ends of vegetables, bits of cheese, that kind of thing are put on the top shelf of their fridge and, when they’re deciding what to cook, they always look on this shelf first. I think this is such a great idea. We rarely waste food in our house, but there is the occasional bit that slips through the net and this should help prevent it.

We started yesterday with a barley and vegetable soup from the freezer for lunch for my husband, myself and our eldest, whilst the younger two had some plain boiled rice. We were out at a party for tea. Today, my husband and I had pea and ham soup from the freezer for lunch. For tea we’re having home-made oven roasted chips, stuffing, vegetables and some gravy I found in the freezer.

Would you like to join us in our Use It Up Month? Please feel free to join in by commenting below or posting on the Spot of Earth Facebook page.

Or have you had a Use It Up Month in the past? Do let me know how you found it and if you have any tips for us in the comments below.

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