War On Waste

Apprentice star Saira Khan is backing a campaign to encourage people to waste less food.

Posted: 29.06.12

When you’re doing the weekly shop it’s so easy to over estimate what you actually need to buy. Not only does this affect you financially, (the average family wastes £13 a week on food, totalling £300 per year,) it creates shocking levels of food waste.
91% of families admit to throwing away food – a fact that struck a cord with Apprentice star and businesswoman Saira Khan, which is why she’s joined a campaign to get families to stop and think about how they shop, and how they treat food.
Momtaz Begum-Hossain asked Saira, what we can all do to make a difference.

The average family wastes £300 per year on food they throw away, why is this?
We’ve had it too good for too long. Food has always been cheap so we’d buy it, throw it away and think it doesn’t matter, which is a very unhealthy way to think. But people are now tightening their purse strings, and as the cost of food increases they are becoming more conscious of how they spend.
I’m a businesswoman so I’m used to being aware of how money is spent – I want to get the best value so I budget and use coupons. You notice the cost of food even more when you have children as your family shop increases.  

50% of waste is vegetables, often leftovers from children – what can be done to make children eat their greens?
I always mix greens up with other vegetables and that’s how I encourage my children to eat them up. So I might mix spinach with sweet potato or peas with sweetcorn – it’s how you present the food that will entice them. Another aspect is taste, adding a bit of flavour makes food more interesting so I might add curry powder to broccoli so the kids enjoy their food more.

What about leftovers, can they really be used again?
People underestimate how much you can. Last night I made a tomato sauce, we had some leftovers so I gave it to my daughter with pasta for lunch today. Most things can be used again for example I often re-cook vegetables and potatoes into a hash as a side dish. And of course you can freeze your food too if you can’t finish it at once.
You can also reduce leftovers but not creating them. Parents underestimate how much food a child can eat – their stomachs are not the same as children. We need to get children to tell us when they are full. Give them a little and let them ask for more, rather than heaping food onto their plates.

As Asians we have a culture of having food piled on our plates, especially when we visit friends and family. How can we say no, without offending them?
It is strange that we have a mentality of stocking up plates but don’t want there to be any waste! It’s an issue we need to start talking about. But Asian food freezes well – you could always ask for a doggy bag and finish the food later.
I like to make big pots of curry and freeze them so that my husband can re-heat them when I’m away. The easiest method is to defrost them the night before so they are ready for warming when you’re hungry.

Is food waste a problem that just affects Britain?
Asian families are actually better at not wasting food than other British people. The campaign I’m supporting is about Britain, but I’ve seen for myself just how different things are in Pakistan for example it’s normal for leftovers to be distributed to the poor. The food there is appreciated as being necessary for survival where as here, we don’t know how fortunate we are.
I grew up in a culture where food was never wasted and that’s why the values of the campaign are so close to my heart.

It’s so easy to be attracted to the special offers at supermarkets, should we just ignore the ‘Buy One Get One Free’ deals?
The key is in the planning by writing a shopping list. If you plan out what you intend to eat every day for a week, you’ll realise what you need to buy, and what you won’t need. I do one big online shop a week and when it comes to special offers, I go for them if they are items I would normally buy. For example I always use frozen vegetables and fish fingers so if they were on offer I would stock up on them. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t be exotic, it’s good to try foods you wouldn’t normally buy too!

You’re a big supporter of freezing food – does it really make a difference?
One of my favourite things is freezing fruits – I made a raspberry pavlova recently with frozen raspberries and it tasted just as good. We just need to change our habits – if you’ve not tried freezing fruits before, then give it a go. When I was younger my parents grew a lot of herbs like coriander which can also be frozen too. In fact I actually have two freezers – one for my essentials and one in the garage where I store all my veg! People think frozen veg aren’t as good as fresh but that’s not true, freezing retains nutrients better and tastes exactly the same. Of course there’s no harm in saving a bit of freezer space for some ice-cream too!

Saira Khan has teamed up with Birds Eye to help people save money and reduce food waste. Visit www.facebook.com/birdseye for her top money saving tips when it comes to savvy food shopping and delivering nutritious convenient teatime meals.

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