Making sensible choices about food boosts your health and pocket!

Food waste
Salads are high on the food waste list but they are also relatively easy to grow in your own garden

FOOD WASTE costs the average Irish household EUR700 every year – that’s a whole load of cash to just chuck in the bin!

I’m trying to think about all the things I could do with that kind of money, like putting it towards a family holiday or sorting out something in the house (the front windows need painting) or the garden (there’s an endless list there).

Earlier this week, Becca (8) and I attended the launch of a Community Food Initiative by Ballyhoura Development in the Co Limerick village of Caherconlish, to discover how we could have more ‘food sense’ in the future, for the benefit of our family’s health and pocket.

Millennium Centre
Millennium Centre in Caherconlish, Co Limerick

The day, which included arts and crafts, facepainting, and child-friendly healthy treats, took place in the lovely Millennium Centre, which I thought was pretty fitting, seeing as how I was hoping it would help me guide our family to a new phase of smarter eating.

Stop Food Waste

The two of us set off from home not sure what to expect but within minutes of arriving a local woman stopped to ask us if Becca was going to “see the clown”.

Becca and the friendly clown

Now, Becca had recently attended a Beaver Cubs sleepover where a bunch of small girls had scared themselves witless by telling late-night stories about a Scary Clown, so she was suddenly dubious about heading inside. But holding my hand, she ploughed ahead, and one of her first encounters was with a very non-scary clown who painted a butterfly on her face and made her a blue balloon dog – clowns are now back on her list of things to like.

My first conversation in the centre was with Donal O’Leary from Stop Food Waste which, as the name suggests, is all about learning to shop more sensibly and reducing the amount of food that goes to landfill.

The EUR700 figure comes from them and here’s another disturbing piece of information – a third of the waste we throw away every year is food! That’s a startling statistic!

Food Waste
Stop Food Waste tips help households save money

Donal told me that there were a whole range of ways to change your habits, but the one I found most fascinating was making a food waste diary. It would be similar to food diaries people create as part of weight loss plans, but in this case it’s about keeping a record of the food you throw away. Genius!

He’s also encouraging people to plan ahead before shopping, by deciding early what meals they are going to make and by sticking to a list. And, never go shopping when you and/or your children are hungry because that encourages impulse buying.

I thought another really useful suggestion was to retain all your shopping receipts to see some real evidence on how you are benefiting from changing your habits.

There’s a whole raft of information available on shopping tips, food storage, cooking with leftovers and composting that are designed to help families waste less. You can visit the website to learn more.

Healthy eating habits

We also spoke to dietitian Anne Griffin who said that encouraging children to develop healthy eating habits is the key to future good health. I guess it’s a bit like putting money into a savings account for them, except the long-term benefits would be healthy weight, cholesterol and blood pressure levels instead of a fat balance (although both would be good).

“If you can teach children healthy eating habits then they will carry those habits throughout their lives,” she says.

One of her areas of expertise is fussy eaters, and as luck would have it I had a fussy eater (sweet tooth, no undisguised vegetables) with me, but I felt happier when Anne told me that by encouraging Becca to cook and to make her own fruit smoothies we were moving in the right direction. I’m convinced that she’s inherited her sweet tooth and her ‘little but often’ appetite from her Grandad Robinson, and it’s hard to fight genetics.

You can visit Anne’s website to learn about the advice and services she offers by clicking here.

While we were mingling we visited food tutor Liz Hennessy’s stall where I sampled a slice of her banana wrap, which was made very simply by smearing a wholemeal wrap with good quality peanut butter, and then using that to wrap a banana before cutting it to make bite-size treats. I loved it but while Becca loves bananas she’s not a fan of peanut butter so I’m thinking I might find another filling for her.

What she REALLY loved were the frozen lollies made from half bananas dipped in dark chocolate. They were absolutely delicious, and so easy to make that we’re going to have a shot at it later today.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

While we were sampling foods, Donna Cleary of Ballyhoura Devt was screening a talk by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to a US audience, at one point tipping out a wheelbarrow load of sugar to reveal how much sugar American schoolkids consume annually in flavoured milks. It was a pretty stark message and it even made an impact on Becca.

“Access to good, fresh, nutritious food is every child’s human right. It’s easy to agree with this, but the reality is an astounding 41 million children under the age of five are overweight or obese, while another 159 million kids are too short for their age. None of these children are growing healthily. Jamie is calling on us all to join a global Food Revolution in order to provoke debate and inspire real, meaningful, positive change in the way our children access, consume and understand food,” says Oliver’s food revolution website.

Grow Your Own food

Our final stop was at the Grow It Yourself (GIY) stand where Claudia Coleman showed Becca how to made an egg head with cress seeds (cotton wool in half a shell topped with cress seeds and watered) and also helped her plant some salads.

GIY has become a phenomenon since it was founded by Waterford-based author Michael Kelly in 2009 when he decided it made more sense to grow your own food. Today, I would imagine there are very few people who haven’t heard of GIY and it’s definitely introduced lots of people to the joy and satisfaction of tasting home-grown food.

We’ve had our own peas and spuds almost annually for the past few years, although our latest effort is producing disappointing results, that said, we’re having great luck with fruit this summer.

[Quick aside here – if you’re looking forward to making conserve with your first-ever home-grown raspberries don’t send 11-year-old Ava to pick the fruit as she’ll only return with an empty bowl and a full belly!!]

To learn more about how to get involved in what is described as “an emerging global community” just click here.

Griston Bog
Becca takes a walk on the wild side

After a lovely time in Caherconlish, Becca and I headed towards home, making a short detour at Ballylanders to visit Griston Bog, which I’d previously blogged about and which is well worth a visit with its wooden walkways and spacious bird hide. We just chilled and looked for butterflies and flowers listed on the guide signs at the bog, mentally ticking off the ones we were able to identify. We’re now planning to take Ava there before the girls return to school next month.

Thinking back on the entire day, I’ve decided to start being smarter about food waste – it’s not enough to feed leftovers to our various pets or turn them into soup/stew, I want to reduce our shopping bill – and I’m going to be bolder about the foods we try to grow from now on!! I’m also going to encourage the girls to cook more often to find more healthy foods they like to include in meals.

You can read what I’ve previously written about food waste and how it costs us cash. You can also check out my other blogging efforts or follow me on Facebook and Twitter by clicking now. The blog also includes some of our favourite recipes and we’re always interested in getting more!



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