Love Food Hate Waste – Cook Backwards

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Cinda Chavich is the author of The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook, a guide to eating locally, choosing seasonal recipes, and making the most of every food dollar. In this guest post, Chavich discusses how the traditional approach of matching recipes to the season is back in style and a great way to stretch your grocery budget, while keeping your carbon ‘food print’ as low as possible.

cinda chavichIf you love good food like I do, it follows that you will figure out where to buy the best stuff, and how to cook it.

That’s how it happened to me. I knew I loved spicy curries, smoky pulled pork sandwiches, creamy risotto, and sweet tomatoes drizzled in olive oil. And I soon learned that, by choosing fresh, local ingredients, I could make these easy dishes at home, and eat well every day – while not wasting my precious raw materials.

Build on the Basics with Traditional Approach

Cooking is a continuum, a skill set that builds the more you do it. It’s smart to learn the basics and have a few “mother” recipes in your back pocket – whether it’s a fritatta, a stir-fry, a stew, a pasta sauce, a risotto or a soup. Then it’s a matter of tasting, trying and improvising, using the best fresh ingredients you can afford and spinning them into something special.

I call it cooking backwards. The true joy of cooking is not slavishly following a recipe, shopping and stressing over every ingredient, but rather creating something delicious with what is at hand, whether that’s at the local market, in your garden or in your fridge.

We once thought of this as old-fashioned, farmhouse cooking, the spring lamb, summer fruit pies, and fall fowl suppers that came with the changing seasons. When North Americans began to discover these rural recipes in the south of France and the Tuscan hills, we called it “peasant cuisine” and suddenly simple home cooking seemed exotic — winter cassoulet filled with preserved duck confit and smoky sausages from the fall butchering, the osso buco stew of braised veal shanks, or the pesto made to preserve the summer harvest of herbs in a rustic minestrone or risotto.


The idea then, as it is now, was to select something seasonal (i.e bountiful and cheap) and honor that ingredient in a delicious dish.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 1.50.22 PMNow we call that “local” cuisine. Sourcing ingredients from nearby farmers, orchards, butchers and bakers, is a trendy idea for top chefs.

But eating locally needn’t be exclusive or expensive – it’s just good home cooking. If we all love our food, treasure the first berries in June and the harvest of sweet summer corn, we will eat better and waste less.

If we know that those corn cobs can enrich the stock for a sweet chowder, or that the husks can be used to steam corn tamales or wrap fish for the grill, they’ll become part of the celebration, before anything gets to the compost bin.

If we roast a fat, free-range chicken from a local farm on Sunday, then used the bones for a rich stock for tomorrow’s chicken soup and shred the breast for a stir fry, we’ll eat well for a week, while keeping our food dollars in the local economy and reducing our carbon “food print.”

Make an Impact as a Food Waste Warrior

waste not want not cookbookMost of us love food and hate to waste it. A small shift in our habits can make a huge impact.

Shop for what’s fresh and in season. Keep a tally of what needs to be used up on a chalk board or move “must eat” ingredients to a clear plastic bin in your fridge. Check that bin and resolve to cook something, before more good food hits the compost.

Get creative. Become a food waste warrior, one meal at a time. You’ll save money and the planet.

And you’ll love what’s for dinner.

Cinda Chavich is the author of The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: save food, save money and save the planet (Touchwood Editions, 2015), filled with ideas, tips and recipes to use up fresh ingredients. Available at bookstores and online booksellers.

For more information, including menus, recipes, food storage tips, and facts
about shelf life and best before dates, visit the Love Food – Hate Waste website:

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