Actually, that’s not strictly true. I’ve been inspired by the Use’em-Up since we were housebound last March, and the weekly food shop was suddenly forced to accommodate extra meals as breakfast lunch and dinner were all to be eaten en-famille around the kitchen table. That’s not even counting ingredients for Cake-of-the-Week; a lockdown staple which has outlived social distancing (if the current predictions at the time of writing are correct).
A combination of this shift in food quantity and the regular reading of fellow columnist Manda Tudge’s Carbon Chronicles has caused me to reflect on food waste and embark on a new regime of meal prep, now fondly referred to as ‘The Use‘em-Up’. And what an unexpected delight it has been; I now scorn sell-by dates and go purely by smell and texture. Sweaty ham? No thank you. Slightly hardened ham? Perfect for chopping into some droopy green beans, a tin of tomatoes and a few cloves of garlic for a Middle Eastern-inspired supper. A weekend roast no longer seems profligate for a family of three when I can enjoy it in the knowledge that at some point in the following week, we’ll be dining on a bastardised Chinese style chicken fried rice and lunching on chicken soup – aka Jewish penicillin.
Moreover – and perhaps this is its strongest selling point – Use‘em-Up helps relieve the tedium of deciding what to cook. It’s a daily challenge, my own private version of Ready Steady Cook, but instead of a shopping bag of random ingredients, I am forced to puzzle a delectable dinner out of half a packet of feta, a handful of soggy spinach and leftover rice. Sometimes I cheat and search up my disparate selection, adding the word ‘recipe’ on the end. A squeeze of lemon and a tin of chickpeas added to the above yielded Spanokorizo – or Greek Rice (the chickpeas were my attempt to bulk it out a bit so please don’t @ me). We might have been grounded in Oxford but our culinary adventures have taken us around the world.