Waste not, want not is a mantra that I can't say I've lived by. With two children, a full-time job and an appetite some distance past hearty, a fully stocked fridge and freezer has been a great comfort. Until four weeks ago, that is, when it broke. Expensively, comprehensively.
A fully stocked American-style fridge/freezer can hold £300-worth of food – throwing it all away after it spoiled (why do appliances always break when you're out?) was heartbreaking.
But it has taught me a valuable lesson. Due to a woeful service contract and a cashflow problem, I have now existed for a month without refrigeration – and the result is healthier meals, smaller bills and very little waste. Where once I'd buy the biggest chicken and stash the leftovers and carcass for future meals (but all too often throw the unused bits away), now it's a small chicken with, at best, a couple of wings for the school lunchbox the next day. Milk is bought in single pint bottles instead of litre ones that go off before we can use them. We rely on veggies much more, too, because they don't spoil and the foxes don't seek them out with quite the same urgency when stashed in the "larder" (for which read back garden).
Managing without a fridge is not a long-term solution, but this interesting, if unplanned, experiment has cured me of the "big shop" mentality. There will be no more freezing "forgotten" sausages as they approach their sell-by date, only to find them, frostbitten, a year later. I always felt sickened by tossing out hard/soft/green produce.
Tomorrow, a smaller appliance arrives and I'm determined not to fall into the same trap of throwing away 20 per cent of my food purchases. I'm lucky to live near shops where I can buy fresh produce every day – but if you can, try it for even just a weekend. When it comes to food now, for me, less is more.