Aug 08 – Attention further education colleges

So we thought it was just schools that where involved in the Government health drive. Well not any more. Further Education Colleges will be asked to look at developing Healthy FE Schemes that involve their staff and pupils. This will cover everything from drugs and alcohol advice to sexual health and well being.

What about food? I would love to see development sessions for staff to inspire them to good food and information around healthy eating that will add value to their work and lives. Not only that but what about standards for food provided for students in FE settings and a ban on the poor quality vending machines – why should it just be about the schools. If you are a staff member at a FE college or a student lets us know here about the good, bad and ugly of what goes on around food provision in your college.

Rob Rees
Rob Rees MBE is The Cotswold Chef™

Aug 08 – Here’s an update on Get Gloucestershire Cooking…

From September 2008 Get Gloucestershire Cooking reaches out to three of Gloucestershire’s Pupil Referral Units. It will be working with the students and staff to help develop hot school meals cooked by the youngsters themselves and meet all the new standards……fantastic, and inspired by the young people.

Not only that but Get Gloucestershire Cooking will be delivering 20 masterclasses to staff and parents in Early Years settings across the county. It’s never to early to start… I know that there are so many more cooking projects for all ages in the county, it’s time to shout about them and list them here on the blog.

Rob Rees
Rob Rees MBE is The Cotswold Chef™

August Debate: So how we can reduce the amount of food we waste?

What a waste!A recent report estimates that the average Gloucestershire household throws away £420 worth of food every year, and local studies show that food makes up as much as 30% of waste going to landfill. Across the UK householders waste approximately 6.7 million tonnes of food each year.

The report was published by WRAP (Waste & Resource Action Plan), a not-for-profit company backed by government funding which aims to help individuals, businesses and local authorities to reduce waste and recycle more.

What can we all do to still eat wholesome food and reduce the amount we throw away – something which is particularly important when times are hard.

Rob Rees – The Cotswold Chef ™ has been looking back in history, and to the future, to create some guidance. He’s been looking at the cookery books of the past from the 1940s and the trends in history when budgets where tight, communities close and transport lean. Not only that but for many new housewives at the time cooking skills were desperate.

The advice is quite simple. It is time to go back to basics. The tips of our grandmothers and great grandmothers can really make a difference… what quality to look for when choosing meat, how much to budget for as a portion, freezing our leftovers, only purchasing seasonal where possible. Recycling foods safely by cooking dishes like rissoles, shepherds pie and fish cakes and buying our non-perishables in bulk will certainly make a difference. The popular return of the pressure cooker will also help reduce our energy costs, preserve nutrients and still allow us time to cook with our hectic lifestyles. Combine the opportunity to eat healthy foods with our new found need to walk or cycle and shop locally to avoid high fuel costs and we could end up tackling the obesity crisis as well as getting a great food culture back as a consequence of the crunch.

Our biggest challenge will still remain the lack of cooking skills.

It’s time for all of us who can cook to adopt a friend, family member or neighbour who can’t and swap ideas and recipes and inspire each other. In addition so many of us are growing herbs, fruits and vegetables – it’s time to start swapping them and managing how we grow things better in our gardens, boxes and plots so that we have a wider variety that can sustain a balanced diet.

Ideas on how to buy and shop:

  • Start to plan your meals and keep a diary list of them.
  • Incorporate into your home menus dishes that you know will create enough leftovers for a further meal to support all your household on another day
  • Create a shopping list and costing sheet for each of these menus.
  • Allow yourself though to be inspired by the new seasons and try shopping somewhere new to see a wider variety of fresh items perhaps.
  • Bulk-buy non-perishables – such as grains, pulses, pastas, tinned and jarred foods. This will be cheaper and are always useful to have in the store cupboard to bulk out dishes.
  • Remember that a good portion of breads, rice and pasta dishes will fill your children up and so they are far less likely to need to graze on the sweets, biscuits and chocolates that can be expensive and less healthy.
  • Portion control is really important. By aiming for the recommended portion in terms of a healthy diet you can also end up being really thrifty. We have all been spoilt by piling our plates high. A portion of fish is 140g. A portion of fruit/vegetables is 80g. A portion of meat 100g.
  • To control your waste consider shopping at places where you can pick and choose exactly the amount of food you want, e.g. farm shops, markets, greengrocer, butchers, bakers and deli counters of supermarkets and other independent stalls.
  • Understand that as you cook food it shrinks or there is natural wastage such as peelings or cores. Try and estimate the correct sized ordering of meat or fish to match the required final portion. Add into the equation the consideration of do you buy aiming for enough leftovers to create a further family meal or just a few odd bits.
  • A roasted joint on a bone will loose approximately 35% of its uncooked weight during cooking
  • A piece of fish on the bone and skin will loose approximately 25% of its uncooked weight when boning and skinning.
  • Be wary of 2 for 1 deals & buy 1 get 1 free (BOGOFs as they can be known as). Check the deals are in fact a deal! Check the use-by dates on products, as often ‘deals’ can be a way for retailers trying to get rid of items! Also ask your self do you really need the extra item, are you going to use them?
  • Buy whole fruits & vegetables. Often pre-packed, prepared produce has a shorter shelf life. Store them in a fridge (apart from bananas). Left over fruits that are going soft can be blended in smoothies or used in fruit crumbles and fruit cobblers whilst vegetables can make quick salsas.
  • Look out for the, often cheaper, cuts of meat that require perhaps a slower cooking method. These can often be enhanced with tinned, frozen or fresh vegetables and fruits.

For more of Rob’s top tips click on the link at the top of the page, and see Rob’s recipes for some basic money saving ideas. Why not send in your favourite thrifty recipe?