Teaching children about food waste and recycling is a great way to show them how important it is to look after the environment. Make it fun, and not only will it reduce household waste and landfill, it will create good habits that’ll last a lifetime.
From new ways with food waste to recycling hacks and great ideas for budding gardeners, we have some top tips kids will love...
Try your hand at jam
If you can't resist buying gluts of colourful fruit when in season, but end up pushing them to the back of the fridge, fear not. Before those lemons start to mould, use the juice and zest to make a delicious curd – it's way simpler than you'd think. Soft apples can be transformed into sauces, chutneys or crumble-filling. Strawberries are too much of a treat to throw away - whip up a speedy compote or jam. Blackcurrents or blackberries make wonderful cordials or flavoured tipples. Consider if there's pleasure to be had from your fruit before launching it into the bin.
Love your bananas for longer
If you’ve got too many ripe, soft bananas, why not blitz them in smoothies or use to bake banana bread? The riper the bananas, the better. Or try this easy recipe – help the kids chop the bananas into bite-sized pieces, then dip in yogurt and roll in sprinkles. Pop the bites in the freezer and you’ll have a store of mini frozen treats. Another fool-proof way to use up those bananas? Pancakes! You won't need to add any sugar to these, as the banana sweetens them naturally. You may, however, want to drizzle them with maple syrup, chocolate sauce or fruit coulis (which is, incidentally, another thing you can whip up with leftover fruit). Find more great banana recipes here.
Get more out of your crusts
Don’t chuck away any trimmed crusts – they can be used to make eggy bread soldiers or bread pudding. Or get the kids to help you chop them into croutons or whizz into crumbs. Bake the croutons or fry in olive oil until crisp, then add to soups and salads for crunch. Breadcrumbs can be used to top pasta bakes or coat our leftover rice balls (below).
Add life to lunchboxes
For a change from sarnies in kids’ packed lunches, turn leftover cooked veg into mini frittatas by mixing with beaten egg and grated cheese and baking in muffin tins. And pack lunchboxes with raw fruit and veg that doesn’t go off quickly (think carrots, berries, grapes) so that any left over can be eaten after school.
Reuse your rice!
Ever cooked too much rice? Most of us have. No need to throw out last night’s leftovers*, though – use them in egg fried rice, to bulk out soup or to make into rice balls. Mix the rice with peas, ham or herbs, get the kids to roll it into balls the size of a tangerine, then coat in breadcrumbs. Fry or bake until piping hot throughout and serve plain or with ketchup. Tasty!
Really scary recycling bin
Make recycling fun by getting the kids to add scary eyes and teeth made from card to one of your bins so it looks like a monster. They’ll love feeding it ‘rubbish’ to gobble up.
Most kids like design projects, so help them whip up a few ‘how to recycle’ posters to stick on the fridge or cupboard doors. If you have boxes for different types of recycling, they could also make labels for each bin. Include facts such as: ‘Plastic can take up to 500 years to break down’.
Reuse plastic packaging by making a herb planter from the bottom section of an empty soft drinks bottle. Help the kids to cut the bottle** to size and make a drainage hole in the bottom. They can then paint it and decorate it with a face on the front – and sow herb seeds such as basil or chives to grow into ‘hair’.
For the budding gardener
Feed the birds
Use a sharp knife to cut a window out of an empty, clean plastic milk bottle. Add bird seed to come up to just below the bottom of the hole, hang from a tree branch by the handle – and look out for visits from your feathered friends.
Convert your lolly sticks
Don’t throw out used ice lolly sticks – let the kids turn them into labels for plants.
Learn how to conquer compost
If you’ve got space, having a compost heap is a great way to stop uncooked kitchen waste ending up in landfill. Explain to the kids that, as a rule, veg peelings, old fruit and crushed eggshells can be composted, but meat or dairy products shouldn’t. Your compost could even be used to grow your own fruit and veg next year!
*Cooked rice should be cooled (within an hour). Keep in the fridge for no more than a day and make sure it is piping hot all the way through. Do not reheat more than once.
**Always supervise children if allowing them to cut plastic bottles.