Store cupboard chic

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With more of us struggling with shopping and finding time to reduce waste during lockdown, Viola Hou, London-based vegan food blogger

@thesunshineeatery provides five easy tips on reducing waste and making delicious meals out of what you already own!

As a passionate eco-advocate, I am keen to use my voice for good and to show how every one of us can do their part towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly way of living. Since I started The Sunshine Eatery it has grown from simply being about delicious and nutritious food to becoming more focused on leading an overall healthy and sustainable lifestyle, inside the kitchen and out, from zero-waste shopping to fair fashion.

During these unprecedented times of staying home there have been new struggles, whether that’s food, makeovers, or the strange feeling of being excited about finding toilet paper! However, I encountered more daily issues like being unable to find staple ingredients, keeping food varied and interesting, staying on top of what’s in the fridge, and struggling to avoid single-use plastic at local shops.

The Sunshine Eatery’s five tips to help reduce waste and to make the most of what you already own:

BULK IS BEAUTIFUL

SHOP LOCAL, BUCK PLASTIC

We all have a tin of beans or half-full pack of rice sitting in the back of our cupboard, right? Trust me these can be transformed into filling, nourishing meals. Best of all they don’t go off and are also surprisingly cheap! Here are just a few ideas of how bulk foods and non perishables can be your best friends:

— Chickpeas: Hummus, Falafels, vegan “tuna” sandwich, baked until crispy as salad topping

— Black or pinto beans: Mexican salad with tomatoes, coriander, red onion, corn and jalapeno

— Rice: Coconut rice pudding with mango

— Dried lentils: Why not try my red lentil curry (see recipe)

Quarantine has put immense economical stress on small businesses, which is why I try to shop almost exclusively at local fruit & veg shops. Not only are you supporting the owners to sustain their businesses but it’s actually a great way to limit the use of plastic as most produce comes unpackaged at these stalls. Make sure to bring your tote and a few cotton or paper bags when you go.

SCRAPS = SCRUMPTIOUS

Did you know that you can regrow certain vegetables simply by placing them into a jar with water? Scallions, pak choi, lettuce, celery, you name it. By soaking the ends of these veggies in water, the vegetables start to grow new roots and leaves! Another great and quite ancient way of preserving vegetables is fermenting.

All you need is salt and time. Simply slice your cabbage or vegetable of choice, massage with salt until the vegetables release their juices and soften. Pack tightly in a jar, pushing the air bubbles out occasionally as it ferments on your kitchen counter and voila – delicious kimchi or sauerkraut which are natural probiotics, so great for your gut as well.

Additionally, rather than throw away cauliflower fronds, broccoli stalks, or other leaves, always use the entire vegetable. You can blitz herb stems to make pesto or hummus and the stalks of kale, broccoli, etc. can be blended up into a soup. In doubt, always make soup out of your veggie scraps!

GET CREATIVE

We all know how difficult it is to make just enough food at once without leaving any leftovers. But they can actually be turned into entirely new meals – with even less prep! Use your leftover rice to make fried-rice; leftover beans to make burger patties; old veg can easily be turned into delicious rice noodle Stir-Fry (see recipe); overripe fruit can be frozen and used in smoothies; black and spotty bananas can be transformed into Banana bread (see recipe). There are a million ways of creating new meals by using leftovers!

LEFTOVER MAKEOVERS

Since the start of lockdown it seems everyone has turned to baking, which inevitably led to a shortage of flour across the entire country. But whether you can’t find the ingredient you’re looking for in store or you don’t want to wait in line just to pick up one item, there’s many ways of substituting ingredients.

— Make oat flour by blitzing up regular oats in a blender or food processor. They’re also naturally gluten-free and can be used as an egg substitute.Use nut or seed butter instead of oil. By using nut butter or tahini, you get the fiber, protein and micronutrients, while still having enough fat to give your baking its moisture and great taste.

Maybe add some peanut butter into your pancake batter next time instead of coconut oil? Try my tahini & jam granola (see recipe), which uses tahini for a boost of healthy fats, zinc and calcium, and the remains of your half-eaten jam jar for sweetness.

“ I come from a culture where coffee & cake breaks are part of your daily ritual. However, I wanted a healthier alternative that is free from refined white sugar and flour but still feel as scrumptious, which is how this cholate chip banana bread was born. I’ve made this banana bread countless times and it’s my most loved recipe by colleagues and friends.”