Let’s have a conversation about Food Waste

What could be more challenging than speaking at a crowded event, chock-a-block with entrepreneurs and mentors? Over 100 businesswomen traveled to south Donegal last week for a Women’s Inspire Network conference. We were rewarded by engaging speakers and presentations, and inspired by their achievements. In some contrast to my own experience, the preceding week.


My local Tidy Towns team had invited me to give a food waste talk, based around the Smart Store Cooking principles. It’s a practiced presentation, well received in recent months, and I was keen to share it with local residents. The tidy towners organised a perfect venue and advertised the event throughout the area. But alas they couldn’t organise the weather, and on Wednesday night we struggled through rain-sodden and windblown streets to get to the venue.


At 7.30pm, the three Tidy Towns folk and I still outnumbered the audience. It was like a theatre, where the play is delayed until the audience is at least as numerous as the cast. We had almost started on time, but the girl who had popped her head around the door had been looking for the Tai Chi class. I had to admire her resilience, it really was a filthy wet night. We finally started with an unofficial quorum of about eight (not counting the organisers of course).


Shortly into my presentation, I wondered if I was on the wrong side of the lectern. My audience was already sensible food management practitioners, with a common dislike of wasting food and they had arrived with pre-packed enthusiasm. I had come to advise, to tutor and explain, but this tiny and resilient group was not only willing to learn, but they were also keen to educate and inform. Yes, they learned from my Smart Store Cooking, but we also enjoyed an uplifting exchange of tips and thoughts. Myths were exploded and new ideas explored. We shared food storage experiences, better ways of planning what to buy and how to cook, all volunteered and discussed. A lecture became a workshop that became a conversation. I came to teach, but I too was taught and they turned a cold, wet and possibly pointless night into a shared event.


I finished the evening in the happy knowledge of people focused on doing more, doing better, wasting less, people inspired too by our Smart Store Cooking book demonstrating that reliable recipes and simple shopping can create great meals and hugely lessen food waste. If the evening wasn’t an education in food management, it was still a fantastic experience of sharing new ideas, challenging perceptions and recognising the need and the possibility of reducing food waste. We all gained insight, and we left at the end of the evening better informed. More importantly, with the certainty that so much is possible with modest changes of habit, that so little effort can save so much.  This is not a solitary mission, it’s a shared journey, no-one has the only blueprint, but I do hope that Smart Store Cooking can guide people on a better path and help people already traveling in the right direction.