'My mother used to say 'Waste not, want not!' and I haven't wasted food ever since!

Monica Dyson portrait. Picture Scott MerryleesMonica Dyson portrait. Picture Scott Merrylees
Monica Dyson portrait. Picture Scott Merrylees
I was both horrified and mystified to read that the average household in the UK wastes around £500 a year in unwanted food!

It seems that we are cooking or preparing too much or don’t use food that we have bought in time before it goes off.I don’t know if it’s a generation thing, but you know, I don’t ever waste food and I suspect most people around my age are exactly the same, planning a careful and nutritious menu for the week ahead.Growing up after the war, we developed a healthy respect for ‘waste not, want not’ which was something our mothers would say to us when we dared to turn up our noses at the meal in front of us.Rationing lasting fourteen years made things difficult for mothers to feed their family properly. They certainly were not going to pander to picky eaters and so we ate what was put in front of us without complaint as we knew that we would go without if we didn’t eat it. We played outside a great deal and so were always hungry. If money was tight, potatoes were a staple part of the meal, and we could always fill up on bread and jam.It was quite usual to have three square meals a day, but Sunday was the day when mothers spent most of it in the kitchen, starting with a big breakfast when everything was fried. It was believed that fat ‘lined your chest’ against coughs and colds and the rigours of winter. There were always lots of potatoes, and plenty of vegetables especially if we grew them in the garden. I remember with horror tapioca, semolina or sago milk puddings. They were a disgusting way of inflicting punishment on children as far as I was concerned, but if mother had made an apple pie or bread and butter pudding now that was different. With lashings of lovely bright yellow Birds custard!Food was never wasted. There was always enough meat and vegetables left from the joint for the meal on washday Monday, which was traditionally cold meat and chips or ‘bubble and squeak’ That was a real favourite, especially the burnt bits on top!I think the reason that there was no food waste, even though there were few people with a fridge, was that housewives had become so adept at producing meals out of very little for the whole of the food rationing years. Rationing only finished completely in July 1954, although, much to our delight, sweet rationing came to an end earlier in 1953.But you know what, rationing has been over for a very long time, and there are people in our city who go hungry, relying on foodbanks to give their families a meal.Where is it all going to end? When we read that homelessness in Sheffield has plummeted by 60% in the last five years, mostly due to the lack of affordable housing, we wonder what exactly happened to the ‘Never had it so good’ that politicians promised in the 1950s.With a budget of £60m a year for space exploration, and a projected bill of billions to finalise the Brexit divorce, I have a feeling that most people would prefer the money to be spent on making their lives better. Surely, it’s not rocket science (no pun intended!) to put food and housing as a top priority?

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