Family Food Waste Activities

Here are some of our favourite screen-free activities for teaching kids about the benefits of making the most of food and protecting the environment.

Quick food waste facts:
  • The average family throws away £720 of food a year.
  • Eliminating food waste in UK households would reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking a quarter of all cars off the road.
  • Young people waste the most food, so by teaching kids how to make the most of food, we can have a big impact.

Activity Ideas

Make a tie-dye t-shirt with vegetable scraps

As well as being a really fun way to spend an afternoon, this activity provides the good opportunity to talk to kids about how we dispose of food waste like vegetable scraps and how this affects the environment.

Food waste shouldn’t go in the general waste bin as general waste is burnt, and as food waste is wet and sloppy it slows down the process and wastes energy.

It is better for the environment to compost it at home or put it in a food recycling caddy, where it will be used to produce electricity and fertiliser.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Food scraps such as: beetroot peel, avocado peel, purple cabbage leaves, onion skins or celery leaves.
  • White vinegar or salt (optional)
  • A large pot, and a smaller pot
  • 100% cotton white fabric
  • Rubber bands (optional, for tie-dye)
  • A strainer or cheesecloth
  1. Make the dye: Choose food scraps depending on what colour dye you want and what you have available. Boil the scraps in water and keep on a rolling boil for 5 minutes, then simmer for 1-8 hours – the longer they cook, the brighter your dye.
  2. Clean the fabric: Add 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts boiling water in a pot. If you don’t have white vinegar, use 1 part salt to 16 parts water. Simmer fabric in this mixture for 1 hour, then rinse in cold water, wring out and dye immediately.
  3. To do tie-dye: Pinch the centre of your shirt and begin twisting until it starts looking like a swirl. Keep going until your whole shirt is a circular swirl (like a cinnamon roll). Hold it in place with large rubber bands.
  4. Dye: Dunk the article of clothing or fabric into the dye. Let it sit for between an hour and a day. The longer it sits, the richer the colour.
  5. Ta-Da! Remove fabric from the dye, wring it out and remove the rubber bands. Wash by hand, using cold water, to prevent dye from coming off onto you or your furniture.
  6. Launder only by hand in a very mild detergent and separate from other items of clothing to avoid staining.

Get cooking!

Cooking with the kids is a great way to enjoy some family time during lockdown, pass on valuable skills and encourage fussy eaters to become more adventurous.

It’s also the perfect way to get them thinking about where their food comes from and how to make the most of it and avoid waste.

For example, there may be parts of fruits and vegetables they didn’t know were edible – such as broccoli stems, leek tops, cauliflower leaves and the peels of fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and squash.

They can become more confident with identifying when foods need throwing away. For example, using their sense of smell or taste to judge if a food past its “best before” date is good to eat – of course, higher risk foods with a “use by” date (like meat and fish) date should never be eaten after this date even if they look and smell fine (unless they’ve been frozen).

Easy waste-busting recipes

No-peel apple or pear tart – A simple recipe for using up leftover fruit, and a great way to show kids that the peels of fruits like apples and pears are edible and tasty.

Mary Berry’s Banana Bread – Ideal for using overripe/black bananas.

Scones – Quick and a good use for sour milk (an ideal replacement for buttermilk)

Pantofala Bread – Perfect for using up ingredients in the fridge such as leftover cheese, cold meats, herbs and veggies.  

Bread pizzas – An easy way to save stale bread and crusts from the bin!

Top tips for cooking with kids
  • Make time. Cooking with kids requires time and patience, and if you’re not in a rush it will be enjoyable.
  • Let them pick the recipe. Provide them with two easy options so the choice isn’t too overwhelming.
  • Be prepared. Setting up the workspace before getting the kids involved will make it less stressful and allow them to focus on the task at hand without distractions.
  • Let them come and go. You want it to feel fun and not like a chore, so if they want to go off and play for a bit – let them!
  • Get them to try lots of little jobs. They might lose interest in a long task before it’s completed, but that’s ok – it’s good for them to have a go at lots of different tasks.
  • Most importantly: accept that there will be a lot of mess and go with it – they’ll be learning in the process!

Make a worm farm

Making compost is the most environmentally-friendly way to deal with food waste and a great way to teach your children about nature and gardening. There are many ways to make compost – worm farms are ideal for food waste and children love it!

What is composting? It is a natural process where food waste and garden waste breaks down into compost, a natural fertilizer that looks like soil. This can be added to house plant pots or garden beds to give plants a nutrient boost.

Worm farms (also known as wormeries) involve a special species of earthworms to compost food waste in a container. They take up take up very little space and the process is clean and odourless. Two high quality products are produced: a rich compost and a strong liquid plant feed. Shop-bought wormeries can be pricey, but it’s straightforward to make one at home. Find out how to make your own wormery and look after and feed your worms.

For more tips on cooking and growing nutritious food with zero waste, sign up to the Replenish project’s monthly newsletter.

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