A blog by Joanne O’Connell

Joanne O Connell

Beauty and the Bin is a new book by journalist Joanne O’Connell. In this blog, she tells us about the inspiration behind the books and how we can all do our bit to create a plastic-free environment.

I’ve always loved making my own beauty products. As a child, I shook rose petals and water in jam jars to make perfume; popped cucumber slices over my eyes and threw oats and lavender flowers into water to make creamy scented baths.

So, when I came to write my novel for children, Beauty and the Bin, it was so much fun to write about a character, a girl called Laurie Larksie, who loves homemade beauty hacks too. My personal favourite is eating the avocado fruit and then rubbing the inside of the avocado shell on my elbows – instant moisturiser! – which is one that Laurie loves too.

Now the book is being published, I’m even more excited because planet-friendly, #plastic-free, affordable ways to look after our hair and skin are taking off more than ever. The idea of planet-friendly skincare ties in with another main theme of Beauty and the Bin: food waste. In the book, Laurie whips up face serums and hair custards from discarded food that would otherwise end up in the bin. So, with that in mind, as we approach the UK’s first Food Waste Awareness Week (1-7 March), here are my top food waste hacks to help everyone cut food waste at home and help us all to protect the planet.

1. Grow your own herbs, leaves and fruit.

In Beauty and the Bin, the Larksies live in a high-tech, hydroponic growing farm, with cherry tomatoes on the ceiling, leafy greens on the walls and a plum tree behind the sofa. There’s no need to go that far, obviously! But growing a few foods really helps to cut food waste. Easy ideas for children include growing herbs (Basil to make your own pesto, for example, or mint to throw into pea soup) and salad leaves. They grow quickly and children can pick what they need to eat and leave the rest fresh in the soil. No more soggy lettuce at the back of the fridge.

2. Buy only what you need.

Shopping smarter (do you really need that 3-for-2 offer?) is a great start when you’re cutting down on food waste. While kids aren’t usually the ones at the checkout, they can still be empowered to help with this. Get kids to plan a weekly menu, write a shopping list and help the person buying the food to stick to it.

3. Love your leftovers!  

Transforming leftovers into soups, sauces, stews and smoothies can be delicious and save cooking time as well as food waste. Even very young children can have a task in the kitchen – they can mash leftover beans and vegetables for veggie burgers, for example, and older children can chop yesterdays salad into salsa. There are endless recipe ideas! But you can also keep it really simple: get into the habit of adding a tin of tomatoes, vegetable stock and some fresh herbs to turn leftover pasta sauce into a quick, easy soup, for example.

4. Use the lot

If you’re making mashed potatoes, scrub the skin and save the peelings. Splash on some olive oil and pop them in the oven for crispy potato peels. They’re great with salad, dips or as a side with a soup. The same goes for custard – if you only need the yolks, freeze the whites and make meringues; and if no one eats the crusts of the bread, save up the end pieces by putting them in the freezer. Once you have enough, use them to make mini pizzas.

5. Store food like a pro

It’s easy to let food to go off if it’s not kept at the right temperature or if it’s out of sight at the back of the cupboards. Make sure you know where things should go in your fridge, keep the food that’s likely to go off first at the front, and store leftovers in reusable glass jars. They make it super easy to see what’s there. A freezer is also a real help – for example, you can freeze grated cheese to make it last longer.

6. Fun food waste hacks

If you’ve got anything that looks inedible (not mouldy or rotten, just a bit past the smoothie stage), whip it into a beauty product! Quick beauty hacks include mashing a banana with a spoon or oats and a half spoon of honey and applying it as a face mask. Need to clean the kitchen afterwards? Take a lemon – once you’ve used the zest, pulp and juice in a recipe, sprinkle a little baking powder into the sink, and use the cut shell of the lemon to clean the surface and make it sparkle.

Read Helen Mulligan’s review of Beauty and the Bin.