Waste no bread

The Real Bread Campaign sent out a really useful article for Food Waste Action Week with tips on how to make your bread last longer:

  • Don’t slice until cool – Tempting though bread fresh from the oven is, it’s best if left to cool before slicing.
  • Keep wrapped – Once completely cool, put the loaf in a container or bag that will reduce evaporation.
  • Keep cool – The warmer the environment the faster the evaporation, which speeds up staling, but…
  • Don’t refrigerate – Starch retrogradation takes place most quickly at fridge temperature, although deep freezing is fine.

You can also resuscitate a loaf that has gone a bit stale by wetting it slightly and popping it in the oven for 20 minutes. It won’t reverse the process but it will make it more flexible and tasty.

And there’s always toast. We’ve found a week-old sourdough makes for marvellous crunchy toast!

Finally you can of course freeze all our bread. Some people like to slice it first and take what they need from the freezer.

For small bakeries like us there’s the No Loaves Lost initiative to help us reduce the amount we throw away. It boils down to three Rs:

  • Reduce the amount of surplus you generate
  • Reuse any that you do, or redirect it to people
  • Repurpose as animal feed, fertiliser or for energy as a last resort

Over the last couple of years we’ve been trying to ensure we always have bread on the shelves when we’re open, as turning away a customer is a great way to ensure they never return. This has meant we usually have a few loaves and buns left on the shelves, so how do we measure up on food waste?

Firstly, we record our daily leftovers along with our sales and use them to inform the bake quantities. This has gotten much more granular since we switched to the epos till and our spreadsheets are things of wonder.

Secondly, we have regular pickups from the B30 Foodbank and Incredible Surplus who take our leftover bread and distribute it to people who need it. This is usually between 10 and 30 loaves each bake day, depending on the weather.

Sales of sticky buns are totally unpredictable in Stirchley. Sometimes they sell out and sometimes we have a disconcerting amount left, so we often take a bag to our friends along the high street. If you see a plate of cinnamon buns in the Wildcat or Artefact, this is why.

Unsold croissants are left to go stale for a day so they’re perfect for rebaking with fillings, be they savoury on weekdays or sweet on Saturday. Pain-au-chocs are frozen until we have enough to re-bake in a croissant pudding.

Thirdly, there’s the waste we can’t prevent. We have a commercial food-waste bin which takes it to an anaerobic digestion site to generate energy. Alongside this is Pete’s compost bin, for any veg matter and bits of stale bread that didn’t make it to the food bank.

We’re pretty pleased with how this is working on the whole. There’s always room for improvement, but we’re baking more bread and feeding more people while our kerbside pickups are significantly lighter. That’s an all-round win.

More about Food Waste Action Week 2022.

Urban Harvest: Urgent Crowd-funding

Urban Harvest: Help save Birmingham’s fruit from going to waste

Our friends at Northfield Ecocentre need our support. They’re re-launching the fantastic Urban Harvest project originally set up by wonderful Loaf and Stirchley Market supporters Eleanor Hoad and Nigel Baker. As keen wild food foragers at Loaf (next Foraging course – 3 Oct), we know there’s loads of free edible treats in and around urban street, canals, parks and back gardens, and whilst we do our best to pick and use what we can, it’s a crying shame that so much goes to waste each year.

The aim of Urban Harvest is to turn local fruit that would otherwise go to waste from back gardens and public places into jams, preserves and juices, and to give apples and soft fruit away for free to children centres and food banks for re-distribution to individuals and families who could benefit from the good old five a day.

Urban Harvets Logo

Crowd funding – £10,000 needed by Weds 18 Sept!

They’re looking to raise £10,000 to re-launch the project and employ a part time co-ordinator, and need 2000 people to donate £5 (or more!) each to reach their target. The deadline is looming, on Wednesday 18th September, and if the target is not met they will be unable to go ahead.

To donate visit: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/urban-harvest

Urban Harvest

They’re also looking for:

  • Volunteers and drivers to help pick fruit
  • People with fruit trees and bushes who would like their produce picked (tell them how much you want to keep and they’ll use any surplus)
  • People to help promote the project and share the crowd-funding site with friends and families
  • Retailers wiling to sell juices and preserves made with local fruit
  • Local producers who need fruit to make their own preserves etc
  • Children centres, food banks and charities who can re-distribute free fruit to those who need it.

Northfield Ecocentre is working with Martineau Gardens, Urban Veg and Growing Birmingham to deliver Urban Harvest.