A home cook's New Year's resolutions

Danielle Alvarez's panzanella-ish salad makes use of leftover bread.
Danielle Alvarez's panzanella-ish salad makes use of leftover bread. Photo: William Meppem

It was my own fault – I'd left it too late to shop for dinner and was doing the supermarket walk of shame, skulking across the car park, when I bumped into her. An old friend, a keen fellow home cook, she greeted me warmly then glanced into my trolley. Her face fell and I knew she was silently judging my bags full of shrink-wrapped cucumbers, and cold-store tomatoes plastic-wrapped on a styrofoam tray. I felt guilty as hell because I know better than to shop this way. I resolved that 2020 would be the year of shopping, and cooking, mindfully. With many primary producers struggling after our bushfire summer, I'm more resolved than ever. My list of new year's resolutions started short and ended long.

● Less Netflix, more baking.

Whole fish, cooked with bones in and head on, tastes better than fillets.
Whole fish, cooked with bones in and head on, tastes better than fillets. Photo: William Meppem

● Ignore use-by dates and encourage the family to do the same. We have noses, so let's use them.

● Make more gifts. Limoncello, marmalade, loaves of bread, flavoured olive oil or salt.

● Eat my way down my local high street.

Read up on backyard beehives and aim to make this the year.
Read up on backyard beehives and aim to make this the year. Photo: iStock

● Wean myself off plastic produce bags, or at least take the same batch back to the shops again and again.

● Institute some old-fashioned food traditions. Sunday roast. Surprise Wednesday. Friday pizza night. Meat-free Monday.

● Spend some money in bushfire-affected areas, where it really helps. Buy a box of wine from fire-affected vineyards (like Billy Button's bushfire box), and make my next holiday local, with dinner reservations.

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● Learn a new cooking skill.

● Encourage the family to take over the stove. Yes I'm a kitchen control freak, but I've discovered food someone else has cooked for you – no matter what it is – tastes incredibly good.

● Shop more at the local butcher, greengrocer and deli, because where else can I get a perfect rib-eye and a lecture on why I shouldn't eat veal; an avocado "just right for tonight" and enough free samples that I won't need lunch.

Splurge on great butter.
Splurge on great butter. Photo: iStock

● Buy better meat, fish and chicken, but less of it.

● Buy fish more often, but less salmon. Someone once told me that fishmongers know that when a woman in workout gear walks in, they're buying salmon. I love that my local fishmonger has trays of cleaned sand whiting for next to nothing ($6) but the trendier fish are nearly $60 a kilo.

● And cook whole fish, bones in, head on, because they just taste better.

Homemade gifts are on the cards this year.
Homemade gifts are on the cards this year. Photo: William Meppem

● Cook my way through an entire cookbook I love.

● Make better use of leftovers, especially bread, in things such as panzanella, chilli garlic breadcrumbs, savoury bread and butter pudding.

● Generate fewer leftovers – use the chicken carcass for stock, the stale bread to roast under the chook, the carrot tops in pesto, and anything left over from leftovers in the compost.

Janne Apelgren.
Janne Apelgren. Photo: Supplied

● Not cheat on my recycling, returning food containers clean, taking inspiration from people like Montreal, Canada's Tippi Thole, aka Tiny Trash Can.

● Make a road trip to a country town with a good restaurant.

● Splurge on great butter. It's been years since "non-dairy spread" darkened the door of my fridge, and life's just better with butter like Pepe Saya or St David dairy's.

A Bokashi bucket makes the most of food waste.
A Bokashi bucket makes the most of food waste. Photo: Supplied

● Sometimes even make my own butter. It's easy and rewarding and hey, buttermilk for pancakes and scones is a side bonus.

● Go out to dinner on more Tuesday nights and fewer Saturdays.

● Cook a cut of meat I've never tackled before.

● Buy fewer things that come in non-recyclable or gratuitous packaging. Peas and bananas have their own perfect packing for goodness' sake. Why do they need cling wrap and a polystyrene tray?

● Freeze mindfully. And explore the freezer drawer, to the bottom, once a month.

● Up my food grown-at-home quotient.

● Support my favourite independent wine stores because I know I'll find things there I can't at other places. And go visit some of my favourite wineries to say hello as well as spend up.

● Improve my kitchen posture. And if you have to ask, you probably need to too.

● Plant herbs that are just lovely to cook with but less available, like chervil, marjoram and tarragon.

● Keep a dinner diary so great new recipes aren't forgotten once tried.

● Eat outside whenever it's possible: at home, at a cafe, on a park picnic, on the tailgate at the beach.

● Up my probiotic game. A jar of water kefir grains was one of the best gifts I've been given. Next stop, kombucha. Anyone got a mother to share? Can trade for sourdough starter.

● Give up Uber Eats and any similar food delivery service before someone gets killed (seeing those tentative young foreign students wobbling along on motorcycles is terrifying). Oh wait. I don't use Uber Eats. Try to wean offspring off it.

● Drive across town or to the bush for dinner in that place I've always wanted to try. Or to that bakery I've read about. Or that ice-cream joint where they make everything in-house.

● Do some destination food shopping. The fresh food market in another neighbourhood, the Italian grocer where the patrons argue with the smallgoods staff, the continental deli warehouse, the farmers' market.

● Subscribe to a farm or producer that makes lovely things: olive oil, avocadoes, lamb, butter, cheese.

● Have the kitchen knives sharpened, then hone them regularly.

● Stop and shop at the next roadside farm stand I see. Worry about what to do with five kilos of potatoes or a bag of chestnuts when I get home.

● Try to spend some of my money in places where it's doing good for someone apart from shareholders.

● Invest in a bokashi bin for the kitchen, and a birdbath for outside the kitchen window.

● Read up on backyard beehives and aim to make this the year.