Zero-waste Fail: Fatballs for Garden Birds

Thought I’d be productive this morning so I took the block of lard out of the fridge and started making fat balls for the birds in our garden. During the pandemic, we’ve been getting a lot of grocery deliveries from SuperValu and sometimes they substitute items if they don’t have the right ones in stock. Months ago we ended up with a block of animal “cooking fat” instead of the butter we asked for and it’s been lingering in the back of the fridge since then.

I thought this would be a fun way to use up the fat block and reduce waste but it’s pretty much been a ‘Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmare‘ from start to finish. This cooking fat stuff is vile, I genuinely don’t know how people cook with it regularly. The grease is everywhere – I have about three coats of it on my hands still after washing them several times with as much dish soap as I’d use in a week. And the smell of the fat has permeated the whole kitchen and my Aran wool jumper and is making me feel a bit ill to be honest. No wonder this stuff is so bad for your arteries, I might have to dish-wash my sauce-pot to get the build up of fat off it.

A ‘new’ birdfeeder we found in the attic; it attaches to the glass and has sections for fat balls, seeds and water

I melted the fat on the hob and mixed together the dry ingredients: some oats, peanuts, a few raisins and sultanas, sunflower seeds and a handful of bird seed. The general consensus online is that the dry ingredients should be about 2:1 with the fat. Then I poured in the fat and started mixing it all together.

The Gardeners’ World website suggests shaping the fat balls by stuffing them into yoghurt tubs and cutting them open to reveal a nicely shaped, compacted fat ball. But I don’t have any yoghurt tubs since the whole “zero-waste” thing, so I decided I’d shape it into balls with my hands – this was my crucial mistake. Once that fat goes on your hands, it’s not coming off again. Plus, I don’t know if my mixture was too wet or too dry, but it wouldn’t stick together so I’ve ended up with a tray of “fat crumbs”.

The mis-shapen “fat crumbs” left to set

Well at least the birds will like them.

To be honest, if this has taught me one thing it’s that I’ll stay away from the notion of making soap or candles from cooking oil or tallow. And it’s put me right off my lunch.

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