Food Waste

I used to listen to NPR daily.  It always fed me thought-provoking topics but since I’ve been home with Baby K, I seldom get the chance to listed to my favorite local show, The Pat Morrison show.  Today I listened in and the topic was Food Waste.  They threw out some astonishing stats:

  • Approximately one-third – 1.3 billion tons – of food that is produced for human consumption is lost or wasted each year.
  • About 222 million tons of food is wasted by developed countries like the United States, and that’s nearly as much as the total amount of food produced in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • EVERY DAY, the average American throws away 1.5 pounds of food
  • 4-10% of food purchased by restaurants goes bad or is wasted before it even reaches the consumer.

Crrazy, right?  It got me thinking about what we can do to help minimize waste.  Right now, I have almost an entire 3 lb  bag of oranges that I’m thinking of throwing out because they’re tart and very untasty.  I also have a big bowl of rice that I made too much of that I’ll probably toss too.  My mom always instilled in us that it’s bad to waste food.  I think it’s particularly hard for her to waste food because as a child (or young adult, maybe?), she recalls having to wait in line to get food rations in India.  It’s never sat well with me to toss food but I haven’t been particularly good about making sure we use up food.  Recently we’ve been better, mostly because I’m eating lunch at home more often.  Refrigerator clean up crew of one, I guess.

Here are a few quick things I think we all can do that can help us reduce our food waste:

  1. Plan Meals and then stick with the plan.  Use your meal plan to make your grocery list and then only buy what’s on the list.  And for goodness sake, don’t go to the market hungry!  You’ll buy a bunch of crap you don’t need!  The meal plan lets you figure out how much food you’ll need, and as you become more experienced, you figure out what leftovers look like.  Also, if you have left over ingredients, you can incorporate them into the following week’s meal plan and use up more!
  2. Buy more produce than packaged foods.  At one point, this would have encouraged food waste for us because we wouldn’t have cooked and then all that produce would go bad.  In comparison, a can of soup lasts for a long time, so I wouldn’t need to worry about it.  But now, if I buy produce, I’m only buying what I need.  And if the plan changes, I can use that produce for something else.  Also, with packaged foods, you have to buy an entire package of whatever you need – how many times have I bought yeast, needing only a pinch, yet had to buy a whole pack.  Then the yeast dies.  The package ends up in the trash.
  3. Embrace your freezer.  I used to cook more from a formula than a recipe, which meant that I bought rarely used foods and then tossed what I didn’t need.  Now what I try to do is figure out if there’s a way to freeze something and use it later.  This was a habit I picked up when I started making homemade baby food.  So now instead of throwing out the rest of the chipotle peppers, I freeze them and take them out as I need them.  Same thing with broth, tomato paste, herbs, etc.  My mom actually chops and freezes spinach and then uses the frozen spinach for soups and mixed vegetables!
  4. Don’t buy the big pack just because it costs less – Damn you Costco, I’ve fallen prey to your marketing ploy over and over again.  Are you REALLY going to get through that 2 gallon container of tartar sauce?  SHOULD you get through that 2 gallon container of tartar sauce?  Mayo gets me everytime with this.  The small jars cost about the same as the large jars.  But I never finish the jar because they expire within a couple months.  Same happens with corn tortillas – I need a dozen.  But 12 costs more than 36!?  Why!?  Just buy what you need.  I find that frustrating with produce sometimes.  I need a tablespoon or two of parsley but i have to buy the whole bunch.  So then I’m trying to figure out what to do with it.
  5. Challenge yourself to minimize your food waste.  Being aware of what you’re tossing is the first step.  I read, a blog by a gal who actually takes a picture of the food that’s gone bad at the end of the the week and over time, she’s gotten better and because she posts it for the world to see, she’s more diligent about wasting less.  Nothing like some public humiliation to encourage good behavior!  🙂

I think we can all do better.  Like so many other things, it just takes a little effort.  What do you do waste less food?

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