The Upside of Wasting Food

Over the last five years or so, I’ve been whittling away at a bunch of the areas of our lives where we are wasteful or unkind to the earth.  It started with an electric car and cloth diapers and has spread into so many things we use and do.  I make homemade dishwasher detergent and bathroom cleaner.  I hardly use paper towels.  I try to use reusable containers instead of foil, saran wrap, etc.  One area that continues to eat at me is food waste.

I will say that we’ve cut back dramatically on food waste just by eating at home more.  I am happy to say that one of my original goals from when I started the blog was to eat dinner at home at least four nights a week.  It’s kind of crazy to think that we were eating out THAT much that it was a goal for me to eat at home four days a week.  These days we go out for dinner maybe once or twice a week and it’s no big deal.  Actually, what is kind of a big deal for me is to figure out what I can make that everyone in the house will enjoy. All this experimentation results in food waste.  My kids aren’t super open minded when it comes to trying new foods.  Sometimes I look at what my family has eaten over the course of a day and I feel like a failure.   It’s a terrible feeling to think that you’re failing your family.  But I keep trying.

Today I was cleaning out the refrigerator since tomorrow is garbage day.  It had been a few weeks since I dug through the back of the fridge so there were several containers that needed to be cleared out.  In fact, I was pretty much out of containers with lids so I knew I needed to do it.  It was like a jab to my gut everytime I opened a container and dumped out the contents.  A cup of pumpkin.  A small container of sweet potatoes that no one cared for.  Left over rice and dahl.  Millet that I probably wouldn’t salvage.  A bit of arugula that didn’t get eaten in time.  Some questionable looking strawberries.   It was a lot this week.  But then I started thinking about it and realized there was an upside.  Pretty much everything that I threw away was a small left over portion of something I had tried.  And pretty much everything was a whole food that I was throwing out.  Years ago, I remember always throwing out produce because I never got around to making the things I thought I’d make.  Well now I’m making them.  The pumpkin was what was left after I made pumpkin muffins for the girls to snack on.  The sweet potatoes were left after I attempted to mash them but no one cared for them.  Most of the strawberries were eaten; just a few were left because I had bought a large container and then my mom brought more.  And I’m also noticing that more and more of the trash we produce is organic waste (which reminds me, it’s time to get back on the compost train!!!) – so instead of having overly processed foods, we’re eating more real foods, in general.  We’re not entirely where I wish we were, but you know what?  We’ve made great progress in the last five years.  It’s only Tuesday this week and already I’ve put my wok, food processor, blender, and slow cooker to work.   And don’t get me started on how badly my knives need to be sharpened from constant use!  So, no, food waste isn’t a good thing but I will say that this week it helped me recognize that we’re eating better AND it reminded me that I really am trying to feed my family healthy foods.  It’s not a failure.  It’s a step along the path of a journey.  I’m going to keep at it.

Side note:  Today my five year old literally started crying when she saw what I had made for dinner.  Real tears, folks.  I had tried a new recipe for Crunchy Stir Fry Zen Bowls (I thought they were beautiful looking and they tasted pretty good to me!) and asked her what she would like instead.  She said she wanted to make her own dinner.  “Out of what?” I asked.  “Apples, cabbage – I want purple and green both, and cucumbers and I want a tortilla to put it in.”  Huh.  Really?!?!?  I put some spinach on her plate along with a whole wheat tortilla, some apple slices and the cabbage she asked for and she stuffed it into an overflowing burrito and she ended up eating the majority of it.  Her meal was healthier than the one I had made for her!  So ya, we threw away some food but there was a bigger portion that went into her growing body.

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