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Tips for Less Food Waste

December 5, 2012

I will admit it: I am not a white glove housekeeper. (One of my childhood friends had a father who actually put on white gloves to check on her dusting. I would fail miserably.) But even my refrigerator was crying to me for some help a few weeks ago and I spent the better part of an hour cleaning containers

What I found was pretty disturbing in itself: I had a lot of containers of food that were growing mold.

As bad as that is, I realize I am not alone. Perhaps you have the most pristine frig and use everything in a timely manner, but I bet most of us have a container or two, behind the tall bottle or jar, that just goes unnoticed….and soon you have something that would be a great bio lab experiment.

But, here’s the deal: This is a real problem and while I could already surmise that the U.S. would top the wasteful list, it’s a global issue.

moldy_strawberry_sThe Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology commissioned an in-depth study on food waste which revealed that 30% of the world’s food supply is lost or wasted. This waste occurs at every step in the food chain from agricultural production to processing to distribution and consumption. The more industrialized the nation, the further along on that chain, the waste occurs. And at the consumption level, which is the stage I’m talking about in this post, the most wasted items are fruits and vegetables.

Think of the impact.I’m not going to chide you about the people in other countries who are hungry but if you realize you are wasting 30% of your own food budget, maybe you will try to be more careful. Here are a few suggestions:

article-new_ehow_images_a02_6d_ck_clean-kitchen-trash-can-800x8001. Begin to notice what’s in your trash. Start paying attention to what you throw away and share that information with your household. Get your kids involved documenting it for a full week and then put together a plan to adjust your purchases accordingly. (This goes way beyond food items.)

2. Inventory your pantry and your refrigerator.  Move older items to a visible place in the front.Make sure your refrigerator temperature is low enough.  That will slow bacteria growth without freezing your food.

3. Make a meal plan ahead of time to ensure you use what you have on hand. This will also help you avoid supermarket “three for two” specials designed to drive consumption. And everyone knows the bit about not shopping when hungry!

amish_pantry24. Learn to save food by canning, freezing or dehydrating. Freezing is also great for nuts, leftovers and bulk purchases. And if you cook enough to take something to work for lunch the next day, do it!

5. Put pressure on your children’s  school to have outdoor playtime before they eat. That way the kids aren’t tossing their lunches in the trash in order to get to four square and the swing set.

6. Find ways to use the whole vegetable; carrot tops, beet, radish, and kohlrabi greens. Learn how to use wilted veggies in an appetizing way.  This can be fun and you’ll end up with some new specialties.

7. Find useful substitutes for those items required for your recipe that you might not use again. (That jar of chutney was never opened again…..)

potatosack8. Share. If it’s a better deal to buy a larger quantity, try to find a friend who’ll split it with you.  After purchase, when you have a big quantity, send some to a neighbor or have them over for a meal.

9. Compost the peels, coffee grounds, egg shells and other items that you don’t use to make stock..Compost-Bin-Kitchen

10. Because it’s so easy to go in and get out quickly, buy seasonal food several times a week at the Wild Ramp or directly from farmers. I’ll bet you saw that coming!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2012 12:41 pm

    A pig and two hens for every household! I had this same problem when I lived in the city. Since moving to the country, we happily convert our scraps to protein via the hogs, chickens and sometimes even the dogs and cats. I used to make stock out of all my vegetable scraps when trimming them for another dish. Then I would freeze it or can it for later use. Composting is a good way out for cityfolk. Coffee grounds can be used as medium to grow your own mushrooms too. But also check your ordinances, some corporations are permitting backyard hens these days!

  2. December 5, 2012 12:43 pm

    We noticed when we were last out in Oregon that many people had chickens. There are some towns here in WV that permit them, although there are restrictions on roosters.

  3. December 5, 2012 1:15 pm

    Where can a city folk get a compost bin like the one pictured?

  4. December 5, 2012 4:51 pm

    My fridge routinely gets like this too, and my freezer might be even worse – I haven’t been down to the bottom of the chest freezer in at least a year…I really need to do the inventory thing, at least for the freezer. Pantry might also be a good idea – I recently did a spate of phone calls to customer service lines for various companies (peanut butter, condensed milk, other stockpiled staples) to find out about best before dates – the condensed milk had a best before date from 2001…it felt horrible throwing a full can out like that. The waste of the food and the energy, the packaging, the waste of money. I’m thankful I have chickens and compost to take care of the bulk of the beyond useful leftovers from the fridge.

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