Monday, January 2, 2012

Reducing food waste in our home

Food. For six weeks or more each fall and winter, it's all we can think about. Thanksgiving. Holiday parties. Christmas dinner. New Year's Eve parties. And then parties for bowl games and the SuperBowl. It's a lot of calories consumed, not to mention a lot of leftovers wasted. All at a time when our county food pantries are seeing a 25 percent jump in need compared with last year.

And we're not immune in our home. Cooking specialty dishes, coupled with lousy weather, meant far more cans, packages and normally compostable items going into our trash can the last few weeks.

For one week, in our post-Christmas haze, I focused my attention on eliminating much of the food waste in our own home, to see how much unnecessary food waste we could stop among us four. What I found is it's a lot harder to keep on track without a plan.

On typical weeks, we have at least humble attempts at meal plans, but with a fridge half-full with Christmas dinner leftovers and a stomach bug floating through our home, our plans went by the wayside. Instead of planned meals, we had humble fixings, turning instead to simple sandwiches to use up extra meats and breads, cheese and crackers, or other small-plate meals. We did a lot less heavy cooking (fine by me) but often failed to remember to make our meals balanced. It's too easy to forgo a veggie dish if you don't have sliced veggies in hand in the fridge and everything else is a 2-minute prep time.

But the self-imposed pox on food waste made for interesting meal options, too. My leftover eggs from baking, garlic chive butter from Christmas meals, and some sad-looking shitakes and green onions made for a fabulous morning omelet for one. Our leftover veggies made for good low-mein and stirfries, and this morning we're using the last of our breads and eggs for French toast. Our trimmings we redoubled our efforts in piling back on our compost pile, and we made no processed goods.

In all, a week after Christmas, our only things tossed were some gravy, a small bit of roast beef, a bit of cranberry sauce that my kids eschewed, a small plate of leftovers my husband had fixed for work then forgotten (a miscommunication for us both), and the cheesy corn dip from a New Year's Eve party that had to be tossed due to being out for six hours.

I don't believe you can completely eliminate food waste, but you can certainly considerably reduce what ends up in your trash can. It will take a little more planning but well worth it. If it saves me money, saves me time, saves landfill space and saves resources that could be used to feed others, what's not to like?


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ASecureBase said...

It's amazing how much food I used to throw away! Luckily I'm married to someone who will eat all sorts of leftovers for lunch! Even so, it seems we always have some vegetables that go bad by the end of the week. I'll certainly keep your omelette idea in mind!

Robbie said...

You can also freeze the leftovers, and when you have enough toss in a crock pot with chicken bones (or just veggies if you'd like) and water to make stock.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I find the same thing - when I'm making easy meals like sandwiches, etc., I often forget to make it a balanced meal. I need more fresh veggies in the house! But good for you for finding creative ways to use up the rest of your food - the omelet is a great idea :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

That's pretty amazing! I'm always ashamed at how much we let go to waste. I like the idea of prioritizing using it all up.

Hybrid Rasta Mama said...

It always blows my mind how much "kitchen garbage" we have at the end of the week. I try really hard to repurpose leftover food which often times means feeding it to my animals (when appropriate) or freezing it for another time. Glad to see that you are noticing your waste and making strides to remedy it!