Food Waste and The Grocer

As I briefly talked about in my last Fiscal Fast post, there is a serious waste problem going on in our house when it comes to food waste. Sadly, we are not alone by any means when it comes to the amount of food we throw out each year. This Washington Post article claims we throw away some $165 Billion worth of food each year. Billion, with a B. I know hundreds goes in our trash each year and I’ve decided to take a look at why that is, and if there are ways I can stop throwing that food, and money, away and keep it in my pocket.

So what are the typical causes of food waste? In our house we toss old left-overs, spoiled produce, condiments and freezer burned meats and veggies. Let’s start with leftovers. I think we need to make a point to consuming those left overs before they start growing a forest of penicillin. Lunch seems to be our best bet to get these worked into our diet. It seems Marcus and I both only like to eat them for a few days after their freshness and then the staleness of the food starts coming through. I’m hoping we can either make smaller batches of food or find ways to freeze foods we just have too much of. As an example we were given copious amounts of fruits and pulled pork from a family party a few weeks ago. There is about a meal’s worth of pork left that will be tossed today, but in reality that could have been portioned and frozen. The fruit wasn’t so lucky as melon doesn’t tend to thaw very well and ends up mushy. That was a lost cause from the start.

Next we have spoiled produce. Oh, Costco, why do you have to be such a pain in my budget! Often we go to the mecca of Costco and buy enough food to feed the Duggar family. Sometimes its smart stuff like frozen goods or dry goods, but more often than not, its produce that will only be half eaten by the time it goes bad. Example: I have 4 avocados in the fridge that are getting RIPE. We go to Costco because we think it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. But is it really? Not when you factor in the fact that I toss around half of what I buy because it goes bad. Money wasted.

Condiments and other one-meal ingredients are a bane to my fridge space. That fish sauce is a few years old, I know it is. Yet I don’t get rid of it because I might make that squash curry again. In five years…when the fish sauce has become so nasty smelling I can’t even dump it out. This is a more serious waste of food for us, since we like to cook new dishes frequently. I’m very open to suggestions on how to pare down the single-use ingredients that have an entire shelf in the pantry. Someone please tell me how to use up those Panko bread crumbs…

Freezer burn- yum. Nothing quite like the taste and texture of chicken that has been buried deep in the caverns of the freezer for a year. This last problem has an easy solution that I actually was inspired to try from a Mom blogger. Once every few months she pulls as much out of the freezer as possible and cooks with those foods for a week, buying only the necessary ingredients to create a full meal. Given that most of our freezer space is veggies and meat, this should be easy to accomplish for us.

I love watching House Hunters International, partly for the scenery and real-life view of people in Europe and partly because I love hear the hunters complain about the size (or rather lack of) of the fridge and cupboard space in the places they look at. I think we could all benefit greatly by shopping, eating and cooking like many inner city Europeans do. Fresh foods don’t keep so you use them faster. They are also much healthier for you and the planet. Think how much processing and packaging go into many grocery store foods. Now think the same for the head of romaine, the locally made cheese, the butcher store meats. Shopping for locally sourced foods that will be cooked immediately should be a top priority for those of us who are able to do it. Now I do want to mention that processed foods are cheap. This means they are loaded with sugar and other highly subsidized ingredients that are not good for our bodies. I could open a huge can of worms by diving into food cost, people in poverty, etc, but I won’t. This is about how I can save money and keep foods out of the landfills.

In general the fiscal fast is going well for me, so I want to add on another step and start being more conscious of the foods we buy and those we throw away. Can we buy smaller portions? Can we plan our meals around foods we already have? We used to plan meals but have fallen out of that practice for some reason. This next two weeks I want to work on getting more out of the money we put into foods and see if it ha an impact on our bank account and our garbage can. I’m going to take a picture of everything I toss out, as a way of taking ownership for my waste.

Questions about my fast? Suggestions? I’d love your feedback!

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