Friday, October 8, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

I couldn't help but be amused by Alison's post over at the Green Phone Booth the other day on her borderline pathological aversion to wasting food. Alison writes that her dislike of wasting food has led her to eat when she's not hungry, ignore sell by dates, and otherwise risk serving friends and family a delicious serving of pollo y coli.

Personally, I feel Alison's pain. I hate wasting food as well. AND I do think that, in many cases, those sell by dates ARE ridiculously short. Come on. Eggs last forever. And that guacamole isn't actually BAD, it's just oxidized. You can cut the mold off that piece of cheese and the rest of it should be fine. Ditto for that bread.

I think we are a little too paranoid about our food spoiling.

BUT, at a certain point, you have to let go and throw that rotten food out.

So what do you do?

Well, I, like Alison, have a compost bin. So at least I can take some comfort in knowing that my rotten food isn't going into the dumpster.

Composting is better than sending food to the landfill. But better still would be to reduce: reduce my food waste, reduce my food bought and produced.

Except ....


First of all, we are a two person household. Which means that, frankly, a small tub of hummus can last two weeks and that's if I eat a good amount of hummus every day. Sometimes, I don't want to eat the SAME THING every day. But, I do love hummus, and I like having it around to put on my sandwiches, and to snack on with carrots.

Second of all, my boyfriend receives free lunch at work. So any leftovers get eaten by me. Who is one small person. The other day, my boyfriend came home, and we made some quick pasta with veggies that had been sitting in the fridge for a week. All part and parcel of my continual efforts to not waste. He proceeded to not eat his dinner because apparently he had eaten a few brownies at work. Of course this irritated me, because what is he, six?! Does he not get that eating a few brownies will spoil his appetite for dinner?

Now obviously, I would prefer that he eat pasta with veggies instead of brownies. However, from a food waste perspective, I kind of feel like either way food would have been wasted. Either there would have been left over brownie, because I suspect that his office is awash with dessert on a regular basis, or left over spaghetti. As it was, I ate his spaghetti the next day for lunch.

My point is this: not wasting food is hard. We should all learn to meal plan, eat leftovers, and cook a few recipes that essentially allow you to dump all leftovers in one big pot, but at the end of the day, some food may still go to waste. At those times, all we can do is compost, and give thanks that we are so fortunate as to live in a land of plentiful food. And yell at our boyfriend for eating too many brownies.


Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Two things:

Chickens will eat nearly anything. All our food scraps go to the hens and in return they give us eggs.

I find that I'm far less apt to waste food I've grown myself. There's just something about going to all that work and wasting it.

Rosa said...

Ruchi, do you read Jonathan Bloom's blog? His book is out this month I think.

Green Bean said...

I was totally going to steal Amy's comment! I have chickens. A get out of free card in the food waste department. They get all my stuff just before it goes completely bad. Well, except for the brownies, which I totally would have eaten too!

Alison Golden said...

Hey, Ruchi:

Glad you enjoyed my post. I totally hear ya! It's hard to use up *everything* and with a family it gets harder but in a different way - more food, different tastes etc. Trying to cater to the group while allowing a few individual differences which is the way I like to go AND not waste anything is hard. Wish I had chickens...

Ivy said...

I run into this all the time! I can't compost--there's no outdoor space and my landlord would FLIP if I tried an indoor worm bin.

I try to plan meals and cook, but it's hard. I'm single. Sometimes I intend to be good and eat something all week and just can't. I also work a job that can be unpredictable--and if I don't get home until after 8:30, my best intentions of cooking often fall by the wayside.

I keep telling myself it's a process, and I do get better. But it's hard.

Anonymous said...

Compost, chickens or worms.

cbb said...

I usually let my food go to waist, not waste. But, also, many things will freeze; experiment. Frozen rice is delicious warmed over (I usually use a microwave, but I also like to heat it in a pan with a little butter so it gets crispy) Maybe Hummus can be frozen? .. ;->

Olivia said...

A big soup pot works wonders. Anything can go in, along with some stock, and voila!! Lunch or dinner.

Also - I feed the birds (and, living in the country, we have a LOT of birds and a real assortment). Like chickens, wild birds will eat a lot of stuff that we might otherwise compost. Of course, living in the country, anything that the birds leave behind, the raccoons, skunks and foxes will clean up. Might not be a good idea if you live in the city but out here the critters are always around anyway, (farming country).

Foxes are the biggest wildlife we have so no fear of attracting anything dangerous. (We live on an island in Atlantic Canada). Of course, if you have chickens, you don't want foxes!

Lill Hawkins said...

Like cbb commented, I'd suggest freezing anything you can. We do that and mark it so that we'll know what century, at least, it got frozen in. It works out well for potlucks and you can even switch leftovers with friends and family. I have a neighbor who loves my turkey stew and I love her Spanish rice, so it works out well.

We don't have chickens because we live in a very rural area with many coyotes and I'm allergic to eggs anyway. But we do put some food out for the birds and the wild turkeys will eat anything chickens will eat and they wander by in every morning.

Shine On,

Going Crunchy said...

I've done a great deal to reduce food waste. I was a compost my best defense is meal planning.

Silver Pen said...

It is hard to reduce food waste, and I find that if you are the one cooking its made harder by the picky eaters you cook for. I bokashi rather than compost but I still feel guilty for wasting food all the time.

I thought I would share that the freezer has been a huge help in reducing my food waste. The trick is to get food into it BEFORE it gos bad and labeling everything that enters the freezer. Lastly I have to go through it every month or so (which I'll admit I have been bad about lately) so that I have some idea of what is in there.

But your right having bokashi takes a lot of the pressure off of me to not throw food away. I still feel bad about the packaging though.