I ate oatmeal, leftover from breakfast, for lunch today.
Topped with blackberries, butter, walnuts, flax seeds and a sprinkling of brown sugar, it was hardly pauper fare.
Still, I would much rather have had a hot ham and cheese sandwich (what I served the kids).
I took one for the team.
(I have Katy of The Non-Consumer Advocate to thank for the concept.)
I have been on a mission for several years to slash our food waste. It shames me when I throw out food that has gone bad, typically for one of the following lame reasons:
- It got pushed to the far corners of the fridge aka OutOfSightOutOfMindLand
- I bought something that I love but the kids don’t (hellooo asparagus)
- I was too tired to cook it, procrastinated, then it rot
- I wasn’t in the mood for it and so didn’t cook it (hangs head in shame…)
I’ve always been big on making menus, so lack of planning isn’t the problem.
The problem is first world problems.
It’s me being spoiled by the abundance of cheap, easily obtained food that means I get to decide what I want to eat, instead of eating what’s available (which is how it is for 90% of the world’s population now, and used to be, here in the US, for previous generations).
Right now in the first world, too many easily obtained, cheap calories are what’s killing us. Americans spend less money on food than anyone else in the developed world. (As an example, the French spend twice what we do on food as a percentage of income. Yet they eat far better, weigh less and live longer.)
Meaning that this isn’t so much an issue of frugality. My family can afford the food we buy. Still, groceries are our biggest monthly expense, greater than housing, and I bristle at throwing away food.
But for me, the bigger issue is food waste as a symptom of my entitlement.
[Note: since I originally wrote this post, I’ve become more aware of issues such as neurodivergence and trauma as contributors to executive dysfunction that sometimes caused my issues. But still, I hate wasting food because I care about the planet, my wallet, and am aware of my own food privilege.]
In recent months I’ve changed a few things in an attempt to curb food waste. These things have worked:
- Being honest with myself about what we REALLY eat.
In this house, we run out of bread, cheese, butter, bacon, fruit and salad ingredients first. It’s safe for me to buy large quantities of those things. With other food items, I need to be more strategic.
- Shopping twice, not once a week.
The fridge doesn’t get so full and it’s easier for me to see what’s in there. I only plan a menu for 3-4 days at a time, which gives me more flexibility to use up ingredients that would have otherwise gone bad if they had to wait for several days in the fridge. This has been the most effective change.
- Creative leftover wizardry.
We use up the last bits of veggies and cheese in omelets, I reheat them for (my) lunch, and serve “bits and pieces” (a little of this and a little of that on purpose for lunch – the kids love it).
- Meat goes in the freezer, not the fridge.
When I unload groceries, I throw the meat in the freezer (except what I know I’ll be using that evening). This way, meat won’t accidentally spoil in the fridge.
I sometimes have an aversion to cooking meat and will tell myself I’m letting things “defrost”. Trouble is, they defrost until they’re rotten and smelly. Is there anything worse than having to throw away a hunk of meat? Which brings me back to avoiding food waste as gratitude exercise and moral imperative.
What helps you to avoid food waste? Do you think of it as a moral issue, or simply a practical one?
P.S. Occasionally I may come back and post pictures of examples of “taking one for the team”. Expect to see avocados with questionable brown spots, half eaten apples discarded by my 3 and 5 year olds, and other misc.