Since 40-50% of food waste in America is at the consumer level then we clearly need to change how we shop for food. Food waste is wrong. Period. It is immoral when you think about how many people (children especially) are hungry in this country and that food waste contributes to the very emissions that are rapidly contributing to climate change. Wasting food can also comes across as entitled and shows a lack of practiced gratitude and appreciation for the cost of that food. From hard labor, transportation and resources like water, which is becoming more scarce, we as a people can do better. As individual humans, we must be better.
So why are we wasting so much food? Perhaps we are really excited about cooking more fresh foods at home so we shopped the farmer’s market or our grocer for lots of fresh fruits and veggies and came home just to put everything in the fridge without a plan. No prepping and no time set aside to cook during the week leads us to Monday, then Tuesday then Wednesday…. with nothing cooked because we came home too tired so ordered takeout and because we did not store our food properly, come Friday lettuce, greens, fruits and herbs are brown, soft and wilted and because of our lack experience with fresh foods, the first sign of brown or wilt has us turning up your nose at them and definitely because we don’t know what to do with them, we don’t eat them and by Sunday, they’re in the garbage. OY VEY!
Another reason we are wasting so much food is because we are not going through our fridge every day to see what is hiding in the back that should be pulled forward and cooked asap. Also if we don’t have a pantry stocked with meal building essentials like rice or other grains, a can of beans, some great spices, coconut milk and flour and perishable staples like eggs, lemons and potatoes, then what the heck are we making with all that food anyway?
Knowing that upwards of 45% of wasted food is meat/fish and dairy I want to scream. An animal sacrificed his/her life in most likely atrocious conditions to put food on our plate and for that life to be discarded is shameful. This living being we chose to buy and that comes with a responsibility to respect that life not take it for granted.
I have worked with clients who, when we go through their fridge and come across cooked chicken or beef that is only a few days old, deem it spoiled without even smelling it first, which is how you know if your food is inedible. Why can’t leftover rotisserie chicken from Monday be turned into chicken salad for lunches on Thursday and the bones be used to make a stock? Why can’t leftover ground beef in the fridge be quickly sautéed with an onion and a can of tomatoes for a fast Bolognese to either freeze for some other time or to toss with spaghetti or rice? Why can’t leftover grilled steak from Wednesday be turned into steak and eggs or tacos on Saturday and leftover grilled fish crumbled and tossed with an egg, herbs and breadcrumbs to make a delicious fish cake? Who are we to be so pompous?
And why on earth do we always ask, “What do I do with my leftovers?” Ummmm, what? You eat them, what else?
When only 43% of Americans view food waste as a problem and the United States leads the world in food waste, we as a society have an entitlement problem. The world is changing and if we do not change our ways and live a more sustainable lifestyle then we will find ourselves without the privileges we take for granted and how sad that is when it could all have been avoided if we just made the time to care more. So, whatever inner dialogue is stopping us from eating leftovers, being resourceful in the kitchen with wilted greens or empathetic to our planet’s burden, we must face it, understand it and bid it adieu so we can overcome and move forward for the betterment of our health and the health of all living beings.
So, let’s promise ourselves (you don’t have to tell anyone else) to take steps every day to prevent food waste in the home and in restaurants too so yeah, take leftovers home, tell your waiter you don’t want bread, water, chips or the side salad or roast potatoes that your meal comes with if you know you’re not going to eat it. Speak up. It’s not a bad thing.
HOW TO AVOID FOOD WASTE:
Shop Smart – Shop with a plan and a list ONLY AFTER going through your pantry and fridge to see what you have that you can cook immediately and what you need to add to your menus for the week. You will save so much money when you shop smart and clearly, waste less food.
Move Your Food – Everyday, make sure to open your fridge and pull things forward that need to be eaten immediately. Soft fruits can be gently simmered with honey or agave and a vanilla bean and eaten cold atop yogurt or porridge. Wilted lettuce can be stir fried with your other greens, carrot tops and other random veggies can be used to make a veggie stock to use in a multitude of dishes.
Compost – For ten years I have been throwing my compost over the ten-foot fence of my local elementary school’s community garden. Because I don’t have a compost and I eat so much fresh food and knowing that they are a garden and need compost I asked them if they would take mine and they said yes. Since then, they get everything. Know your neighbors because maybe they have a backyard garden and need compost too or raise chickens that will happily eat your scraps. Scraps belong back in the soil not rotting in a landfill and emitting greenhouse gases.
Eat Leftovers – I think I was pretty clear about this already. Eat Your Leftovers!
Meal Prep – Set aside one day (mine is Sunday) when you shop for the week and come home and prep and cook as much of that food as possible. The more do the more grab and go meals you will have for lunches and dinners after a busy day.
Get Creative – If herbs are wilting, make teas with them for deglazing skillets or cooking your grains. If fruit is soft, simmer it and make compote for topping your yogurt or porridge.
Let’s keep the dialogue open and please email me with any updates you have made to your lifestyle to waste less food. Your stories inspire others to follow in your footsteps. We are in this together and when we remember that, only good things come our way. xo