A few weeks ago we posted the Top Ten (Top Ten Ideas to Reduce Your Fossil Fuel Use for Food and also Save Money and Improve Your Health!). For the next ten months we will take a closer look at each of these ideas. The ideas were arranged from simplest and quickest to those that take more time and knowledge. Starting easy is best because then you actually start. This month it is enough to simply think about the problem, become aware and watch yourself.
#10. Don’t waste food you have already purchased or eat more than your body needs
The first part of this idea is doubly important. If you have to throw away food that has spoiled, you not only have wasted your time, effort and money in purchasing the food, but have increased the garbage that goes to the dump (it is not quite as bad if it is vegetable waste and you are composing). If you look at that left-over meat loaf or container of steamed beans or 2 cups of milk or …. and consider that you drove to the store to purchase it, worked hard to plant and pick it, used gas or electricity to cook it, electricity to refrigerate it, the energy use adds up quickly. And that is only your energy use, not what was used to manufacture or produce and transport the food. It is like leaving a light on in an empty house. It does no one any good.
Can waste be avoided? Are there ways to keep food from spoiling? Of course there are. First, survey your refrigerator frequently for those containers that have been pushed to the back or the package buried in your crisper drawer. If you spot one, plan to use it as soon as possible. Many leftovers can be combined into soups or stews. If a certain dish is consistently left over and no one wants it for lunch or a snack, consider making less (cut the recipe back). Most bread and rolls can be cubed and stored in the freezer to make into dressing/stuffing. If it is bread without preservatives, it can just be cubed and left on the counter to dry and then stored in a zip lock bag. Put meat in the freezer by the date on the packaging if you don’t get to eat it fresh. Produce can be made into green drinks by just putting the vegetables and/or fruit in your blender with water. The key is just thinking about it. If you are stumped looking at the pile of need-to-be-eaten-soon food, check the internet for ideas or a cook book. Call a friend and combine your leftovers or better yet, trade them. Now each has “new food”. Saving food from the trash makes you feel good.
Food going to waist is another part of the problem in our country. We have so much and often times eat more than we need. The result may be discomfort, weight gain or health problems. Let the food be left over and then use the ideas above to use it up before it spoils.
Take the challenge for a month – don’t let any food go to waste. After a month you will have formed a habit of checking the refrigerator and using up the leftovers. Then you will be ready to tackle #9.
Written by Nancy White. Nancy is a retired secondary teacher. She built and lives in an active and passive solar, high thermal mass home. She is an avid gardener and helps others to learn how to garden.