Food Friday: Food Waste

I have a confession to make. I am a horrible food waster.

Typically I am not a waster of food on my plate. Most times I take only what I eat, and don’t toss a bunch in the garbage. My kids however, are a different story. One day they eat a lot, the next day, next to nothing. How do I know what day it will be today when I serve them? Sometimes a lot of what is on their plate is thrown away. Veggies, bread crusts, too much rice… Sometimes as I am clearing their plates I take a few bites of their wasted food, to reduce some of the guilt of trashing it. My husband will do the same, depending on how mangled it is.

Next – I have not been very good at managing the fridge. I normally whip into the grocery store without a plan, making it up as I go along. I see fruit and veggies that I think we will probably eat, so I buy them. I get stuff for a few meals and wing it for the rest. Then the week happens and some of the vegetables I bought don’t get used, some things expire. Every day I am planning on the fly. It is stressful and I often don’t have what I need.

Then when I reach into the food crisper, something slimy and wet crosses my hand. Ewww. I pull out a gross bag of rotting tomato, or cucumber, or lettuce. I look deeper – there is also expired sour cream and salad dressing. I check the mayo, only 3 more weeks until it expires too. Bah!

My husband hates it when I throw out food.

Now that I am really considering my food footprint, I realize that food waste plays a big part of it.  I mean, I am concerned about all the food packaging garbage and the distance my food has travelled to get to me. These things are not good for emissions! Given this, why do I keep tossing?

The reason is simple.  I didn’t care enough. I also was a bit lazy, yes. I did not have a very strong connection with our food, and what it takes to grow it, produce it and get it to our house.

Frugal Girl is really great at tracking her food waste. She has a series called “Food Waste Friday” where she owns up to anything that went bad at her house that week. Last week, it was cilantro, cucumber and chicken. The week before, it was rice and sour cream. She owns up to it all, and challenges others to do the same.

Okay, here it goes:

This is my waste this week – egg noodles, broccoli and carrot. The broccoli has definitely had it. Because it creeps me out that the other stuff might have touched the broccoli, the rest has had it too.

Despite this, I am making progress. I now care more about our food and where it comes from and how it gets to us. I sit down on Saturday morning and write out what we will be having for supper on each night of the week and post it on the fridge. From there I draft the grocery list. Then I go to the farmer’s market for as much as I can, and then get everything else at either the grocery store or my new found love, Bulk Barn. I bring all the food home and fill my canisters, cupboards, fridge and freezer with care. I take stock of my stock. I know what I have on hand and what we will be eating.

Secondly, I actively use up leftovers. I take them for lunch (much cheaper!). I feed them to the kids for lunch (much easier!). I work them into our suppers (less work!). I try to clear out leftovers every 2 days or so. I note dates on the dairy items that expire. I am more careful. I treat our stock of food with the respect and love it deserves.

My husband now comments how he likes our “just in time” food inventory. I like it too.

What about you? How do you manage the fridge?

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15 thoughts on “Food Friday: Food Waste

  1. I think you’re on to something: the more we respect our food and the environmental cost at which it was grown, the more careful we’ll be about eating it. However, I’m not a great planner, either. Even when I get all the ingredients for a certain meal, I might wake up that day and no longer feel like making it, or run out of time. (This makes for some fairly creative meals late in the week.) Our major food waster is leftovers that we forget about or didn’t feel like eating because they weren’t that good, even fresh. Ideally, whenever we end up with leftovers we know are getting old, we should not make anything new until those are gone. Easier said than done!

    • Nothing is worse than left overs that are not great. Force it down? I have something in my fridge from yesterday like that right now. Its prospects do not look good! But I might work it into something else… I guess that is the risk when trying out new foods and recipes.

  2. I wasn’t doing too bad at this while on mat leave. But we’ll see how it goes now that I’m back at work. The weekday meal scramble. We have good intentions of meal planning. In the 5 days I’ve been back to work, we actually did do it. I’m hoping to keep it up!

    The worst thing I used to waste though is lettuce. It only lasts a few days (especially spring greens), and we don’t have a lot of lettuce-y things worked into our meals. So about a month ago, we moved to a lettuce ban. No more lettuce graces our fridge. We’ve replaced it instead with spinach, which not only lasts longer but has considerably more nutritional value.

    • Spinach! Good tip. Once I had a lettuce head that was limp but not slimy, so I put it in the fridge in a glass of water and it totally rehydrated and was good to go. I find head lettuce keeps longer than the boxed up type. I wonder if lettuce would do better always if allowed to sit in a little bowl of water. Congrats on the 5 day work week scramble. I need an update!

      • Know what else lasts longer in water? Asparagus. It lasts a few days in a bag in the crisper (which, IMO, should not be called a “crisper”. It’s more like a “slimer”.) but if you put it in a glass of water like a bouquet of flowers on the shelf of the fridge, it will last for weeks.

        I also have a set of those Tupperware Fridgesmart containers with the ridges on the bottom and vents on the side. For some veggies (not all) they really do work at keeping them fresher longer.

      • I buy “living lettuce” from the farmer’s market. It’s super tasty butter lettuce that still has roots attached to it. It lasted FOREVER in my fridge. I kept thinking, “my lettuce is probably gross,” but I’d pull it out and it was still going strong! It’s from the produce vendor in the far back northeast corner of the market… the ones with all of the different colours of tomatoes. Also it comes in pretty small heads, which is good for me, as it is always a race to eat my food before it decomposes.

  3. We are really good with waste. I make a menu every week and form a grocery list off of it and am pretty strict about it! We hardly throw anything away at all. And of course, we eat leftovers frequently. I also like to make scrambles with produce that we need to use up quickly as well. I really want to get a compost bin that is sealed so the dog doesn’t get in to it but we haven’t invested in one yet. That would be a great way to reuse food waste.

  4. My family is guilty of food wasting too. We buy a lot when we step into the supermarkets, supposedly we can save money by buying in bulk, but often end up throwing away food left too long in the fridge. I tried my best to make the organic waste into compost though.

    With inflation on the rise and an imminent food shock, it is time for a change in the house… all food has to be cooked and eaten clean. :)

    • With all the wacky weather that is going on all over the world (my thoughts go out to those in Australia), it is scary to think about the impact food shortages will have on our planet’s most vulnerable…

  5. I’m pretty terrible with leftovers too. I have considered labeling my foods with dates to keep better track, but I get caught up in this stigma that I shouldn’t have to label anything in my kitchen. The way you’ve brought it up, giving it that much attention and care now sounds respectful! Planning out my weals each week also seems very strange and foreign to me. But now that you’ve talked about it, I’m considering it more and more.

    • I used to always just “make what I felt like” but it was a bit crazy trying to get decent meals together on time, and I found we always ate the same things over and over. Sometimes when meal planning I get out the cookbook and try to work in at least one new recipe, to mix things up a bit… So far it is working better!

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