Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wasting Food?

Even those of us with a compost pile hate to throw out food. Or at least hopefully we do. With a growing family and expanding food budget I am super conscious of any food that ends up in the trash. I feel guilty when I don't use the left over chicken carcass from a meal of roast chicken to make chicken soup or scraps from veggies to make veggie broth. But even with the best of intentions, when I do a cleaning of my refrigerator, inevitably things get thrown out. Perfectly good veggies that got lost in the back and rotted or condiments that are past their prime.

After reading this article: in the New York Times, I realized just how big a problem food waste is. On a global and personal scale, how many of us can afford to throw 25% of our food and grocery budget in the trash?

It's particularly unnerving as a nutritionist who is constantly telling people to examine their priorities in their budget. The truth is quality, nutritious food costs more. Do I believe it's cheaper in the long run, yes. It will save us money on health care and time lost from work. Never mind that it's an investment in our quality of life, our children's health and the health of our environment and food chains. When we want to buy high quality food, we're going to pay more. Which means we need to allocate more money to our food budgets. So how sad is it that for many of us 25% or more of that might get thrown away?

If you are using your food budget to buy quality ingredients, organic produce and grass fed animal products, you should also take steps to make sure that all that food gets used. The NY Times article offers some tips for making sure food doesn't go to waste, and here are some of my own:

  • Keep a white board on your fridge and/or freezer that lists what's in stock and mark things off as they get used. Use this to create a shopping list.

  • Each week create a meal plan that lists breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Check to see what you have in the house and then make a detailed list for what you don't have. Stick to the list when you're in the store. And stick to the meal plan when you get home.

  • Try to make one meal a week that relies on what you have in the pantry or freezer without buying new ingredients.

  • If you are concerned about the temperature in your fridge and/or freezer, check it.

  • Keep a container of quick and easy snacks in an easy to reach place in your fridge and in your pantry.

  • Try to clean out your freezer and pantry every month and take stock of what's there and make sure it's organized. A well organized pantry and freezer make them easier to use and easier to make meals.

Let me know if you have other suggestions for making sure we throw out less food!