Friday, February 22, 2013
By: Ruthzaly Weich
I couldn’t believe it. There are still people in the world that starve to death.
It made me think about what I do to reduce my food waste and thought it may be helpful to also help you reduce your own food waste.
I should note this is something I am very passionate about, though it was not always this way.
After attending graduate school, my husband and I got jobs, moved to a nice apartment, and began our life together. And then came the student loans. We had a tough time making ends meet so we looked at our expenses and made adjustments. We realized using food efficiently was a must.
As time progressed and we learned how to live within our means, downsizing apartment,etc., we continued to make choices to decrease our food waste.
We even got an indoor composter!
Another important factor that has me using every last bit of food that I have, is how food waste effects our towns, regions, country and globally.
The idea that a seed is planted, tended to, harvested, then exported and travels often many miles to get to your grocer, then to your home, and then may be forgotten and left to rot, is just not an option for me.
We can get into the metrics of waste in the food cycles (do read this article you’ll get a reality check) but, I want to focus on the immediate changes you and I can make to reduce food waste at home.
For the past seven years my husband and I have used some practical principles about buying, storing and cooking all the food we buy. You may find is that the list below is logical or, if it is your first time giving this topic a thought, complicated, but it has worked for us.
- Before leaving your home make a list of vegetables, fruits and other items that you usually throw away and don’t buy them! If you really like them but keep forgetting to use them buy them frozen if available.
- Monitor eating habits and which are the preferred items.
- Pick healthy looking, firm vegetables if you tend to forget them in the fridge.
- Monitor your family’s eating habits and come up with a monthly list of the things you always use – that will be your baseline.
- Come up with a menu for your family weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. I’ve found that my menu gets repetitive, so smaller cycles are best. After all, we are all creatures of habit. The menu can be as flexible as you want it to be. The bottom line is to allow for a variety of meal options with all ingredients at home. You can use it as a meal suggestion list; it is there for when you and your family feel like cooking it and eating it. Or you can assign it to a date and mealtime if that is your cup of tea. Creating a menu allows you to be efficient about your purchase and is a perfect reminder to use all you get.
- Analyze your diet, just think of the food pyramid. Review the daily portions for the age groups in your family, adjust how much you buy with this in mind. Reminding yourself of what intake you and your family need can help you bring home the right amount of food.
- Make a list of the vegetables inside the fridge and post it on the fridge.
- Prioritize by ranking which items need to be used first and which can wait to be cooked later – use numbers.
- Read up on ways to store vegetables – there are natural techniques that will help you get a longer life out of your vegetables and fruits. Long-term examples are food dehydration, canning, or advance freezing techniques.
- If you find yourself throwing away leftovers, calibrate your portions for no leftovers. It takes a little while to adjust but you’ll get it. Watch closely what each member eats and how much you have left. Next time cook accordingly.
- Be conscious of maximizing the use of any ingredient. If you don’t use it all, store it and add it to your list of ‘to use’ items.
- Be creative. Come up with recipes within a meal that will allow you to use the fruit, vegetable or whatever you did not use in your main dish and use this for dessert, salad or a side dish.
- Consider composting all the peels and skins you would normally throw away.
- Perhaps my most frequently used technique – when you find yourself with a half full (half empty) fridge and some food is now a ‘must use by’ without a meal plan, go online, or download as many recipe apps as you can to your Smartphone. Search the name of the vegetable for recipes. Odds are you will find a tasty recipe with just the ingredients you have at home.
We have evolved into using this list. Depending on your lifestyle, time availability, family size, etc., you will find that some suggestions work and some don’t. We too have experienced a large range of obstacles; both of us traveled so much that when my husband came home I would then have to travel too. This went on for a while. We also have experienced dietary restrictions, joined a CSA (community shared agriculture) and have add lots of fresh veggies at peak season. We are now parents and are making the best out what we have seasonally to provide the nutrition our little one needs.
It may take some practice as to how to be most efficient with your food. It gets easier and better as you go. I hope that these suggestions help you come up a personal or family plan that allows you to become a food waste free home.
You can also read about Cheryl Kollin, a Green Gaithersburg.com Environementalist of the Month, and see how people in our community are making a different in our region to avoid food waste.