By Holly Johnson, Programs Assistant
For the last two months my family has been tracking our food waste. This has been a wonderful exercise in increasing food waste awareness in my household, as well as an exercise in food preparation creativity. First and foremost, my family knows that our wastefulness is out there for the whole world to see. I’m sure that helps quite a bit. They also are genuinely more aware of what we throw away, including reminders from my 13 year old to weigh food before it is thrown out.
What have we learned?
If we are using more than the first 12 inches of shelf on our refrigerator we have more food than we need and the potential for waste exists.
We now only purchase five days worth of produce. Any more than that and the food ends up rotting in the back of the fridge. We’re also more realistic about how much fresh produce we will actually eat in a week. I love seeing my refrigerator stocked with healthy produce, but if I’m throwing half of it away, I’m wasting money and landfill space.
Restaurants have the potential to be a huge food waster if you are not careful. Portions are generally way too big. We keep this in mind when we order now and we’re sure to bring home all leftovers or we order appetizers only. My family went to dinner at a local restaurant and both of my children asked if anyone would share appetizers before we ordered. It was a proud moment.
We suspended our ideas about what we should eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner or how food should be used. The kids really liked this, especially my daughter who refuses to eat eggs and cereal. We don’t eat just leftover pizza from the night before. Anything is fair game. Instead of buying specific rolls to go with dinner we may use English muffins for sandwiches and hotdog rolls for toast.
We don’t have to be organized as much as creative with the meals that are prepared. We have become masters of incorporating leftovers into meals. Here is what our meals looked like this week. On Sunday I slow cooked a pork picnic in the crockpot and roasted a bunch of vegetables. Half was used in pulled pork barbeque sandwiches for dinner. On Monday we had pulled pork sandwiches for lunch . At dinner we had pulled pork barbeque nachos (huge hit!). Wednesday morning I pulled chili from the freezer and put it in the crockpot. The leftover pork went into the chili as well as some chicken that was left over. We put the chili on top of rice for dinner and had it for lunch on Thursday. On Thursday we had chili mac (mac and cheese with chili on top) for dinner. I’ve also revived the art of making casseroles. It’s a great way to use leftovers.
This sounds too simple, but the most important thing that my family learned was that everyone has to be aware of the food that we have in our refrigerator and pantry.
How did we do?
The month of September we wasted 34.75 pounds of food. In October our total food waste was 9.5 pounds. This is after adding an additional five pounds margin of error we may have missed in school lunches. This is 25.25 pounds less than was wasted in September. Not bad!