Wasted Food

Ramblings from the Ridge

Paula J. Cornmesser


It’s been a busy week on the Ridge. We are entering our “hungry” months as locavores. We’ve used up the squash, potatoes, and carrots that we saved and our stockpiled pantry is beginning to dwindle. We still have plenty of meat, eggs, and canned goods; our diet seems a bit mundane right now. One thing about espousing this lifestyle is that you have very little wasted food. Making everything from scratch gives you a great appreciation for the time involved in food production and you are less inclined to waste a single scrap.

Recent studies show that at least half of the food produced in America is grown for feeding animals. Not only that, as much as 60 percent of our freshwater supply goes to agricultural use-irrigation, fish farming and livestock. Each year, Americans waste 40 percent of the food they produce. This food waste accounts for about 300 million barrels of oil and 25 percent of our freshwater supply. The wasted food ends up rotting in landfills where it produces methane which contributes to greenhouse gases.

In the home, Americans throw out 25 percent of the food they buy. This wastefulness exists in spite of the sagging economy and one in seven families dependent on food stamps. It is estimated that this food waste costs the average family at least $1000 per year. I don’t know about you, but I sure could use that money for something useful.

I would like to offer a few helpful tips on reducing food waste in your home. 

  1. Have a plan. Before you head out to get groceries, check your pantry/larder/freezer and make a menu based on things you already have on hand. Don’t buy more food if you already have a surplus.
  2. When you make your menu, plan for nights that you may not be eating at home. Don’t buy food for seven days if you know you’ll only be home for five of those nights.
  3. Don’t buy food for meals you don’t eat at home. If you always stop on the way to work for a coffee and a muffin, don’t fill your kitchen with cereal, fruit and yogurt. Consequently, if you’re looking to save money in your budget, plan on buying and eating at home.
  4. Cook what you eat and eat what you cook. Unless you are purposely making extra food to freeze or use as leftovers, don’t make more than your family will eat.
  5. If your family has leftovers-use them! Leftovers make excellent lunches and can also be “reinvented” as the basis for another meal. I often roast a whole chicken (because we grow them that way) and will use the chicken pieces for a casserole and use the rest with the broth to make soup.
  6. Save your vegetable scraps (potato and carrot peels, onion tops etc.) in the freezer in a large gallon bag. When the bag is full, these “waste” products can be placed in a pot of boiling water to make a healthy soup stock. Boil 20-30 minutes, then drain the scraps and add them to your compost pile.
  7. Save all of your bread “ends” and unused buns to make your own bread crumbs. I put these in a bag in my freezer too. When the bag is full, I run them frozen through my food processor and return the crumbs to the freezer for later use.
  8. Always know the inventory of your pantry/fridge/freezer so that you will use the things you just made and put in the freezer.

Hopefully this will help you be aware of the areas where your family may be wasting food. For more helpful info, check out Jonathan Bloom’s blog: wastedfood.com or his book American Wasteland.

On the Ridge we never have wasted food; anything we don’t eat, our chickens will. We also had a bin of red worms that were great for eating our veggie scraps. Remember, food is not wasted if you turn it into compost for your garden. You can’t send your excess food to a starving child in Africa, but you can save money by not wasting food and possibly use the excess to make a donation to a worthy cause.

Until next week, Paula


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