A local Denver magazine, 5280, published a very detailed and informative article today about food waste. I’m going to give the highlights but you can read the whole enchilada here (photo credit: Paul Miller).
Right off the bat the article gets into the sobering details:
“According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a staggering 40 percent of food produced in the United States goes uneaten, and the average family of four wastes $1,345 to $2,275 worth of food each year.”
That’s $112-190 each month!
“There are environmental consequences, too: Modern agriculture demands a significant amount of resources, sucking up 80 percent of our country’s fresh water (a serious concern in Colorado, where droughtlike conditions are the rule) as well as huge amounts of land, fertilizers, and fossil fuels. Even worse, wasted food is the most prevalent component in landfills, where it generates massive quantities of methane, a climate-change-inducing greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.”
(I mean, if you even buy into climate change, because 80 degrees in November is totally normal… … . . #sarcasm.)
“By the NRDC’s estimate, households throw away 25 percent of the food they buy. Dana Gunders, lead scientist for the NRDC’s food waste work, likens that process to walking out of the grocery store with four bags of food and dropping one on the ground.”
Here are some tips and tricks from Johnson & Wales Dean of Culinary Education, Jorge de la Torre, to help us: “Shop Smart, Waste Less”
Meal Plan: If your family isn’t keen on eating leftovers, avoid them altogether by buying only the amount you need for that meal. If you’re a household of two cooking a recipe that serves four, cut it in half rather than assuming you’ll eat the leftovers.
Shop More Often: It’s hard to guess how much you’ll eat in an entire week. Instead, tackle the shopping for just one or two days out. That way, you can take advantage of sales and markdowns. De la Torre’s example: “Buy the marked-down sale meat and cook it that night.”
A future post to look forward to is how to take advantage of the bulk section in grocery stores. Nuts, beans, grains, seeds, and spices can all be purchased at a fraction of the cost by not picking up the neatly and perfectly pre-packaged items. It will keep room open in your pantry and help you see exactly how much you use as often.
Shop In Season: Not only are seasonal vegetables and fruits usually priced better, but they’re also often fresher since they didn’t have to travel across the world to the supermarket. Thus, they’ll last longer in your fridge.
I will be posting seasonal, but ideally, monthly food lists that show what’s in season at that time. And we can challenge ourselves by cooking with two new items each week!
Prep In Advance: Dedicate time after you get home from shopping to preparing food. “Fill the sink with cold water and wash all the veggies, then dry them and chop them before storing. It pays off exponentially later on: All you need to do is add dressing for a salad.”
Store Food Properly: Dry veggies with high water content (like lettuce) thoroughly and wrap with paper towels or dish towels before stashing in the fridge; store herbs such as fresh basil or dill in water-filled vases on the counter like you would cut flowers. Bonus: “You’re more likely to use them if you see them out on display.”
The Freezer Is Your Friend: If you buy more of an item (like peaches) than you can use right away, slice them, freeze them in a single layer, and once frozen, transfer them to zip-top bags that fit your family’s portioning needs.
I will do a more in-depth post about how to freeze and what goes the farthest as far as freezer stability coming soon!
I know I’ve mentioned to my friends bits and pieces of all of these! Am I the best at implementing them? No, not by a long shot. But it IS my goal to be better and reading all of this just reaffirms how possible it can be. As Eugenia Bone, author of the Kitchen Ecosystem says, “Take stock of your pantry and do an intervention. What do you actually like to eat and cook? Your pantry should be like a closet—you don’t need Uggs if you live in Florida.”
Here’s what the article said about composting as well.
Eat First, Compost Later
“Composting won’t solve the food waste issue—but you should still do it.
PSA: You might feel like a hero when you compost, but if you’re dumping perfectly edible food that you let go bad in your fridge, you’re not exactly saving the world (see the EPA’s food-recovery hierarchy on the facing page). That said, setting up a composting program in your house or business does help keep methane-generating solid waste out of landfills.”