Waste Not: Join Me in the 2009 Food Waste Reduction Challenge

Food Waste Reduction Challenge - February 2009

I’m embarrassed to admit it but I waste too much food. This public admission is my first concrete step toward my second New Year’s resolution: to slash the amount of food that I throw away (the first is here.)

This is a hot topic right now, especially as people scrutinize their cash flows. There are, of course, also environmental reasons for wasting less food, which are explored on the blog, Wasted Food.

Also, it just seems downright wrong to discard food when families are going hungry and food bank shelves are spare.

According to a 1997 study, Americans waste one pound of food per person a day. The one pound figure takes into account consumers, food retailers and food businesses. That Department of Agriculture report is one of the most recent national studies on food waste, so it’s been a while since this topic was on the national research agenda.

Check out this staggering graphic from the New York Times. If I took account of how much food waste I threw out in a year, it would shamefully look much like the NYT picture.

So today, I resolve to join the Food Waste Reduction Challenge. I’ll be taking steps to reduce the amount of edible food products I throw away. I already know what some of my weak spots are:

I’m not a shotgun shopper; I always plan the week’s meals carefully. However, I tend to overestimate the amount of time I will be able to spend cooking. Since I love cooking, I sometimes get carried away with my weekly menus. According to Wasted Food’s Jonathan Bloom, this is a common problem. People buy much more than they are able to prepare and they end up throwing it away.

Fridge

My fridge

So is the solution to buy less groceries more often? Gas is a consideration, and with my busy schedule, multiple shopping trips are not ideal. I think I am just going to have to buy less groceries. I am going to have to wean myself further from recipes (a continuing education) and improvise with leftover ingredients before restocking. I also need to improve at considering what food I already have before I shop.

Salad

More salads = less waste

That goes hand in hand with me becoming more comfortable with a slightly emptier fridge. Friends have alternately marveled at or ribbed me about my restaurant-grade stockpile. What can I say? I like having special ingredient on hand when I need it. I’ve never been comfortable with “bachelor fridge” but things don’t really need to go that extreme. In my desire for abundance, it’s doubtless that something gets pushed to the back of the fridge and ignored.

So readers, I will share with you my progress, pitfalls, and pictures. I invite you to join me in signing up for the Food Waste Reduction Challenge. Also, please let Miami Dish readers know how you are doing or what you already do to reduce your food waste!

Any questions about food waste? Leave those too!

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4 Responses to “Waste Not: Join Me in the 2009 Food Waste Reduction Challenge”

  1. January 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    My fridge currently has:

    - a few 8oz bottles of water
    - a few racks of condiments
    - some sage and thyme that went bad 2 weeks ago
    - a bottle of Diet Coke a buddy left at my place about 2 years ago
    - 3 half sticks of butter

    Ive given up on the grocery shopping thing because, like the vibe of this post, I end up pissed because I dont eat stuff and it gets tossed in the bin. A total waste. So, now I simply go to Fresh Market for 1 night’s consumption of food or I go out to eat. When you add it all up, going out to eat may cost more than going shopping but when you throw groceries away youre wasting time and money. Plus, going out to eat allows you to choose multiple options, not labor over dinner, not have to clean up, support your local economy, and its a lot easier to keep your membership to the Clean Plate Club.

    There is also a company that a guy I know works for that I believe is trying to set up shop in FL. They take food waste from grocery chains and restaurants and convert it into usable energy. Its a pretty cool concept that I know little about so I’ll stop here but I wanted to share nonetheless.

  2. trina
    January 26, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    Thanks, Blind Mind, for your comment. Since I’m so detail oriented I’d be curious to compare how that would work, price wise. There’s an experiment idea. Let me know if you get some figures. :)
    My other concern with that plan would be that with restaurants you don’t always know what you are getting nutrition wise, although you can definitely make choices like a salad at Fresh Market that you know would be healthy.
    I’m off to a slow start. Today I had to throw away a cup and half of milk (we left it out by accident) and a third of a package of cherry tomatoes that I let sit around too long.
    Let me know if you find out more about that food waste business. Sounds great!

  3. trina
    January 29, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    Here is another suggestion by Ody (from the “About” page):

    “In reference to wasting food, my answer to that has been to shop every other day. I purchase milk, cereal and the other essentials early in the week and then make a 2 day menus. It works for us because we like going to restaurants and some weeks go out several times. I never fill my fridge.”

    So buying essentials and staples early in the week and then shopping as I plan might be something to try one of these weeks too!

  4. January 31, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    I think by shopping at big box stores you end up wasting a lot. I just went through my pantry and have a box of stuff that I will probably never get to using so I am going to give it to a local church that gives away food.

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