Purging Stuff: Week 3 – Food

Ways to deal with food waste and save money {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}
Dragon Fly Farms produce at the Westford Winter Farmers Market

I took a slight detour this week – I purged my refrigerator, freezer, pantry and other stashes of food.  Sort of like this food challenge post. The amount of food that goes wasted in this country astounds me!  

In 2009, the EPA estimated that food scraps accounted for 14.1% of our national waste.  It is the second largest category (paper is #1 – don’t get me started on that!)  This does NOT include yard trimmings, which accounts for another 13.7%. Not only could some of this food be eaten, but it is costing towns and cities millions (maybe billions) to dispose of.  Money that should be spent elsewhere.  Trash disposal fees are big in municipalities.  Many of them are turning to Pay-As-You-Throw situations where homeowners pay for each bag of trash they dispose of – most tend to be charging around $2 per bag.

I volunteer with our town’s Recycling Commission.  We are focused this year on getting more people to compost to reduce the trash and thus the trash budget.  One member did a quick calculation on the annual savings: Almost $74, 000 saved if ALL 14.1% was composted (or eaten)  instead of thrown in the trash. If only 10% of our residents composted their food waste, the town could save over almost $7,400. Think of it this way, if 14.1% of trash is potentially compostable, then that is a potential savings of 14.1%  of the trash budget.

I recently saw a special on Food Network called “The Big Waste“.  It dealt with the waste that occurs commercially.  I was sick!  If you get a chance, watch it.  I can’t believe the amount of food that is tossed from grocery stores and suppliers.  There has to be a better way!  Can’t some of this get donated to food pantries?  Or sold to customers at reduced prices – like the quick sale items?

Back to what I did this week to reduce my food waste. I am usually pretty good about meal planning, but I also tend to track prices and stock up when I see a sale.  So, if I’m not careful, I can end up with a lot of stuff in house.  When I look through all the food we had, I realized I had plenty to make meals this week without going shopping.  I really like to do this once in a while.  I can use up things before they spoil and remember what I have so I don’t buy more.  It also gets me to be more creative and find uses for odds and ends.  I have developed or found many favorite recipes this way. I must confess – I did go to the store once.  But I only got a few things – fresh fruit, milk and deli meat for lunches.

We ate pretty well.

Turkey Burgers – I used ground turkey in the freezer, served with homemade fries and green beans (left over from another dinner)

Homemade Pizza – This is definitely a staple on our menu.  It is a great way to use up leftover meat and/or veggies, condiments, you name it!  I always keep Whole Foods organic wheat pizza dough and mozzarella in the freezer.  This week, I used one of the leftover turkey burgers and sun-dried tomatoes that were sitting in the frig.

Pasta Primavera  – Another staple.   This is one of those recipes that was created out of a need to use up leftovers.   It tastes great and is a great way to use up veggies, meat, and beans.    To make it, I saute veggies and garlic,  make a simple sauce (flour, butter, and chicken stock) add Parmesan cheese, any meat or beans you want, and whatever other herbs or spices your’d like,  then toss with pasta.  If the sauce is too thick, I add some of the pasta water.  I have also used milk, half and half, evaporated milk – whatever dairy I happened to have left over – to make it more of a cream sauce.

Shredded BBQ Chicken –   I came across some chicken thighs in the freezer – not a big fan and I had bought these by mistake.  I also had 3 bottles of BBQ sauce!  I put 2 boneless chicken breasts and the thighs into the crock pot with BBQ sauce and about 4 cloves of minced garlic and let it cook away.  I didn’t have any rolls, so I served them on tortillas.

Snack Dinner – This is my version of eating leftovers for dinner.  My kids love it.  They think they are getting away with eating “junk” for dinner.  I pull out whatever we have – leftovers, hummus, bread, wheat crackers, cheese, applesauce, veggies (I always have carrot sticks in the fridg), fruit, yogurt, whatever I can find.  Everyone fills their own plate with an assortment.

I still have quite a bit of food left, so I will continue this week using up what we have and really planning my menu so I buy very little.

How do you deal with food waste?


11 Responses to Purging Stuff: Week 3 – Food

  1. Jacqueline January 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    We have been getting better on actually USING the things we buy so I am grateful for the reminder to keep pushing to be more mindful. I have started throwing together meals and getting inventive using what we have on hand instead of running to the market every other day and, so far, we have cut our food bill by 1/3!
    It is so nice getting to know you as part of the Meet and Greet! Stopping by from The Organic Blonde.

    • The Greening Of Westford January 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      It is fun to get creative. And like I said, I have discovered some really great dishes this way! Cutting your food budget by 1/3 is impressive Jacqueline! Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to getting to know you.

  2. Rae January 30, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Hi from this week’s meet and greet. Ah, now food waste – there is one of my passions! My DD is just tucking into home made pizza as I type – the topping was from left over pasta sauce I made which wasn’t quite enough for a full meal. Her packed lunch today consisted of a left over couple of tablespoons of tuna and sweetcorn which I mixed with cucumber, red pepper and mayo. A few years ago I would have tossed such tiny amounts, but now everything gets put in the fridge and used up. Well done on your successful week.

    Warm wishes
    Rae aka mrsgreen @littlegreenblog.com

    • The Greening Of Westford January 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

      Thanks Rae. I usually do pretty well, but have made a greater effort lately and boy those small amounts add up!

  3. Small Footprints January 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    I love the idea of using up what you have before buying new … and seeing what creative dishes you end up with. My hubby and I have been doing that for ages and it’s fun! It also ensures that items we buy don’t sit on the shelf past their pull date! 🙂

    I just read, over at Good Girl Gone Green, that Whole Foods accepts food compost from their patrons. It never occurred to me to take compost anywhere besides the bin outside of my door … but for those who aren’t able to compost at home, it might be a good alternative. I’m guessing that their might be other stores who are willing to do the same.

    • The Greening Of Westford January 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

      I have heard of towns having compost pickup and some small farms accepting home compost – but usually only if you know the farmer. I know there are people who like the idea of composting but are timid to start. I wish we had a Whole Foods closer. I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for the info!

    • RubbishGeek February 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

      Hi there! Here on the blog hop too.
      I post quite a lot about food waste over on http://www.letswastelessnel.blogspot.com
      have you had a look at the Rubbish Diet Challenge on http://www.therubbishdiet.blogspot.com ? They’ve just led us through a week on Food Waste.
      Best Wishes!
      Rubbish Geek

  4. ecokaren January 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Oh, how apropos with de-cluttering. Purging your food pantry and the fridge is definitely what we should do throughout the year. But eating what you have is what we do on Fridays since Saturday is Farmers Market in the summer and grocery store in the winter. So by Friday, if I planned it well during the week, we are eating well with leftover ingredient stews or casseroles or we are eating rice and stir fried veggies. Great post!

    • The Greening Of Westford January 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      Thanks for the inspiration to do this ecokaren! I need to work this in more regularly instead of doing big purges. Although the big purge works too!

  5. Good Girl Gone Green January 31, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    It is crazy the amount of food an average family wastes….we eat everything we buy and compost as well. i hate wasting!

  6. The Greening Of Westford February 2, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more Good Girl. There are times when I think maybe it’s time to go shopping for more food. Usually if I take a look and think for a few minutes, I can always find more food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

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