|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?