Sunday, January 15, 2012

Food Waste: Not Just Something Restaurants Should be Concerned About

I have been wanting to write a post about this for some time now, and yesterday when I cleaned out my fridge, I finally got pen to paper…or rather fingers to keyboard. Here it goes….

I don’t know how many times a scenario like this has played out in the recent past:

Open the fridge door…Can’t see all that I have very well…Notice a block of cheese with a big spot of mold on it. Leave it there. I feel too bad about throwing a big hunk of cheese out.

Notice the full smoothie container that I bought at Costco (which I said I would drink) and check the best before date. Damn. Already passed. Leave it there. I don’t have the heart to pour the bottle down the drain.

Notice the red bell pepper and bunch of cilantro sitting in my produce drawer…slowly rotting. That was purchased for a stir-fry I never did end up making. I throw that out. I don’t want it making a bigger slimy mess. Otherwise, I would leave it there. I feel bad about throwing that out too.

I am embarrassed and ashamed about how much food I throw out in an average week. I think there are a couple of issues at hand:

Anticipated Financial Savings – we’ve all done this. There’s an item that you need that happens to be on sale as a two-for-one OR in a size larger than what is actually required. So you buy the two or the larger size. Problem is, you never needed that much, but you just couldn’t justify to yourself at the time not saving the money. THE TRUTH: You should have just purchased the one; or the smaller item. Now it’s just taking up more space in your fridge and you are going to throw it out later anyway. You know it.

Intending to Eat Better – we’ve all done this as well. On some well-intentioned Sunday; the day before you “start that diet” or vow to "start eating better", you go buy a bunch of produce that your mind convinces you that you WILL eat on this new plan; but come Wednesday, you are back to eating pasta with the family and a week later the produce is once again sitting in the fridge…going either soggy; limp; slimy; or moldy.

Once-a-Week Big Shop – we’re all busy and most of us find it difficult to run to the grocery store multiple times during the week, so we end up going once during the week and buying enough for what we think we will consume that week. (Note: it's always much more than what we ACTUALLY consume).

Meal Planning Gone Wrong – I can’t tell you how many times I have voraciously searched through food magazines, recipe books, and food blogs to create the perfect 7-day meal plan for my family. This leads to a VERY long shopping list filled with one-off items that I am buying for the explicit purpose of the meal I have planned to create on that Wednesday or Thursday. This then leads to the actual purchase of all of these items (see above once-a-week shop), which nearly fill my fridge and cupboards from top to bottom; a large debit from my bank account; and eventually, a number of these foods going bad because either I didn’t have time to actually cook the meal on the list for that day; OR our plans changed (as they always seem to do) for the week.

Allowing your Toddler/Preschooler/Kid to remain picky - I have a picky eater at home. Surprise. Lots of us do. But what that means for me and grocery shopping/food wastage is this: I buy “special” items that I think she will eat because I want her to eat. Period. (I can see how moms easily become short order cooks for their kids). I personally know just how hard it is to get a picky eater to eat something they say they don’t like (even though; as I have pointed out on numerous occasions when I’ve been told by my daughter that she doesn’t like it – “you haven’t even TRIED it – how do you know you don’t like it”?); I do think I need to do a better job of at least introducing new foods to her.

Anyway, the point here is that you sometimes end up purchasing food just for them and then it not getting eaten (sitting rotting in the fridge again). It’s bad enough that there’s food rotting in the fridge from two adults…now there are even more items rotting because of the extra “special” items for the other little kiddos in the house. Oh Gawd.

On-line Grocery Shopping – I personally LOVE the on-line grocery shopping option. But it’s both good and bad. In Calgary, we basically have two options for getting your groceries delivered to your door: Sunterra and The nice thing is that you never have to take your kids to the store, and the food gets delivered to your door. The bad thing is that you can over-shop pretty easily, since you are only clicking your purchases, and not roaming aimlessly, aisle to aisle, looking for that one damn ingredient in that Thai dish slated for Thursday on your meal plan lol. You get the point. I’m pretty good now at ordering on-line (read: disciplining myself) and not ordering too much. (And if ever order on-line at let me know! I have coupons!)

I have come to the following conclusions and have some suggestions:

1)  Take out is not so bad after all. I always felt bad about ordering take out because of the packaging that is required. Even though I recycle religiously, there are some things that cannot be recycled from take out meals. I figure that by the time I buy all the necessary ingredients for some meals, that I have created at least the same amount of waste of those take out meals.
(I also really prefer to eat ethically raised poultry and meat which makes take-out meals a little more challenging. But not impossible).
2)  Shopping at Costco is not always as cheap as you may think. We need to buy things we can responsibly consume. You may be paying less per item, but how much of your purchase do you end up throwing away? Not smart. Not environmentally friendly. Not necessary.

3)   If you can, make more than one trip to the supermarket WITH a list!     
I think the problem some people have when visiting a grocery store is that they purchase a bunch of items they don’t need…either they are not on the list or they don’t have a list and go overboard. If you know that you will be taking another trip to the store in 3 or 4 days (or receiving another on-line order) then you can say to yourself that you can pick up the item then. If you still want it in 3-4 days – buy it! 

4)   Create a Meal Plan – but allow for flexibility and leftovers!
OR – do what I have been doing recently, and plan only two days in advance.

5)   Make larger recipes and freeze for other future dinners
BUT remember to label well (name of dish and date) and rotate well in the freezer. Then, simply take one out of the freezer when you need an easy weekday meal. The thing here though, is that you have to LIKE it. Don’t do what I have done….make a really “healthy” meal (read: boring and tasteless – I’m not saying all healthy meals are, I just mean they have to be healthy AND taste good) or all that will happen is the food will sit there taking up space in your freezer because you don’t want to eat it. THEN, you will be faced with the even worse task of cleaning out your freezer…Cleaning out your freezer is worse than cleaning out your fridge because you feel that much worse about the entire meal that you wasted…and you have to wait for it to defrost.

6)   Do a really fun meal exchange with friends. See above. But think cookie exchange with meals.

7)   Order on-line. But don’t go overboard. Make a budget and stick with it. It’s easy to do because you can simply delete items from your “check-out”. It’s a great tool for serious budget-ers. has free delivery (over $35 I think) but Sunterra charges a small fee. In my opinion though, it’s worth every penny. Figure out how much your time is worth; your fuel to get to the market; and the toll on your sanity if you are bringing children. There’s no “I want this mommy” or “I want that”. No distractions at the checkout. No all out tantrums in the cookie isle. Yes. Worth every penny.

That’s all friends. Let me know if you have any other ideas or tips on food wastage!

1 comment:

  1. Amen Sista!
    I have never ordered from but often wanted to. Can I have a coupon!?


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