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Confession: I’m a food waster

Compost 005Yep, I waste food. I try really hard not to and I’m overwhelmed with guilt when I do, but despite my best efforts, it still happens. That nasty-looking photo at right is my compost and atop that pile of egg shells and corn husks are several carrots that were perfectly usable until I forgot about them in the refrigerator.

This is especially atrocious as I’m one of two reporters working on a series of stories about the growing problem of food waste. The latest installment, which ran today, is about food waste in the home.

Americans waste 90 billion pounds of food each year. It’s not just the food, but the water and the land that grows that food that goes to waste (about 24% of all water used for growing crops goes toward food that gets wasted). And rotting food in landfills create methane gas that contributes greatly to global warming.

I’m getting better at not wasting food as I work on this series. But I’ve still got a ways to go. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. You know how it is. You shop for the week, with your menu all planned out and then a friend unexpectedly comes into town and takes you out to dinner. Or you work late and it’s just easier to stop at Chipotle than it is to start a meal from scratch at 7:30 p.m.

So, I’m vowing to do a better job. Anybody out there want to join me? The story include a list of tips, some surprising, about how to not waste food. And Ramona the Super Nonwaster shares how she keeps her garbage can almost empty in my profile of her. I’ve adopted some of these techniques in the course of writing this story. For me, forcing myself to buy smaller portions has helped a lot. This means skipping the grocery store (where the cauliflower is as always as big as my head) in favor of the farmers market, where you can buy a baby cauliflower that’s perfect for a side dish. KMK Farms at the Vineyard Farmers Market is particularly good at these pint-size veggies, I’ve found. And containing my excitement has helped too. Those strawberries look so amazing I get all worked up and buy a whole flat, when I should really be buying one basket. (And did you know that Whole Foods and Vons will cut produce such as watermelon in half for you? More on that in the story.)

How about you? What changes have you made that cut down on waste? And who wants to join me in an effort to cut back on the 90 billion pounds of food that’s thrown away each year?

Responses to "Confession: I’m a food waster"

Lisa says:

I do. I live by myself, no kids and things go bad before I can use them. I try to buy small quantities went I can, like a small bunch of 4-5 bananas instead of the larger ones of 7-8.

Susan Smuthw says:

I’ve been trying very hard to cut down on waste also. For over 6 months I’ve been getting the TD Willey Farms CSA box and utilizing that as the basis for meal planning. Eat that up before purchasing additional produce items. It’s helped and kept me more seasonal.

The article hit home with me that by wasting food we are also wasting electricity, gas etc.

Time for us to try harder.

pk says:

At the time my kids were in school; I had business in the kitchen occasionally. After the lunch,
FUSD staff would have to use a box-cutter, and all the food the kids would not take, would be
destroyed by cutting the cellophane with X’s and letting it rot in the trash. We are also talking about apples, cookies and other longer shelf-life items.
I contacted the administration at the time, but never got a real answer except that the legal issues involved with transporting, handling and chain-of-control, would prevent the food from being donated.
I hope this situation has changed.
We may waste food at home, and it is great to be aware, but the bureaucratic institutional food service industry is huge, and I would hope that that area of waste is addressed as well.
Me? I now buy only what I need and go to the market more often. It’s a different mind-set, but it works.

Terri Lynn says:

That is terrible, I also hope that has changed!! I hear the Rescue Mission calling……

Lisa says:

I think it has to do with who pays for it. Since the govt is paying for it go to the kids, it’s has to designated for that. I know it’s really strict.

JJJJ says:

It would be easier not to waste food if supermarkets sold smaller portions.

Why is it impossible to buy less than 4 hamburger buns? And even those are hard to find, its usually 8.

Bethany Clough says:

I totally agree, JJJJ! I wish they would sell smaller portions. Seems like so many things are geared toward huge families. Getting into the habit of freezing (and dating and labeling) the buns you don’t use can help with that problem too.

Ruth Ratzlaff says:

And then you have to buy huge quantities to get sale prices. “Buy 4 get 3 free.” I don’t have room to store that much and it’ll be out-of-date before we get around to consuming it or I’ll forget I have extras because I can’t see it.

Terri Munson says:

Guilty, I hate the march to the dumpster with wasted vegetables. I too get home late and don’t feel like cooking. Should follow Rachel Ray’s advice and take a few minutes to wash produce before putting away.

pk says:

Blender fertilizer with your old veggies! Faster than composting!
Just a thought!

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