How to Fight Food Waste

A lot of bloggers I follow often post what they wasted that week--or what they didn't waste. I've never been remotely tempted to keep an account.

In recent years I've gotten food waste down to a minimum. 

Oh, I've found the occasional lost lime, or tomato that got pushed to the back of the crisper and forgotten, but I do try to keep a fair assessment of what's in the fridge at all times.

The Pantry List that I update regularly has helped too. I'm sure I missed ticking off a couple of things I've used up, but for the most part I think it's fairly reliable.

Below is a list of things I do to keep waste at a minimum.

A menu. I don't write my weekly menus on the blog anymore, but every week I take out whatever food (from the freezer) I plan to cook that week. 

A lot of what I take out is directly correlated to whatever I have in the fridge waiting to die a lingering death if I don't use it soon.

Check your fridge (and pantry) regularly. Get familiar with what you have on hand, and jot down any item you may run out of soon.

Buy only what you need. Often times recipes call for an ingredient I may only use that one time. Don't buy something for a one time use. There's always a way to substitute it for a more common pantry ingredient. 

Buy longer lasting ingredients. Milk and buttermilk are prime examples in my house. Neither of us drink milk, but I use it often for baked goods. Unless it's a special occasion, I always use dried milk or buttermilk. It lasts a long time and it's easy to stock.

Use your freezer. This one is tricky. Don't waste freezer space for something you know you won't defrost and eat again. All you're doing is delaying the inevitable. I do freeze less than perfect celery or carrots, including the root base so I can use it in a future soup. I freeze bread too. Old bread makes great croutons and bread crumbs. Though I must admit I like feeding leftover bread to the crows and songbirds.  

Cook enough for only that night's meal. I'm bad about this. I usually cook extra so we'll have leftovers for lunch the next day. One less meal for me to cook.

Hide it in that night's meal. If I'm making a soup, stew or jambalaya, it's easy to tuck in leftover veg or meat into the recipe.

Have animals. If veggies or leftovers are beginning to languish and it doesn't look like I can convince Greg to eat them, I mix them up in the dogs' food if I can. If it's spicy, I give it to the chickens.

Did you know chickens lack the capsaicin receptors that can turn strong men into milk lushes if they eat something too hot? I don't cook really spicy food anymore (other than chili) but if any is leftover I prefer to give it to the chickens than the dogs, who cannot tolerate the spice.

Keep a compost. If all else fail, feed the garden by tossing food scraps into the compost bin. It has a nice symmetry of giving you another chance to eat your veggies. 

PS  Don't throw meat into the compost unless it has a lid. You don't want to invite animals to root in your compost.

Is waste a problem at your house? How do you handle it?

**We like to feed our crow 'overlords' quail eggs. I only keep quail eggs when I plan to incubate them but the rest of the year they're too tiny to fuss with. The crows love eggs though. We put out 4 or 5 every other day and they swoop in like thunderbirds.

We started laying out gifts for them last year and it's been a treat to see these big birds land so close to the house. They bully the squirrels away, and the songbirds wait their turn until the crows take off with their loot.


Maria Narkis said…
You could probably sell your quail eggs at a premium price... just saying.

Re: cook only enough for that night? Heck no. I love having leftovers AND if it's something that will freeze and reheat, I made a double batch so I can pull it out later and have a meal in a pinch.

Compost ... absolutely yes, though we're trying the whole "regrowing" from root bases. Currently we have a napa cabbage and three romaine bases in our garden that are beginning to grow back, along with a ton of scallions. Also, I have always been led to believe that you don't compost meat ever.

Re: birds and capsaicin receptors -- I knew this only because I researched how to keep the squirrels out of my bird food and adding hot pepper was a suggestion.

The dogs are a fantastic garbage disposal, too. I have the added benefit of having labs who eat pretty much anything.

And YES on powered milk and buttermilk. I always have buttermilk powder available.

Do your crows bring you gifts in return? I've heard they'll do that sometimes...
Maria Zannini said…
re: sell quail eggs
LOL! Too much trouble. I'd just as soon give them away. The crows haven't left anything yet. I think they're annoyed that we have dogs.

re: garbage disposal
I can't give Nana too much because she gains weight too quickly and Odin is picky. But back when we had Samoyeds food never hit the floor.

re: I have good luck regrowing green onions from the root. The lettuces root too but mine are still bitter. Too hot.
Mike Keyton said…
I’m with you on not buying things you’ll only use once for specific recipes, having been stung on a few occasions. The last time was fish sauce at my daughter’s instigation. It brought this to mind. I hope the lik works
Yes to all of this. Food waste is not allowed around here. Like Maria Narkis said, I always cook extra and freeze for another meal. It really helps on super busy days. I also freeze things like pumpkin or tomato paste in small amounts on a cookie sheet, then throw them in a bag to keep in the freezer. If I'm inundated with lemons, the juice goes in ice trays and then into bags.

I live in the suburbs, but we have a great composting system in place. Yard waste and food waste go in a dedicated trash can and is picked up on trash day. The city composts it and then lets us pick up the compost to put back in our yards and gardens. We have to shovel it ourselves, which I consider a good thing. We compost everything - food waste is NOT allowed in the landfill garbage.

Love the crows. We have several around here and it's a treat to watch them play in our fountain.
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: Chinese ingredients are usually the ones I have to be careful buying because they tend to be a one time use. I do use fish sauce though on a semi regular basis when I make Asian dishes. It's fermented so it lasts a long time.
Maria Zannini said…
Marlene: I love that your city does actual composting and lets you take it back when it's finished.

I have a huge compost bin that can only be turned over with the tractor. Aside from our piddly amounts of food scraps we keep it full with pulled weeds, spent flowers,leaves and cut grass. It takes 9 months to get it finished, sooner if we get a lot of rain, but man, it is beautiful. You can't buy mulch like that.