Day 254–Reducing Food Waste

How much food do you think your family throws away each year?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw away more than 34 million tons of food in 2010. That is absolutely appalling. Food waste is the largest component of municipal solid waste. FOOD! Not paper (that was second) or plastic, but food. You know, the stuff we pay to eat and then complain about how expensive it is. Yikes! Is it me or is it horrifying that people around the world are starving and we are throwing food away at a staggering rate? And can I tell you how weird it is to realize I’m starting to sound like my grandmother?

I have been completely and totally guilty of this myself. Leftovers that go uneaten, grocery store produce that goes bad before you can cook it and trash bags full of peelings and odd veggie pieces. Our change of eating habits has helped that a great deal, but we can do better.

Want to know how you can reduce the amount of food you toss? Here are some helpful suggestions:

  1. Buy less. This is hard for me, especially at the farmer’s market, but I’m getting a lot better. I’ve found that I really didn’t understand how many carrots or tomatoes or heads of lettuce we REALLY needed in a week. Putting our family on a budget along with buying more organic produce makes me very conscious of how much we really eat. And it’s nowhere near what I was thinking. I’m still very tempted during our peak seasons to buy, buy, buy, so I haven’t mastered this yet.
  2. Compost your kitchen scraps. We have two compost systems in our back yard and we probably need another rotating bin. If you have just a bit of space, you can turn your produce scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, corn husks and even some paper into rich garden compost. We have been amazed at how empty our garbage bin is when we take it to the curb each week.
  3. Eat your leftovers. I know, I know. Leftovers can be boring. The old me used to throw most leftovers away because I knew no one would eat them. The new me plans our menu a week ahead and PLANS to eat leftovers at least once a week (you’ve seen this on my menus). Some weeks this is a buffet with a little of this and a little of that. Some weeks we are just trying to finish up a huge pot of chili or soup. Regardless, that is what we eat because that is what is on the menu. Also, to save money, I bring leftovers for lunch. This isn’t a hardship because I rather like my cooking, and it tends to be a lot healthier than eating out.
  4. Freeze extra produce. Did you know you can freeze most produce whole? If you freeze tomatoes and peaches whole, they are easy-peasy to peel once they thaw. Beats blanching any day in my book. Some of our summer produce boxes were so huge that we couldn’t possibly eat everything. Enter–the freezer! We have corn, green beans, field peas, tomatoes, fruit, pasta sauce, pesto, chopped onions and more stashed away for use at a later time.
  5. Donate. Have a bunch of extra tomatoes or squash or cucumbers? Share with your neighbors! Not only will you make them extremely happy, but you’ll reduce the amount of food you’re wasting.

Ok, so with this knowledge I am re-committing our family to reduce our food waste. What about you? Do you have suggestions to help us? Share!


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  1. I am like the kitchen waste gestapo in this house. I use up everything. I have no problem eating the same leftovers for lunch 3 days in a row. I turn leftover rice or pasta dishes into soup. Sometimes I rinse weird sauces off of cooked veggies and weave them into a pot pie. Obviously I don’t blog about all this because then you would all think I’m nuts, but there you have it! It’s how I afford to feed a family of 4 on $550 or less each month, and that budget includes everything – nuts, flours, all my spices and baking commodities. It’s a skill I picked up from growing up tee-totally broke. And I gotta say it comes in handy!
    Do you have a good link to setting up compost? I have plenty of yard space to work with, but we don’t have garbage pick-up here. We have to haul all our trash to the dump (when I moved here from Charlotte I was sooo weirded out). Anyway, I really hate when the racoons rip open my trash bags to get potato peels or chicken fat.

    • That is awesome! Regarding compost, is your county extension office nearby??? They often have reduced price compost bins for sale along with good instructions. You can buy them online, but I’d go with the county or town first. We have a big open bin that looks like a wire cage and we fill that sucker chock full of leaves in the fall. We also have a closed compost bin that spins. We start that bin by filling it 3/4 full of dried leaves and 1/4 full of vegetable or fruit scraps. Then we keep adding non-meat or dairy food scraps, garden trimmings and dried leaves until we have the bin pretty full of compost (about 4 weeks in the summer, longer in the winter). Then I scoop out what I can use and add more leaves, etc and we start all over again! The goal is to have a balance of “brown” material (dried leaves, dried grass clippings) and “green” material (fruit and vegetable pieces. We use our wire bin as a holding area for leaves so we have a supply all year. Too much green material and the compost can get wet and stinky! Good luck!!

  2. This is an issue that totally gets my goat as well. And we are better than we used to be, but still throw out way more food than we should. I need to get on the “buy less” wagon, and really must start to freeze more food than I currently do. I think that if I can work it into my routine, I could make it work! Thanks for the great blog!

    • Thanks! I am actually amazed and how little we eat vs. my perception of what we needed. I still struggle during peak produce season, but the freezer definitely helps when I have a tomato splurge! Good luck!


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