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Thanksgiving has past and you’re left with a boat-load of leftovers! What to do??
Personally, I love Thanksgiving leftovers , but it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the holidays or any other time of year. I cook enough to have plenty of leftovers, because I can make so many meals in the coming months without much thought or effort! Heck, it’s already cooked, all I have to do is be creative!
Being frugal and thrifty, especially when it comes to food, is kind of my bag. I think of it as a challenge to see what I can come up with to make from food that’s on it’s last leg. To be honest, though, I’m not that great of a cook. I mean, I’ve had to teach myself how to cook. My meals aren’t fancy, but rather wholesome and balanced. So when I talk about being creative in the kitchen, just remember, I’m one of you.
But the more serious issue I want to discuss with you today is the subject of food waste. It’s much more of a problem than you may realize.
We all hear about feeding the hungry and opportunities to stock local food pantries, that’s important and necessary. But what’s contributing to the problem is food waste, on many different levels. Yes, the food distributors, wholesalers and grocers all have a part to play in our serious food waste problem, but guess where the largest chunk of the blame falls? Yep, household food waste.
According to a very interesting study by NDRC about food waste, over 40% of the food in our country goes uneaten. FORTY percent, yes, like close to half! I found that hard to believe the first time I heard it. Can you imagine how many people could fed if that food could find it’s way to their plates???? Actually, in my mind, we don’t have a food shortage problem in this country, we have a distribution problem. Not to mention all of the resources that went into growing that food, all wasted.
But we also have a waste problem. The movie “Just Eat It” does a wonderful job of explaining the issue of food waste, in a humorous way with a couple who challenges themselves to only eat food waste for a period of months. It’s quite interesting and motivating.
Here’s few more facts for consideration:
*Americans throw away close to $218 billion worth of food each year.
*Much of this food lays in landfills emitting methane, which is harmful to the environment, and accounts for the largest percentage of solid waste in landfills.
*The average American throws away between 4.6-7.5 pounds of food per week, per household. Dude, that’s an average of #312 per year. That’s crazy!
*Many Americans realize that they waste food, and have good intentions of improving their food stewardship, but often fail because they don’t have a plan.
Here’s where my point is today. We all need a plan. It doesn’t have to be a perfect or impressive plan, but you need a plan to deal with leftovers, every single day. It’s a critical key to running a sustainable home, to reducing your time and money spent at the grocery and to reducing food waste, at least in your own home.
For each and every meal I make, I have very common sense, leftover strategies in place. We’re talking simple, but effective.
To save time and energy, I often cook more than we’ll need in one meal. I have see-through bowls with lids that I use to store the leftovers in the frig. Now, that’s just the first step. How many leftovers get shoved to the back of the frig and are never eaten? Probably 90%. We just hope and pray someone eats it, but it usually doesn’t happen.
Leftovers have to be promoted, and brought to the attention of the family. You need to find a way to say “Hey, THIS needs to be eaten first!”, whatever that looks like for you.
Also, work to change the mindset of “eating what you’re in the mood for” to “eating what needs to be eaten”. This can be difficult, but it can be done! If you’re truly hungry, you’ll eat what needs to be eaten. Otherwise, perhaps they should wait to eat.
In my house, I have several ways of doing this. First, there is a bowl on the counter with little things that need to be eaten before anything new is opened. It might include a smashed granola bar, a bag of chips that someone brought home, or some bananas that are turning brown. You might even put a little sign on the bowl that says “Eat Me First“, and hold your ground. Set the example yourself, but insist on this policy.
Another strategy is having a “Eat Me First” bin in the frig, same concept. These are items that will expire soon, maybe a cup of yogurt, a half eaten apple, cheese sticks that were accidently opened, whatever. To reduce overall waste, you have to put the food that is the most compromised in their faces. Otherwise, they’ll go for the easiest thing to grab.
Also, show them ways to make using older food fun! Grab the afore mentioned yogurt and top it with the smashed granola bar for a fun snack, kids love that kind of stuff. Mix it up and be unconventional, and they’ll grab the wave. Pretty soon, they’ll begin to contribute to the “Eat Me First” bin.
Once 4 days or so have gone by with perishable food, you’re going to have to make a decision about what to do with it. Storing in the freezer for a meal later is the ultimate, simple food-saving technique! It’s just amazing how quickly your freezer will fill up with pre-cooked foods, just waiting for you to warm it up and enjoy again!
Many people miss this step, and it’s a shame. Throwing away food after it’s been in the frig a few days, but is still good, is ludacris! That defeats the entire point of saving it in the first place! According to the study mentioned before, something like 58% of people feel ok about throwing food away if it went bad because it wasn’t eaten.
Store that food and stretch your food dollars the way they should be used! What a difference it will make in your food bill and over all food waste.
Statistics derived from “NRDC: Estimating Quantities and Types of Food Waste at the City Level”