|Storing food in clear containers helps you keep track of leftovers in your fridge|
I have an obsession with leftovers. I hate to see good food go to waste so over the years have honed my skill at using them up in all sorts of creative ways. That’s why a recent article about food waste caught my eye. Titled “Don’t toss your cookies”, the article suggests that food waste is one of the greatest challenges facing our food system today; more worrisome than spiralling food costs and extreme weather.
This waste is a worry for a number of reasons. There are environmental consequences to producing food that doesn’t get eaten: twenty-five percent of fresh water consumption goes to producing food, and four percent of oil consumption. Unfortunately, food that doesn’t get eaten doesn’t get composted either. In the U.S., 13% of garbage that hits the landfill is food waste. As it decomposes it produces methane (the most potent of greenhouse gasses) accounting for 23 percent of all U.S. methane production.
As far as the household budget goes, it’s estimated that the average family of four in the U.S. throws out about $150 per month worth of food. That’s like tossing cash in the compost bin, or the garbage actually, since only about 3% of food waste gets composted.
So what’s the source of all of this waste? Some food gets left in the field to rot if the cost to harvest is higher than the price the producer can sell it for. Some food spoils during shipping and a surprising amount of food gets thrown away at the grocery store. (Stores often over-buy to keep displays looking plump). Restaurants toss a lot of uneaten food as well. Few patrons request a doggie bag and with many restaurant portions coming in at two-to- eight-times the recommended serving size it’s no surprise that people don’t always clean their plates.
Collectively, we consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores, or any other part of the food supply chain. We’re also wasting far more food than ever before (on average 50% more food than 40 years ago).
One encouraging point – we have complete control over how much food we waste:
At restaurants, ask for smaller portions, share dishes and have your children share if you know that not everything is going to get eaten. Take leftovers home.
Learn to love your freezer. You can freeze just about anything that you think won’t be eaten in time. Freeze fruit for smoothies (peeled), keep your bread in the freezer so it won’t go mouldy or stale on the counter. (Bread that’s a little stale can be whirred in the food processor to make bread crumbs.) Grate cheese and freeze it before it can grow mould.
Eat your leftovers. Leftover can go in wraps, omlettes or into basic homemade soups. Don’t toss that chicken carcase until you have made stock.
There are dozens of things you can do to reduce food waste. And if all else fails, at the very least, compost.