Sunday, May 26, 2013

Food Waste

My new mission is to get a grip on our food waste. It is quite ridiculous and I'm sure we fall right into those statistics I keep hearing that American's waste 25% of their food.  Do the math and that equates to approximately $2000 of food this family is tossing out each year. In order to improve this wastefulness I first need to figure out what we are doing that causes it. I've narrowed it down to these major issues:

1) We don't eat leftovers at all. DH seriously HATES leftovers. I've traced this back to the fact that his mother was about the worst cook in the world and he said growing up it was bad enough eating her meals the first time around - he wasn't going to re-heat it! So, 20 years of living with that pretty much set him in his ways. When I was a stay-at-home-mom I would try to cut some recipes in half or make the whole casserole and freeze half, so that we were not wasting. But, now that the kids are grown and eat like grown ups halving a recipe usually wouldn't give us enough to eat, but a whole recipe is still usually too much, so it gets thrown out.

2) I tend to have many options of snacks in the house, which leads to many things being opened, and many things never getting finished before it expires. Chips, cookies, etc. The reason I have many choices is that when I don't I get tons of complaints from all 3 of them that "there is nothing to eat in this house". I realize that only having one or two choices doesn't work around here. That one or two choices might not sound good as a snack that particular time or for that particular person. So, I tend to load up (especially the first of the shopping week - there is lots to choose from) so I don't have to listen to all the complaints (DH being the loudest). DH really is constantly drinking something (usually iced tea or soda) or eating something in between meals. If I don't have several choices he's a total crab and he's crabby enough to deal with, without adding to the problem.

3) I am lazy. When there is something that could be used as a leftover for at least my lunches, I tend to not put it in containers right away and let it sit out until I or DD cleans up the dinner dishes and then it just gets thrown out. Or when I do get it put in the fridge I end up not taking it as lunch because it doesn't sound good.

4) DD is a big food waster! She is always throwing new foods into the grocery cart to try (which I think is great that she wants to try new things) but either ends up not really liking it much, or just doesn't finish it up before it goes bad.  Her next huge area of waste is that she always thinks she wants to cook or bake something and I buy the ingredients and then of course she never makes it. Case in point - she makes a great macaroni salad and 3 weeks ago I bought an onion for it and diced ham - the onion is still sitting on the counter! The ham package we opened up and used quite a bit of it in omelets, but almost half of it went bad and I had to throw it out.

5) I have a real hard time following up to make sure things get frozen before they go bad (see #3). I could have put the rest of that diced ham in the freezer to pull out when she was ready to make the salad. I have about half of a 3 lb container of strawberries that is getting close to going bad, that DH (who has strawberry shortcake quite often for dessert) probably won't end up eating and instead of getting my butt in gear and either freezing them or making something with them, they will get thrown out.

So now, how to implement some changes to reduce food waste? I have to face the fact that eating leftovers is just not going to happen around here, so I'll need to start cutting my recipes down when I can or freezing part of the uncooked casserole for a later meal. Last night was just 3 of us for dinner and tuna casserole was on the menu. I got the ingredients put together and then scooped what I thought the 3 of us would eat into the casserole dish. It ended up being a little more than half, so I put the remaining in a plastic container and put it in the freezer and just cooked what we would eat. The portion in the freezer isn't really enough for 3 of us, but either I can make it sometime when I know it will just be DH and me or the next time I make a full tuna casserole, I will add another portion to what is already frozen and then the time after that it will be a full meal.

With dinners I tend to make alot of crescent rolls for the bread. They come in packs of 8 rolls- with it just the 3 of us last night, we would only eat 4 rolls (no one likes them re-heated), so instead of making them and throwing out half of them, I just didn't make them last night and we had some bread and butter. Nothing wasted.

The night before we had chili dogs and I pulled out a can of sliced pears for DH and DD to have on the side, She left 2 slices in the can. Normally while cleaning up I would have just thrown them out, but I grabbed a fork and ate them up!  I'm just realizing I need to be hyper-vigilant of what food I am buying, what food we have and what state it is in on a daily basis in order to conquer this demon. Up today - slicing and freezing strawberries before they go bad!


  1. You've got to hide the leftovers in New meals.
    Give it a try. IE-make tacos and the leftover taco meat gets put into spaghetti sauce a day or two later.
    Stuff like that. This works better if you plan a meal with a stand alone protein(rather than thrown into a casserole type deal)and then use the leftover protein in a casserole new meal.

    And your Dh needs to get over himself, seriously. LOLZ

    How about if halving a recipe is too little, doing what my MIL use to do for her family. They were what we'd consider poor today so she detested making too much food at a meal, and they couldn't afford waste. So she's make barely enough for everyone to have 1 serving and then would supplement the meal with a plate of bread or rolls and butter. If you didn't get "enough" dinner, you had a slice of bread/butter to finish filling you up. Not the healthiest choice but you could put out another side of veg or something so that everyone gets 'enough' and you don't end up with the main dish leftovers to toss.

    It's always a crap shoot here now when the teen eats. I never know how much/what/when he'll eat so sometimes I plan for him and he is not hungry when it's served. So I know your pain.

    With the crescent rolls, you could make them all and freeze half. Just tell everyone they were from a bag of rolls you bought at the store instead of leftovers. ;-)

    Keeping food waste is a challenge for everyone so don't beat yourself up over it!

    1. DH is a super picky eater and can't handle change in any form, but especially food - if he likes something made a certain way with a certain taste, then I don't dare change it up! Putting taco meat into my spaghetti sauce would most likely not work - "why does this taste different?" It might taste fine, but if it's different to him red flags go up (he's a tad OCD)

      It's just what I've had to live with for almost 30 years and it's not changing and I'm not even going to go there trying to.

      I do serve quite a bit of side dishes with most meals. Usually a veggie, a roll, and something else like jello, applesauce or rice.

  2. I had the same issues with food waste but I have reduced in some ways. 1) for my DD I tell her if there is a snack you want that is not in the house she can buy it. 2) the snacks you do buy separate into serving size lunch bags, it's a sneaky way to make it look like more snacks are available for DH and a good weight loss technique. 3) buy frozen rolls, you can take out what you want. 4) if you add salads to dinner you can still reduce your main meal since salad is a filler.
    Good luck food waste is always so hard to control.

    1. Shelly - the individual frozen dinner rolls is a great idea. I will try that. The one's I use to make pizza dough take WAY too long, like 1 1/2 hrs on the "quick" method, so I'll see if I can find something else. Or buy a bag of premade rolls and freeze some and pull out as needed.

      I add lots of sides to meals, most of the time, but salads have been a total PITA with DH. He only likes Thousand Island dressing and we have tried EVERY single dressing in the stores and none of them taste right to him. He only likes the dressing at the salad bar at the nearby pizza place - seriously. So we discovered you could get their salad bar to go and they give you little cups to put the dressing on. We'd put dressing on the salad and then put some in the cups to take home to use for our salads later in the week. Then he decided that the good dressing on our lettuce didn't taste right - so we tried 3 different lettuces. I just gave up trying to feed him a salad with dinner. We've exhausted our efforts on that one. I just need to pay more attention to what I am making and how much and downsize when possible.

    2. Why don't you ask the pizza place where THEY get their 1000 island dressing....assuming they don't make it from scratch.
      That's what we did when I couldn't live without the blue cheesing at our old fav pizza place. It was available at the restaurant supply store. The only draw back is it came in a GALLON jar. lol

  3. Sluggy said exactly what I was thinking. I try to make smaller portions and add nice-size salad and bread (healthier too :). A for your daughter and new things, limit her to one at a time - until she tries to make that one recipe, she can't buy new ingredients for another one. Or set a schedule with her when she cooks. For example, make every Tuesday her day in the kitchen :) And I would just gather your family together and let THEM know what your efforts are and why you are doing this. Good luck!!

    1. Lena - yes, I've started doing that with DD - she has to make her recipe before she gets to buy more for another one.

      I plan a menu each week before I grocery shop, which I know helps, but I need to plan in a couple of other options to change to if it turns out to be a night where I am only feeding 2 or 3 of us and could cut down by making something that isn't a large as say a casserole dish. I'm just going to keep working at it day by day and trying to get things froze, if possible before they go bad.

  4. We waste a lot too - I never realized how much until late last summer when the boys were SO BORED at home, I asked them to go through the pantry & leave out everything that was expired. Um ... that was about half the pantry. Gulp! I'm a bit more careful now, but I'm sure there still is waste happening ;(