My grandmother used the old adage “waste not want not” for good reason. She was a woman who lived during the Great Depression, she grew our family’s food most of her life. Planting, nurturing, harvesting and preserving food was her life—and she didn’t intend to waste any of it!
In the US, we throw away 30-40 percent of our food supply. That’s 219 pounds per person and $1600 per family each year.
Wholesome food that could feed families in need is sent to landfills. Food is the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills.
If that isn’t enough to motivate you, think about the land, water, labor, energy and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food.
For me, you and I, it may be about saving money. For others, it’s about contributing to the environment and doing your part to save the planet.
Whatever your reason is to reduce your food waste, I’m going to give you some hints from my pantry and Granny.
Experiment and understand your food
Experimenting with your food can actually teach you how to cut down on the amount of food waste you produce.
Granny would say, “shop in your refrigerator first!” Cook and eat what you already have at home before buying more.
If your produce is past its prime, it’s probably fine for cooking, soups, casseroles, stir-fries, or even smoothies.
Granny would make croutons out of stale bread. She would sauerkraut the ugly cabbage and pickle the forlorn crooked cucumbers.
Don’t be afraid to use that cheese that has a “Best if used by” date. It often describes the quality of the product may not taste or perform as expected, but it’s quite safe to eat.
I am never afraid to whip something up from what I have before me!
Choose your products well.
Suppose you’re reducing food waste for the sake of the planet. In that case, it’s a good idea to begin buying products that are organic and from reputable producers. I grow most of my fresh produce now, and in the winter, I purchase from organic brands I know and love.
On the other hand, organic meat can sometimes be hard to find, and I have to be flexible. In most cases, this will involve buying from ethical and sustainable farms like Superior Farms.
Many of my local stores have Organic Prairie meat, and when they do, I try to stock up and use my freezer.
Your freezer is your friend.
Granny had a deep full-sized freezer in the basement next to the crocks of kraut and jars of pickles. In it, she would preserve sides of meat, the chickens she harvested and even fresh corn from the garden. Every manner of extra food went deep into its depths to delight us on a snowy day.
At this writing, my tomatoes are beginning to overcome me, so I’m simply chopping them up and freezing them in small packets for a fine winter red sauce.
Don’t buy more than you can eat.
It’s true that when the pandemic struck, and I witnessed bare shelves, I bought a few too many red lentils and brown rice—but thankfully, they last for eternity.
I’m more measured with perishables and try to plan my meals for the week, buying only what I need and what tickles my culinary fancy.
Compost your food waste into organic matter!
If there was any food waste about, Granny composted most of the scraps with bits of leaves and twigs. She mixed in chicken droppings, and those great mounds smoldered and grew hot as they fermented into black gold. This organic material was the magic sauce that allowed her garden to flourish and grow.
Today, I am cultivating several thousand red wiggler worms, I call it my “Wiggle Inn.” They eat all my extra vegetables and fruit scraps, bread, tea bags, coffee grounds, and cereals. They issue forth with castings and liquid that keeps my garden fertile and begging for more.
Granny taught me to respect and have gratitude for food.
Making an effort to reduce my food waste has given me a deeper appreciation for the bounty I enjoy in this country at this time. Many people on the planet do not have the luxury of throwing away precious food.
I give thanks for the farmers who grow my food, the people in the middle who get it to me and the real honor I have in being so blessed to have so much.
I hope you will join me. Granny would be happy.
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