It’s time for week one of my food waste challenge!
Last week I wrote a post about Reducing Food Waste and the #UglyFruitandVeg Movement and I got a lot of really great feedback from my readers. Food waste is a topic not often discussed, and it should be. It’s such a problem in our country– in 2010, the US wasted 133 billion pounds of food. And that was six years ago! Imagine what it probably is now.
Becoming more mindful of the food we waste will help our world become a better place– for both it’s people and the environment.
Along with helping to improve the environment, my biggest motivator is to save money. Every week I clean out our fridge and always end up throwing away so much food– whether it be expired dairy products, wilted lettuce, or a soft cucumber. I feel like I’m just throwing dollars in the trash can. I know that I need to get better– which is the reason for this food waste challenge!
One of my readers made a really great comment about last week’s post:
I have become a lot more careful about keeping tabs on what’s in my fridge, freezer, and pantry so I can plan my meals based on what I have on hand, not just the recipes that catch my eye on Pinterest and in magazines.
I am totally guilty of choosing recipes that catch my eye on Pinterest or on my favorite blogs instead of recipes that would most utilize the ingredients that I have on hand. This is one of my goals– to become better of how I utilize the ingredients in my pantry and fridge, versus buying new ingredients each week.
So for week one and two, I’m measuring how much our household wastes in one week and recording the volume.
- 1/4 container of expired half and half
- 2 containers of 1/4 full expired hummus
- a container of wrinkly raspberries with maybe less than 1/4 left
- maybe 15% of a half gallon of milk
- an expired yogurt (from Jan! eek)
- 1 cucumber
- a bunch of cilantro
- half a bag of watery baby carrots that turned slimy
- half a bag of butter lettuce that turned pink
- half a bag of baby spinach that went slimy
Total weight (including the box and packaging): 72.8 ounces, or 4.5 lb.
ACK!! I know some of this is packaging, but this is the average amount of food I’ll throw out on a regular basis.
According to the handy EatByDate.com, milk should last for 7 days beyond it’s “best by” date if properly refrigerated. Non-fat milk lasts longer than whole milk by four more days! Who knew. So the milk I threw away could have been drunken or added to a smoothie, had I actually opened it up and smelled it… oops.
Yogurt can last from 1-3 weeks beyond its “best by” date stamped on the carton. The yogurt that expired in January was just out of luck– this shows the importance of rotating items in your fridge so you always know what’s in there! This poor yogurt got stuck at the back and didn’t have a chance.
I’ve read that you should save your wilted vegetables for making your own vegetable stock! This handy guide by The Kitchn tells us which veggies to use and which to avoid– broccoli, cauliflower and artichokes can be too overpowering for veggie stocks.
Onions, carrots, celery and key stock ingredients, as well as garlic, lettuce, potatoes, squash, bell peppers and many more. You can use veggies that are wilted or past their prime, but make sure they are not rotten or moldy! The Kitchn recommends about 4 cups of veggies. Wash, chop and freeze them in an airtight bag if you’re collecting scraps for longer than a week.
Apparently, wilted lettuce turns pink due to oxidation that occurs when there’s too much oxygen in the bag. It’s important that the bag the lettuce is stored in is atmosphere controlled that allows oxygen to enter and carbon dioxide to exit. Keeping the bagged lettuce wrapped shut in the produce drawer may not be the best storage technique?
This article says that it’s normal for lettuce to change color, and that it does not indicate disease. The brown spots on romaine lettuce is due to oxidation stemming from storage with with ethylene gas that is used on produce. Improperly storing lettuce can also cause it to discolor. Lettuce needs stored at 32 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity range around 96 percent.
I know that the little humidity-adjusting sliders on my produce drawers in the fridge are there for a reason– I’m going to do some research and find out what those numbers should be set on for both fruits and vegetables.
I’ll be back next Tuesday for Week 2 of the Food Waste Challenge! Are you following along? Be sure to measure your food waste this week and let me know how it compares!