Shena Eat Your Food!
Eat your food! The moment this mantra screams in my head, I picture Napoleon Dynamite Tossing a healthy portion of slop at his defiant llama Tina.
For those of you who haven’t seen this gem of a film, my apologies. Spoiler alert- Tina doesn’t eat it.
Napoleon is left lacking in success at his only chore and thoroughly agitated (All of us who have ever tried to feed a 2 year old know the pain)!
Alright, all jokes aside I know Tina is a llama, and Napoleon dynamite is a film rooted in satire. But at times I feel all too much like the defiant Tina turning up my nose to the plate.
As we explore how to get savvy with food, we can see food waste is just one contributor preventing us from true green eating.
Why I Buy Garbage
Imagine this. I am in the grocery store, selecting the prettiest package of celery nature could muster.
Subconsciously I know that there’s a 90% chance a least half the tribe is hitting the rubbish bin at the end of its short lived life-span.
Why? Because I only kind-of like celery. My daughter also kind-of likes celery. However, neither of us enjoy it enough to munch on it regularly through the week.
Kind-of liking a food is okay if there’s a plan in place to enjoy it. If I haven’t planned out a dinner to incorporate the celery before hitting the grocery store, its now the prime candidate for becoming garbage even before it even hits my refrigerator.
Get Food Savvy
If celery is lucky, maybe I’ll slap some peanut butter on a few stalks during its prime time. My daughter may get bored, rummage through the fridge and realize it exists contributing to the consumption of a few more stalks.
However, although I love most veggies the reason this particular one is doomed to food waste from the start is because I love other veggies MORE than little old celery.
EVERY time poor celery is sitting in there next to bell pepper sticks with hummus it’s going to get the stink eye.
It’s not that celery is BAD. It’s just not as GOOD as my favorites like bell pepper and it came into the fortress without a plan.
Now had I walked into the grocery and thought “DUDE! Celery, pot pie party tomorrow and you’re part of it!” I then could have grabbed its fellow meal contributors. Celery might have stood a fighting chance.
However, celery chilling in the veggie crisper hanging out next to bell pepper; Tina’s not taking the bait.
Struggling with ideas of how to make those veggies you deem just okay A little more exciting? Try out some of these plant based snacking ideas
Why Is Food Waste A Problem?
How Do You Eat For the Planet?
Every step from farm to table extends often missed opportunities to minimize food waste. Here’s a few ways we use resources may be unnecessarily expended in food production.
Costs of production can include transportation costs, labor, as well retail value of products.
From farm to table, we are utilizing excessive resources along the way. Here are just a few ways:
- Farmers may leave crops un-harvested if costs outweigh production.
- 25% of fresh water supply is used for chemical uses on crops.
- Energy is also utilized to maintain crops, transport foods, and support warehousing facilities.
Additional environmental impacts of food waste can be found here
What Is the Main Cause of Food Waste?
- About 40% of food waste is estimated to come from household waste.
- About 25% of what is purchased in the American household will be wasted.
- Several thousand dollars a year produced, purchased, and stored will ultimately be tossed in the trash!
You can’t control the world, but you can control what you purchase, plan, prepare, and ultimately what you toss out.
In fact, if you prepare food for your household, you may be a huge influence on going further with food for multiple individuals, and that is a big responsibility!
Hi My Name is -- and I'm a Food Waster. How Can I stop?
As an individual we can’t do much about over produced crops and high transportation costs.
However, we can certainly influence with our dollar! We can be willing to purchase imperfect produce and support local growers.
Choosing imperfect goods can have a dramatic impact in reducing food waste as more individuals adapt this mentality.
Other things you can do to go further with food can be as simple as proper storage and care. Here are some examples of what do do with produce to preserve shelf life.
Eat Green By Choosing More Greens!
Plant based plates not only preserve a life, they preserve our planet! Moral of the story is if we’re cool to the planet than homo sapiens (us), get to keep hanging out here for a while longer.
Plant based food production is far less taxing on the environment than animal agriculture.
A vegan diet averages about a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases in comparison to an omnivorous one.. In addition, Plant based diets promote both health and longevity for the humans!
We can reduce our blue water use, land occupied by lifestock as well as total greenhouse gas emissions simply by changing the way we organize our plates! We have a lot of power at the tip of our fork, both in terms of preserving the planet and our health.
If you’re looking to shop green I’ve got a plant based grocery list for you!
Practice Green Eating By Storing Food Properly!
- Keep tomatoes at room temperature. Only store cut tomato in fridge (tomato will turn mealy and lose its flavor if refrigerated.
- Store onions AWAY from other foods so those OTHER foods don’t develop an unpleasant flavor and thus become food waste.
- Storing onions in a cool, dark place in a mesh bag can keep onions good to go for months!
- Winter Squash:keep this in a cool dark place (not the fridge).
- Banana: Room temperature. Peels will turn black if left in the fridge but should still taste the same and have the same nutrient composition. Pro tip- freeze bananas that for smoothies and baked goods!
- Avocado, Kiwi, peaches, plum, nectarine: ripen on counter and then refrigerate
Food waste often overlooks the way foods influence one another!
Keep These Items in the Fridge:
Berries: One easy trick to preserve is to look these over as soon as you leave the grocery store. That’s it! Take out any spoiled berries.
Beans & Peas: Store in the fridge and use immediately.
Asparagus: Cut 1/4” off bottom of stalks. Store upright in a a container with a small amount of water in bottom.
Fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, oregano, sage etc): These can also be stored in water in the fridge! Do not touch leaves with water though! Wrap in paper towel in plastic bag to go further with food. If you only need a small portion consider freezing extra in ice cube trays in oil for later use.
Broccoli & cauliflower: wash and store in fridge: I recommend cutting these up and portioning them out as soon as they come into the house. There is nothing more intimidating than your stomach growling and considering cutting up a giant head of cauliflower as fast as possible! Lack of preparation is usually why these choices end up in the garbage.
Salad greens: Keep in plastic tub if buying at the grocery store with paper towel between greens and lid to absorb moisture. This helps the product keep longer and avoids food waste.
Kale, chard, collards: remove tough stems. Cut leaves into ribbons. Store in plastic bag with damp paper towel to keep fresh.
Mushrooms: Avoid soaking in water. If using mushrooms, rinse only right before eating and do a quick rinse or light scrub.
Potato: store in a cool dry place (NOT THE FRIDGE). Potato can become unpleasantly sweet in the fridge. You can store cut potato in water the fridge (this can remove starch and help potato become crispy when you roast or fry them).
By Knowing Food Waste Facts You Too Can Go Further With Food!
I have included only a list of produce here but there are MANY other ways to reduce food waste. Un-fun food waste fact: Produce may be one product that receives some of the highest discard rate and thus I thought it deserved some attention.
Produce is also the product that perishes most quickly so requires a little thought.
Food waste fact: You do have the power to reduce food waste, mostly by just eating your food!
Did you know that just 1/3 of the food wasted could feed the millions of people going hungry?
Plan, shop, and prepare to make the greatest impact on ensuring you eat what you buy. What are some strategies you have make the most use out of the foods you purchase?
Download my free food savvy shopping and green eating PDF to help get you started at the top of this page!
- Castañé, S., & Antón, A. (2017). Assessment of the nutritional quality and environmental impact of two food diets: A Mediterranean and a vegan diet. Journal of Cleaner Production, 167, 929–937. https://doi-org.ezp.lib.cwu.edu/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.04.121
- Goldstein, B., Moses, R., Sammons, N., & Birkved, M. (2017). Potential to curb the environmental burdens of American beef consumption using a novel plant-based beef substitute. PLoS ONE, 12(12), 1–17. https://doi-org.ezp.lib.cwu.edu/10.1371/journal.pone.0189029
- Henning, B. (2011). Standing in Livestock’s “’Long Shadow”’: The Ethics of Eating Meat on a Small Planet. Ethics & the Environment, 16(2), 63–93. https://doi-org.ezp.lib.cwu.edu/10.2979/ethicsenviro.16.2.63
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (2017). Sustainable Management of Food Basics. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/sustainable-management-food-basics
- Gunders, D. (2017). Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill. National Resources Defense Council. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pd
- United States Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service (2017, October). Key Statistics and Graphics. Retrieved from: https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx