Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Waste not, want not

The Guardian, in an article about food wastage, writes:

There are nearly a billion malnourished people in the world, but all of them could be lifted out of hunger with less than a quarter of the food wasted in Europe and North America. In a globalised food system, where ...we are all buying food in the same international market place, that means we're taking food out of the mouths of the poor.

I'm a food-wasting culprit - or at least I have been in the past. When we were a two income family, the culinary week would run the same way every time...

Weekend: go grocery shopping, full of wholesome cooking ideas for the week.
Monday: cook something semi-decent.
Tuesday-Thursday: come home from work exhausted, and veer between half-arsed cooking and possibly takeaways.
Friday: abandon our family shamelessly to takeaways, as a reward for cooking (?) during the week.

The waste was staggering. Rotting veges that I couldn't find time or energy to cook would reproach me from the smelly interior of my fridge. I'm one of those who likes sharing mealtimes with the family - and collapsing exhausted with takeaways just isn't the same as sitting down for a home-cooked dinner together. My dad was, I think, rather disturbed by my wasteful ways. It's a generational thing: growing up in postwar Scotland, he is programmed to use up every last speck of leftovers, switch off every unusued light, and generally use resources to their utmost.

I'm sure that busy lifestyles aren't the only cause of waste. A university study found that school kids throw out huge quantities of untouched food from their lunches everyday, starting with fruit, yoghurt and other health foods. It's hard to say why - maybe kids have such a wide range of food choices to them that healthy food just isn't attractive.

We dealt with the food-wastage problem when we dropped down to one income. Less money and more time lead to better domestic economy, plus health and welfare benefits for our family. How do other THMers prevent themselves and their kids from wasting food?


Deborah said...

Many years ago, my husband persuaded me to try working out a weekly menu, and shopping to that plan. It turned out to be an excellent thing to do. On Thursday evenings we work out what we will cook in the next week, and on Fridays I do the shopping. It means hat I buy only what we need, with top-ups during the week for fresh fruit and vegies and milk and bread, and when we stagger in late from work and running-around, we don't have to put any effort in to working out what to cook for dinner. So it saves on emotional effort as well as helping us to avoid waste.

We like doing the family dinner thing too.

Boganette said...

My partner works out what he's going to cook each day for the week in advance as well. And then he makes enough to put some of it in a container for my lunch the next day. Anything left over goes in my lunchbox.

But I'm pretty bad with leaving bananas and apples to go gross on my desk at work.

Lucy said...

I find the trick is to buy stuff you *know* you're going to cook, or that keeps well. It saves on chucking stuff out. If you can't think of a use for it at the supermarket - a realistic use - don't bother.

Christina said...

yes, I agree with Lucy, buying stuff that keeps well makes sense. I mostly by frozen veges now, and grow my own salad leaves and greens (the things that don't freeze well). Also, I have several easy 15 minute meals I can make with storecupboard staples, and/or meat/veg from the freezer. I've made them so often now they seem like less of a hassle than ordering takeaways if I'm late or tired from work.

spikybombshell said...

I liked this article! When I was younger I used to chuck out my lunch, my mum made me start making it myself when I was 7 or 8 and I didn't chuck it out because I was eating what I chose, it wasn't all unhealthy just the fruit, sandwich fillings I enjoyed.

It's really difficult to cook during the week, I use frozen veges and cook enough for two nights for my partner and I when I cook. I also cook two meals usually on Sundays.

Thanks for the article :) it's such a big issue food wastage but I can totally tell where you are coming from with the exhaustion!!

Maybe your kids can cook some nights a week, I used to cook for my family from about the age of 9 once a week at least. Otherwise my mum had me doing easy things like peeling stuff and chopping it to help her out.

Anna said...

Getting kids to make their own lunches is a good idea - I hadn't really thought of it. Sometimes a little thing like sandwiches cut into triangles rather than rectangles is enough to convince a kid to eat rather than throw out!

It's so frustrating, too, that all that food waste needlessly gets transported to landfill.

Anonymous said...

What my mother would say is, you should be grateful if your child actually throws the food out. *winces*

Which is why I made my own lunches from 8 onwards (which usually just involved a lot of fruit, or yogurt actually - the things you mention as getting chucked!). Because I wouldn't eat sandwiches - I'll still only eat them made fresh.

The only stuff that really gets wasted in our house is things like sour cream & hummus - you forget about it and it goes off. But Mum's always cooked really well, and working in schools gets off earlier than most people. Which means there's actually time to cook a decent meal and eat at a decent hour, but not really an option for everyone!

pipi said...

I’m really interested in ways to deal with excess food waste and have recently been made aware of the food politics around skip diving. The amount of food that doesn’t even make it to our kids’ lunch boxes is ridiculous.
For me it’s weird being newly middle class; for the first time I am aware of how much I consume and how much I waste. Skip diving seems like a cool solution.
I reckon, try shopping on a full stomach. When I’m hungry I buy shit food and a shit load of it.

Anna said...

Some students in Dunedin got prosecuted for skip diving - and they'd been giving what they'd found to foodbanks. Shite, really. I'm also newly middle class (or supposed to be - my income doesn't seem to support a particularly opulent family lifestyle!), but I've recently gone back to my poor-person buying habits, and I actually find it really satisfying. I like planning meals, using up leftovers and so on. I feel as though there's something fundamentally disrespectful about misusing food, particularly when so many people don't have enough of it.

lenore said...

My oldest daughter started making her lunch at 9 and my others are following suit - one eats heaps, the other is a snacker, so they make different amounts

My partner and I have cooking nights and I plan for my nights and have the food ready because I hate cooking. We use a crock pot a lot and make heaps of curries and soups which use up the veges we get or grow. the great thing with a slow cooker is you get it ready and when you come home at night you are greeted with delicious cooking smells. I stick brown bananas in the freezer, and use them for baking or smoothies. We try to just get enough fruit and veges for the week and stick with that. We also made a commitment a few years ago to only get veges etc (or grow) that are in season so we stick to wintery food in winter and look forward to the salads in summer.

Sometimes it is a real pain but we both feel quite pleased with ourselves when we have used up all the veges and fruit and other foods in the time they stay fresh. If I do have some food rotting - if it has seeds, I chuck it in the garden and let it grow - result is the odd onion, garlic, tomatos, pumpkins growing through. Plus we have a massive compost bin. If the kids don't finish their food, they bring it back home so at least it can go in our compost or to the cats or birds outside . Or sometimes they just munch on it for avo tea.

However while i am quite organised with my food, we always have piles of washing lying around in various states and a pretty messy house so that probably is the compromise. I can live with that but everyone is different eh

Liz said...

The amount of food wastage here is one of the things I struggle with the most. I find it really difficult to gauge the appetites of my toddler and preschooler, some days they eat everything, other days I'm scraping it all in the bin (because the state they leave it in is not suitable for leftover usage). It drives me nuts. We've gotten much better at meal planning and using other leftovers though, so until my kids get a bit older/or we find a solution to young kids and food wastage, I'm going to take the win and hope it balances out somehow.