Food Waste: America’s Dirty Little Secret

peppers and veggies

I was cleaning out my fridge yesterday and came upon several fruits and vegetables that had gone bad. I threw them into the compost bin (we are lucky that our progressive city provides curbside compost pickup) feeling terribly guilty. And for good reason. According to the US Department of Agriculture, Americans waste 150,000 tons of food a day, the equivalent of 1 pound per person per day. Those with the healthiest diets, the ones that contain lots of fruits and vegetables, are the worst offenders. That would be me.

Not only is this offensive to the people in this country who struggle with food insecurity, it’s also horrible for the environment. All the water, pesticides, soil and other materials it takes to grow vegetables and raise animals are being wasted at alarming levels. If your city doesn’t provide composting services, and the huge majority doesn’t, all that food waste is going into a landfill which releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.  Hello climate change.

Add to all of this the fact that only 4 of the 10 larges supermarket chains have plans in place to address waste in their own stores, and we have one very big problem.

I wrote over the summer about my plan to make each day of the week unique. On the list  I will add taking stock of our food situation on weekends so that I can plan ahead for the week to use the food that needs to be consumed soon. My husband pulled a Larabar from the back of the pantry for a snack this weekend and it had mold growing all over it. Turns out it expired in 2017. Larabars are expensive and we ended up having to throw away two boxes of them. To say I felt ashamed of that is an understatement. They are a nutritious source of calories and they could have been donated to our local food shelf if we weren’t going to eat them in a timely manner.

Ever since I watched this Oprah episode on food waste way back in 2008 I have thought about the food we waste. Did you know Americans make up just 5 percent of the world’s population but use 25 percent of the world’s energy resources?

I, for one, am just tired of the waste, and I’m ready to make some changes. One thing we do well in our house is eat leftovers. We love them and more often than not we eat at least 75% of the leftovers in our fridge. But I am going to start freezing what we don’t eat instead of finding them in the back of the fridge when it’s unsafe to eat them. I’m going to insist we finish one type of snack food in the pantry before we buy something similar. And I am going to stock back up on these reusable BPA-free GreenBags that I used to use all the time until we ran out. They keep fruits and veggies fresh much longer.

What haven’t I thought about? Is there something you do that helps reduce your household’s food waste? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

NEW RECIPE and review! Healthy Fruit Crisp

Fruit crisp Gwyneth

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’m cooking my way through Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest book It’s All Good. It’s full of super healthy recipes that look amazing.  I’m approaching my project as a busy mom on a budget who loves to cook.  I sort of feel like Gwyneth doesn’t understand the “on a budget” part of life, so my goal is to determine how approachable her recipes truly are.

Two days ago, I had my next Gwyneth Paltrow recipe lined up to test. It’s her “Flourless Anything Crumble” which consists of 4 cups of any type of fruit, some maple syrup, olive oil, lemon juice, and cinnamon (all things that are affordable and easy to procure). It also called for almond meal and quinoa flakes for the topping rather than the standard oats and flour. I set off for the grocery store and that’s when the wheels came off of this plan. The almond meal flour was $12.00 and the quinoa flakes were $10. There was a time when I would have guiltily spent $22 on ingredients that would have languished in my cupboard long after using them *one time*. Today, however, I decided that Gwyneth Paltrow could take a seat. I decided to still make the crumble because it sounds good and I had the other ingredients. However, I amended the recipe to use oats and flour because a $22 homemade fruit crumble does not figure into my plans or budget. I can imagine the typical household in this country probably feels the same way.

I thought the resulting recipe with my changes was quite good, although much less sweet than a typical crumble.  I used a mixture of frozen peaches and blueberries.  I would highly recommend setting your expectations a little bit low for this and approach it as you would when you eat a piece of fresh fruit with maybe a little added *extra*.  It was indeed quite healthy, tasted yummy, and I even had it the next morning for breakfast.  My 10 year old ate her whole serving with gusto and my husband had two servings and then asked if I could make it sweeter next time.  This isn’t necessarily a dish you would make as a dessert for a special occasion, but perhaps a healthy dessert alternative for a weeknight.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from the original featured in It’s All Good.

Fruit Crumble

Ingredients:

4 cups fruit of your choice (apples, peaches, berries, etc)

4 tablespoons real maple syrup (or more to taste)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup white whole wheat flour or gluten free flour of your choice

1 cup oats (old fashioned or rolled)

pinch of salt (I use sea salt)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter (or dairy free butter like Earth Balance), cut up into small pieces

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the fruit with 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) of the maple syrup and lemon juice.  Spread out into an 8×8 baking dish.  Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and oats in a large bowl.  Stir in remaining maple syrup and the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Spread the topping on top of the fruit.  Scatter the butter pieces on the top.  Bake until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve with homemade whipped cream or ice cream for an extra treat.  Or, heat up leftovers in the morning and eat for breakfast with yogurt.

Vegetables Shmegetables

peas in a pod

My 10 year old is having a bit of a moment. It happens every so often. My normally fruit-and-veggie gobbling machine doesn’t want them. But, she will eat cherry tomatoes off the vine. And maybe a clementine and some slices of cuke. But those grapes she asked me to buy? And the blueberries and raspberries that normally wouldn’t last more than a day or two? Languishing in the fridge. The peas for dinner? Cast aside after a couple of bites. She’s all about the carbs and protein right now. She’s in horse camp from 8am to 5pm all week and honestly I think she is just wanting some heartier fare.

I’ve never believed in cajoling, imploring “just two more bites” or setting an amount she must eat to have dessert. That’s just not how we’ve decided to do it. Every family has different rules. But you know, there are some days when even I really don’t want whatever I’ve cooked, or I have an aversion to veggies or whatever. So I get it. And I know that in a couple of days she’ll be back to eating her weight in apple slices. In the meantime I’ll make sure the other food I offer has decent nutritional value. And if the grape tomatoes could ripen on the vine a little quicker that would be good too.