Monday, September 1, 2008

September's Mini Eco-Challenge

Happy September, Happy Labor Day, Happy Kids Go Back to School Week (if they haven't already)!

What a bittersweet day. The calendar may say that there are still three more weeks of summer, but around here summer ends today. It's the last hurrah. We'll spend the day at the pool with our friends and then that will be it. The pool will officially close at 8pm for the season. Seems like it just opened.

Well, onto the business of fall. We took August off from eco-challenges, but it's time to refocus. This month instead of giving your choices, I've got just one challenge to offer.

Waste Less Food

In the U.S., 30% of food produced gets wasted. That's an awful lot of food, water, and fuel that transported the food gone without ever having done any good. I wrote about this in the Shocking Statistics of Food Waste. I suggest if you're going to take the challenge, you read that, too.

Here's the challenge.

Waste as little food as possible for one week. Cut your food waste by 50% - and shoot for more. If you're in on the challenge, please leave a comment, and I'll make a list of those of us taking the challenge on the right of the page.

We'll start Friday, September 5. Here is what I propose.
  • Sometime between now and Friday, clean out your refrigerator. You want that potato salad from 4th of July that is shoved in the back out of there before you begin. That's waste from before. You'll be focusing on stopping waste from this point on. Don't cry over spoiled potato salad.
  • Take stock of what is perishable in the frig or elsewhere and plan your next week's meals around it. Say you've got one grilled chicken breast in the frig that is still good. Plan to use it chopped up in a salad or cut up on top of pasta alfredo. Freeze it if necessary to make sure it's still good when you need it.
  • Plan your meals for who you really are, not who you want to be. Don't plan for seven nights of fully home cooked meals if you know you usually pick up take out a couple times a week because your schedule is crazy. Sure you want to cut back on take out, but if you're wasting food bought at the grocery store because you haven't managed to cut out the take out yet, be honest with yourself. It's better to just do the takeout than do the takeout and waste store bought food.
  • Be wise with your leftovers. Freeze what you know you won't be using within a couple of days. Give them away to single or senior citizen neighbors. Often if I have a whole piece of meat leftover I give it to my mom. She appreciates a piece of grilled salmon - it's something she wouldn't do for herself.
  • If you have a bunch of leftover, have leftover night at the house. Don't cook a new meal. Reheat everything in the frig and let the family use it up. Even if it doesn't all go together.
  • Be careful with your produce. Eat it before it goes bad. If you want a snack and you've got a choice between a peach that only has a day left or pretzels, the pretzels will be good in two days, the peach won't. Eat it before it goes bad. Freeze any banana that is beyond the edible stage and when you've got four or five, make banana bread.
  • If your garden is still producing, or producing like gangbusters like my tomatoes are, make the most out of it. Take the time to make and freeze some sauces or meals from your garden. You'll appreciate it in month or two and you won't waste the labor your put into it this summer.
These are just a few ideas. I could go on and on, but I think we're all smart enough to figure out our own ways to not waste food.

The hardest place, I think, to stop wasting food is on our dinner plates. It's going to be a challenge to figure out how to not have food leftover on the plate - especially my kids' plates - at the end of a meal.

I'll be blogging about food waste at least once a week this month including recipes for foods commonly leftover.

Who's with me on this?
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Audrey said...

Definitely with you on this! This is a no brainer as far as we are concerned - if it is in the house, eat it up before you spend more money..

Cheap Cookin Mama said...

I'm with you. I always try to set aside a leftover dish for my husbands grandmother.

Going through your fridge also saves you money. You'd be amazed at what kind of meals or sides you can come up with.

Tip for fruit - if it's going a little soft, don't toss, make a smoothie with it:)

Robin Shreeves said...

glad to have you both on board - I've placed your names on the side of the blog. I hope we get more participants!

jmisgro said...

I 'm in. I already do a lot of these things.
Ex. Last week I made Pancit - a Filipino dish - I knew we were not going to eat the leftovers because I simply made too much. We ate most of it. So I gave the leftovers to my parents. They were happy to have a meal that they could just heat up. I was glad I did have the esxtra food going in the compost!

Robin Shreeves said...

jmisgro - cool, glad you're in, too.

mamabeark said...

Hey, Robin! We'll give this a shot. I've got piles of food in the pantry I've got to use up before we move in a month anyway.

We already do a leftover meal almost every Sunday for lunch -- right before I do the grocery shopping on Sunday night.

Robin Shreeves said...

Welcome Mamabeark! Thanks for joining us. (and sorry you're moving away)

Allison said...

I'm late in the game but I know I ate all my left overs this weekend. I love this challenge. I'm in.
And how did you know I still had July 4th potato salad in frig? LOL

Robin Shreeves said...

Allison - it's never to late to try to do good! Better get that potato salad out of there before it stages a coup!