Consumption Society: Food

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? After birthday celebrations, drama, and just keeping up with the homestead, I’ve been too exhausted or have had no time to check in. I have lots of pictures to share and posts on anything from my first incubation (with pictures and hopefully hatches starting tomorrow), the difficulty of fitting into corporate lifestyle, a backlog on the chicken “acquisition” process, updates on the chicks and chickens, an overview of the homesteading days weekend from a few weekends ago, and the garden. Whew!

But for today I’m just going to blog about something that’s been bothering me for a while, and that’s food consumption and food waste. Our society (at least the general American public) is so incredibly wasteful. People who leave piles of food on their plate at restaurants, who when their dinner is done throw it in the trash. Who take a bite of something and throw it away, who scoff at sharing. Who see a worm on their peach and throw the whole thing out.

And that’s not even taking into account the estimated ~20 pounds of food each family throws away because it goes bad.

Sadly? I’m just as bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I will use food that most people find questionable. Shelf-stable items especially will stay on my shelves long past the expiration date (really, does Jell-o go bad? I doubt it). I have some apples that are wrinkled in the fridge, but still perfectly fine. I’m stubbornly holding on to them to make a few jars of applesauce. If cheese has mold on it, I cut off the moldy bits and use the rest.

But, unfortunately, I still throw away more than I want to. I forget about the spinach at the bottom of the drawer and it wilts and gets slimy. I have a hard week with 10-12+ hour days, and the turkey sits in the fridge for a few days too long. We have leftovers but struggle to eat them to the bottom of the tupperware. I want to drink the orange juice, but can’t finish a carton before it’s done.

A few weeks ago I cleaned out my fridge and the amount of food I threw away was atrocious. Probably a pound of turkey, too slimy to eat. A few ounces of blue cheese that had started to smell. Asparagus with white rimmed around the sides.

Honestly, with the chickens and the compost finally going strong, it’s been easier. Food that I may not want to eat but which isn’t bad goes to the chickens. Vegetables that have gone to mold go to the compost. It doesn’t fix the problem with the meat, but you know what will?

Stop being so wasteful.

If you have the same problem I do (and I’d like to think I have it to a smaller degree than most of my neighbors and friends), try to make a vow. Don’t take something out of the freezer or pick it up at the store/farmer’s market unless you plan on cooking it that week. If you’re picking from your garden, get comfortable with selling, canning, or consuming immediately (this isn’t a problem for us–yet). If you have leftovers at restaurants, take it home. If you’re comfortable enough with your tablemates who would throw their food away, take it home. I did this a lot in college with a good friend of mine–she got a good laugh out of it, I got free food, and it didn’t go straight to the trash can.

Below are things I’ve been doing either my whole life or only recently, slowly getting better at reducing our food waste. Note that these are not recommendations based on health, just my experience with my food and as far as I’m personally willing to let it go. It’ll save our wallets and save a lot of trash:

  • Meat that isn’t vacuumed sealed must be used within a week.
  • Meat that is vacuumed sealed only has a few days after that.
  • Better yet–cook up all meats for the week on a Sunday night and heat them up for dinner that week.
  • If I find I’m running out of time for food, cook big batches of food on a Sunday and freeze it.
  • If last night’s leftovers aren’t being eaten fast enough, freeze them for quick meals in the future.
  • Throw out table scraps to the chickens (they especially appreciate the little meat left on apple cores and watermelon rinds).
  • If you open up a can of tomato sauce or any canned item, use it quickly, even if that means pasta a few times a week. Opened pasta sauce in the fridge will go bad, and often long before it would have gone bad sitting unopened on your shelf.
  • Put all moldy fruits and vegetables in the compost bin. It’s expensive compost, but it’s not trash.
  • Compost everything that can safely go into the compost rather the landfill.
  • Be more conscious of when your food goes bad and use it before you hit that date.

Do you notice yourself wasting food sometimes? How do you keep your food waste down? Are you getting better or worse at it?

5 thoughts on “Consumption Society: Food”

  1. It’s especially hard with kids, whose eyes are frequently bigger than their stomachs, but one thing we’re trying to do here is label and date everything that goes into the fridge. This way there’s no guessing if it’s still good and tends to get eaten instead of left to grow fuzz. Also, I have no problem feeding meat scraps to the chickens. I think they appreciate the protein.

    1. I agree about the meat scraps! I’ve been feeding them meat of all forms, including letting them pick bones clean, since I’m horrible about that. They’re lovely little composters 🙂

      I like the label and date idea! I have been wanting to do that I just…. haven’t. Though I do generally know how long food is, I just hate to realize that it’s past due.

  2. Since I do not eat leftovers, I find the need to make only what I can eat in a single setting. We plan our weekly meals and buy only what we need for those meals… If something goes bad, we compost it. Great post!

    1. I think that’s smart! And the compost is the best–except when it’s meat, dairy or cheese. Those are the things I have to be better about eating before they go bad, or we end up throwing them on a bonfire or the trash.

      1. I agree! Milk is the worst for me since I am intolerant. The chickens love it, but feel weird giving them something I wouldn’t cook with, not bad just “old to me”

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