Waste Not Want Not

While my degree is in Finance and I have been working in the Investments Industry for years, I was a professional chef in a past life.  Do I miss it?  I will say it is much more fun to be cooking dinner with family and friends on a Saturday night than standing behind a restaurant’s kitchen cooking line with orders backing up, the wait staff going ballistic, and too many things on the stove.

Merging my cooking background with finance, this post will focus on the economic and ethical aspects of not wasting food.  First of all let’s start with two raw facts from the USDA –

  • American Families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy.
  • The average cost of wasted food for a family of four is around $2,000 annually.

Given that food costs have been rising at a higher rate than inflation over the past several years (from 2012 – 2016 the all-food CPI rose 6.1% while the overall CPI rose 4.5% annually according to the USDA), diligence regarding eating all the food a household purchases is increasingly important.  More important to me, however, are the ethical, moral and environmental reasons for not wasting food.

My parents were children of the Depression and our family was in the commercial avocado growing business so food was always taken seriously and not wasted. Interestingly, the avocados we grew which could not be sold to grocers were sold to dog food companies, so waste of our product from firm to market was quite efficient. Also avocados store for a long time at cooler temperatures so a smart grocer can control inventory well. Ok, we have all gotten that bad avocado which I myself quickly donate to my compost bin after a swear word or two.  Below is a New Yorker editorial cartoon touching upon a “lost” avocado 🙂

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Not wasting food  is something I have been really focusing on in my home, with increased diligence, for the past few years. I have made some major improvements. Big Picture —

  • Buy less. Shop off a list made of what you need. Don’t impulse buy.
  • Eat what is in the fridge .
  • Bring the fridge and freezer down before getting more. Be creative with what you’ve got.

I find myself sometimes thinking that there is nothing to eat when the reality is that nothing that I want at that moment is in the house.  If I really think about it, there is always something around.  Is there some celery that needs to be used up?  Find that can of tuna and make a union.

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I focus on having all my meat, poultry  and seafood mostly stored frozen so that I can buy larger portions, while I always buy my produce fresh and in smaller portions so that my veggies and fruit will be eaten quickly and not sit in the fridge too long.

I sincerely let very little food waste in my kitchen.  That might mean I end up with a large salad for both lunch and dinner to get rid of all the lettuce before it gets limp.  I may have to cook the too many tomatoes I bought into a sauce.  Keep sliced bread in the freezer, it toasts up splendidly straight from the freezer. I guesstimate that my food waste well below 5%. I try to push that even further by not having any garbage disposal and taking all my food waste, peelings and scraps to my compost bin in my back yard so that nothing ultimately gets wasted.

Below is a sequence of roasting two whole organic chickens, separating the meat for later use and then making, stock and chicken soup.  No food was wasted.  All scraps, bones, onion skins, leafy celery, and carrot tops went into the stock.  Later the bones and veggies leftover from the stock were grinded in my Vitamix and fed to my worms in my backyard in-law compost pit…

Yes, the worms in my compost are pretty jacked up on coffee grounds I also dump into the compost pit as well. So be it!

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