Waste — Is it Inevitable?

by Katy on May 26, 2010 · 9 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!


We all do it. Food, fuel, money, time, and personal energy.

It’s close to impossible to live a completely waste-free life. I know, because I’m trying. Really hard.

I issued a “Waste No Food Challenge” for Non-Consumer Advocate readers in May because I was mortified with the amount of food I was buying, storing and then tossing. My home’s vegetable crisper had become nothing more than an air conditioned Slime-O-Tron 2000. (Patent pending at this time.)

The money spent, the resources wasted. Argh!!!

Even with my efforts at full-steam, I’m still wasting some food. Garlic that’s sprouted, food other people have brought to the house, cereal pushed to the back of the cupboard with little wiggling residents.

I compost, and madly tuck leftovers into new meals and freeze all I can. And yes, I’m even eating the frozen food. (I try hard to not delay waste by freezing food I have no intention of ever getting back to.)

So is it worth all my valiant efforts? If I’m trying my very best to not waste food, yet still doing it, should I give up?

Absolutely not!

I have gone from from thrice weekly grocery store trips to maybe once a week. Each trip that doesn’t happen translates to money saved, as the impulse food purchases are cut from the cycle.

We are wasting maybe 10% of what we were before the challenge, and eating healthier to boot.

I used to feel like I needed to buy more groceries when the fridge looked empty, but I realize that the cluttered fridge of the past was mostly leftovers that went to waste. I can now see what I have, so it’s easy to keep on top of eating up our food.

I have learned a lot about how to avoid food waste:

  • Put out smaller servings, especially for kids. It’s okay to have seconds.
  • It’s better to buy the specific amount of ingredients required for a meal. Even if that means paying a higher price per pound. There’s no savings if food gets thrown out.
  • Choose smaller fruit. The huge apples and pears are more than we need.
  • Post-ripe fruit can be frozen for yummy smoothies.
  • Clear leftover containers help me to remember what I have available. This has been key, as I apparently am a see-it-to-believe-it kind of gal.

The Waste-No-Food challenge was officially a 30 day project, but I have no intentions to revert back to my wasteful ways.

Come join the challenge. You’ll save money, time shopping and most likely eat better. C’mon, it’ll be fun!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

WilliamB May 26, 2010 at 9:18 am

Sprouted garlic & onions can still be used. If you think the sprouts taste bitter, just cut the veg in half and remove the sprout.

In my experience stuffed fridges are a major cause of food waste. Food can’t get lost in a half-empty fridge.


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending May 26, 2010 at 11:11 am

I agree with so many of your points. Buying less food and having less in the fridge has helped us be more aware of what we have, and we’re better able to use it up before buying new stuff.

It’s a constant process. Difficult to waste absolutely nothing, but like you, we’re wasting MUCH less than we used to. Also started a compost bin, so I feel a lot better about tossing rotten produce in there than in the trash.

Another thing I’ve started doing is giving fresh produce that I don’t think we’ll be able to get to to our neighbor. He appreciates it, and I don’t have to feel bad that we wasted it. A win/win!


Rebecca May 26, 2010 at 1:24 pm

We waste a lot less than we used to, almost nothing. I find it helps to have a list on the fridge of “eat me now!” foods that really need to be consumed. I actually like it when the fridge is near empty before shopping day, I can easily wipe out shelves and organize stuff before I shop so the fridge is ready for the new supplies. same with the pantry. I still have extra stock, but keep less than I used to. It isn’t frugal for me if it goes stale before we get to it.


Beth May 26, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Good point about the full fridge and lost food. And the don’t-buy-in-bulk-unless-you’ll-eat-it-all lesson is one I’m still working on.

I actually try to keep our fridge filled because of the energy savings; we rent and have a super-inefficient fridge. I put in 12-packs of soda or other non-perishable beverages that I wouldn’t normally store cold, just to keep it from warming up as much when we open the door.


Marie-Josée May 27, 2010 at 4:00 am

Great suggestions. I especially agree with the suggestion of buying just the format necessary for the planned meal or meals. We have often wasted meat in the past, and now have the decency to cook it even if something unexpected comes up, so it doesn’t go to waste.


fairydust May 27, 2010 at 7:55 am

Love this! One other idea beyond using clear leftover containers is to also label the container. I discovered my husband wasn’t even investigating a leftover as possible lunch material if he didn’t know exactly what was in the container (and he didn’t ever bother opening it). So even the obvious, like rice, I now label. Sometimes I’ll even go so far as to label it with his name (like “burrito mixings for Joe”) just to help him along. I’ve found that regular stickies or Post-its can come off, so I buy the super sticky kind and cut each 3″x3″ label in half, then use them to put on the tops of all the leftover containers. Marker on masking tape would work, too. Or some other method. Anyway, it’s now VERY rare for anything to be left to the spoiling stage.


Lisa May 27, 2010 at 9:00 am

We waste little. We shop often, walking to do it…so we get exercise benefits plus tend not to buy as much knowing that we’ll have to carry it home. When I do buy bulk items, they’re repackaged and placed directly in the freezer or glass storage jars. I started a soup fixins bucket in the freezer also. Bits and dabs of all sorts of leftovers go directly from the table into it, and when there’s enough, I make soup. Sometimes the combinations you wouldn’t think would work together turn out to be the best.


sandy May 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

There’s nothing wrong with sprouted garlic–I chop up the greens with the bulb. Or if it’s really sprouted, I plant it. Even in the winter it can be planted in a pot and the greens can be cut and used fresh.


Betty Jo @ Cottage Palette May 27, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Awesome post! I have food sensitivities to gluten, corn, and soy. Just by eliminating products containing those ingredients, and white sugar, has helped me decrease the amount of food I used to eat resulting in a weight loss of 25 pounds since Sept. The cravings I used to experience daily have disappeared. I wasted a lot of food too in the past, when it was pushed to the back of my fridge and forgotten. I lost my precious hubby of forty years 14 months ago, and I obviously continued buying and cooking for two. Old habits are hard to break sometimes! Now I have somewhat of a minimalist fridge and pantry, with few products at any one time, and no waste.


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