Waste No Food Challenge — An Update IX

by Katy on November 19, 2008 · 8 comments



Food Waste.

It’s big news these days. From colleges cafeterias going trayless, to food banks receiving, (or not receiving) the leftovers from big events.

It’s also big news at the Wolk-Stanley, Non-Consumer compound. (Okay — my house.)

Since starting the Waste-No-Food Challenge in May, the amount of food that we toss has dramatically plummeted.

I have changed:

How I cook:

Before the challenge, I would cook gargantuan amounts of food. The idea was that as long as I was cooking, I might as well make enough to have lots of yummy leftovers. There’s nothing wrong with this mindset, but for us, it meant that we might eat the leftovers once, and then abandon them to the land of rot. Even when I stashed the leftovers in the freezer, they’d most likely stay there until ice crystals formed. 

Not so yummy.

Now, I cook enough food to have enough leftovers for a single meal. No more. I’m even cooking some meals that have — horror of all horrors, no leftovers. This may seem like I’m making more work for myself, but that has not been the case.

How I serve food:

For my husband and I, eating all the food on our plates is a non-issue. (Well actually it is an issue, but that’s an entirely different subject.) But the kids, especially my ten-year-old would always leave food on his plate. Sometimes we’d scoop it into a leftover container, sometimes not. But there was maybe only a 15% chance that his leftovers would get eaten. 

Now, I serve him smaller amounts. If it’s not enough he’s welcome to ask for seconds. I serve his cereal in a small bowl, and I’ll even make him a single piece of toast.

I’ve also noticed a drop in composted food as a result of this change.

How I shop:

I went to the grocery store today and noticed how the issue of food waste influenced almost all of my purchases.

  • I bought two onions, and tried to avoid waste by choosing only the smallest ones.
  • Close-to-its-expiration-date shrimp was $1. I could have bought multiple packs, as we all love shrimp. Instead, I chose just one packet to go on top of our salad with dinner tonight.
  • My husband needed lunch fixings for work. As there’s only one work day left this week, I bought 1/4 pound of deli meat and a single yogurt. It’s very much a habit to buy a pound of lunch meat or a variety of different yogurts, so this was a new tactic for me.
  • Store brand cereal was super on sale. But I only bought a single box of Raisin Bran, as I knew we were almost out. I could have bought a bunch of different cereals, but I wanted to make sure the already open cereal didn’t go stale as new, exciting cereal entered the competition.

Our refrigerator is so much emptier as a result of my focus on food waste. But instead of this having a negative effect on our meals, it’s quite the opposite. Because I can easily see what I have, I no longer forget about what’s in the fridge. And because it’s easier to cook at home, we’re eating out less.

And yeah, we’re saving a ton of money.

Have you made changes to decrease food waste in your home? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Make sure to check out Jonathan Bloom’s terrific wastedfood.com site for more food waste related issues.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

thepennypincher November 19, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Why is it that people don’t like leftovers? I have to confess that there are some foods that I find tastier as leftovers than as the original meal. Also, I have no objections to eating leftovers two, three or four days in a row. I adore slow cooker barbecued beef, for example, that I eat in sandwiches. I do not tire of it. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, several days in a row.


FruWiki Meg November 19, 2008 at 11:24 pm

My husband and I have been trying to cut back on waste, especially since I love fresh food and we both hate watching stuff we paid good money for go bad. And eating more frozen and canned food just isn’t as appealing to me. The biggest help to us has just been trying to shop less often and buy less when we do go. It really forces us to eat what’s there. And if it forces me to eat less then all the better!

Our cabinets wouldn’t have anything in them except our vitamins if it weren’t for our roommate. Our fridge looks really pretty bare, but I like it that way now. It looks clean and organized. Then we have some dry beans and rice in containers on a bookshelf in the kitchen.

I’ve mostly gotten over that feeling that I’m going to somehow starve if something happens and I have to postpone our grocery trip, lol. I have plenty of beans and rice stored away — enough even for a real emergency, which is comforting. Still, I’ll be happy when our chickens start laying and when more things are growing in my garden again. It’s so great to have food that’s that fresh.

The best part, though? Our grocery bill 😀


thenonconsumeradvocate November 20, 2008 at 12:13 am

It’s not that I don’t like leftovers. But after I’m done cooking the meal, cleaning up from the meal, and then eating it again — I’m pretty much done.

I can eat leftovers once and that’s about it.

Unless it’s cake. Then I’m a leftovers machine!

-Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Heidi November 20, 2008 at 4:32 am

One area where I’ve made big changes is fresh fruits and veggies. I used to throw out huge amounts every week, stuff that turned bad before we had a chance to eat it. Such a waste of food and money.

Now, I aim to buy a bit less than I think I’ll use in a week, then supplement with canned or frozen if necessary, before I go shopping again. My kids will eat Dole canned pineapple or mandarin oranges. Sometimes I use those little Mott applesauce containers in their lunchboxes (though I hate to have the extra waste of those little plastic cups. I try to remind them to bring them home so I can wash and re-use them.) I’m not a big fan of frozen veggies, but the peas are not bad, or sometimes cauliflower. Of course we prefer fresh, but I won’t have all that waste.


mom to 6 November 20, 2008 at 5:48 am

I understand not having a lot of waste. But I don’t understand the frugality issue of not buying in bulk on sale items? I try to have a stock pile of frozen meats and pantry items. That saves money. You just don’t have to cook them all the day you buy them. I would have bought up cheap yogurt and frozen it for smoothies later. I would have frozen the shrimp for stir-frys later. And cheap cereal would have gone into jars in the pantry for later eating or baking. Don’t you store up while things are on sale?


sandy November 20, 2008 at 10:38 am

I’ve learned to make less of foods we’re not too crazy about so that we don’t end up with leftovers–since I’m not as likely to eat them. If I do end up with leftovers of from dinners I didn’t care for, I’ll try to remake them into something more tasty.

I have a big pantry for storing sale items, so I can stock up. I try not to buy much processed foods, though, because they usually contain ingredients like HCFS, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, and other unhealthy ingredients.


Katherine November 20, 2008 at 2:06 pm

A good tip if you don’t keep a lot of food in your fridge, keep jugs of water in it so it’s still pretty full. When you open the door of an empty fridge, all the cold air literally fall out on to the floor, and your fridge has to chill the air that rushes in, making it work harder. Keeping your fridge full keeps the cold air in, and uses less electricity.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl November 20, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Katy, I don’t love leftovers either.

I posted recently about how much emptier my fridge has been since I cut back on my food waste…I just LOVE it!

Katherine, I’ve been thinking about doing that. I figure though, even if I don’t put those jugs in, I’m still WAY money ahead because I’m not wasting all the food I used to.


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