Waste No Food Challenge — An Update VIII

by Katy on October 16, 2008 · 4 comments

My family has drastically slashed the amount of food we waste since starting the Waste No Food Challenge in May. 

  • We cook in smaller amounts.
  • We put leftovers that are not getting eaten into the freezer. And then . . . (cue drumroll) we actually eat it later on!
  • We keep an tight eye on what’s in the fridge, so we don’t forget about what we have.
  • I am more realistic at the grocery store about about we eat. (Yes, I know carrots are good for you, and that two pound bag is incredibly cheap. But it’s just better for us to buy a couple carrots at a time, than let most of it go to waste.)

None of this is difficult or particularly earth shattering. Yet it’s made a huge difference in the amount of food my family is wasting. Not to mention that we’re spending much, much less at the grocery store.

When I do toss food, I feel bad and guilty, so privileged and unappreciative. I am not going to eat those rubbery carrots, but I know there are plenty of people who would.

There are a few books I’ve read through the years that feature characters dealing with extreme hunger and starvation. Here are a few books that have stayed in my thoughts and mindset:

Marge Piercey’s Gone To Soldiers. This is one of my go-to books that I re-read every few years. This incredible WWII novel has a scene where one of the main characters is given an apple while in a concentration camp. This apple is a treasure to her, which she shares with her two friends. They savor every little bit, even the core. The scene is so vivid and memorable, I think of it always when pulling rotten food from my refrigerator.

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I started this book maybe three times before it pulled me in. And pull me in it did! This novel about a Southern minister who takes his wife and daughters to Africa to work as a missionary, got under my skin and stayed there. It is deeply affecting. The daughters are grossed out by a stringy goat stew that is served to them upon their arrival. They later end up eating insects and such, and realize what a special honor it had been, to be served that stew. 

Helen Dunmore’s The Siege. A historical novel about the siege of Leningrad during WWII. No food or supplies were coming into the city, and 600,000 people starved. The characters are boiling leather book bindings and receive a gift of a lab hamster, which feeds the entire family for days. All birds vanished, as people caught them for food. This too was a very affecting, yet such a beautifully written book that I had randomly pulled off the library shelf without knowing what it was even about. 

Should we have to sear our minds with disturbing imagery to stop wasting food?


But sometimes it’s good to have a bit of perspective on how lucky we are.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs Green October 17, 2008 at 12:03 am

Wonderful post and perspective – thank you so much for sharing this. It’s a real reality check and those books sound amazing – harrowing maybe, but that’s not always a bad thing………….


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 17, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Aaah! Get out of my brain! lol I just wrote a post this afternoon about how the Little House books have been inspiring me to suck it up and eat my leftovers.

It is a wonderful feeling to only throw one or two things(or maybe nothing!) out every week, isn’t it?


thepennypincher October 17, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Buying less food is a good option. Call it human nature. If you have a full fridge, you will eat what you like first. Over time, you will forget about foods hidden way in back, and this will be thrown out. By buying less, you force yourself to eat what you have. You can save hundreds of dollars by not throwing out food, and that is good for both the wallet and the environment.


Barbara Shoham October 21, 2008 at 11:32 am

I’ve read the “Poisonwood Bible” several times… such an amazing, affecting book with all the different perspectives plus I learned so much about Africa. The premise just never sounded that interesting, but the book is gripping.

I’ll have to look for the other two books. Recommendations noted.

I too have made a very conscience effort not to overbuy at the supermarket, and be realistic about what my family will eat. I love leftovers, though, so rather than “cooking smaller meals” I have been cooking larger amounts so that the leftovers are significant enough to last for a few lunches or another dinner.

Thanks, as always, for the thoughts. I relish your encouragement to think critically about consumerism, as well as your wit!


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