Waste No Food Challenge — An Update X

by Katy on January 5, 2009 · 17 comments



One of the easiest and most important things a person can do to save money, is to stop wasting food.

Okay then, how?

Easy. Stop buying and preparing more food than we can eat.

Okay, maybe not so easy.

Why is this so freaking difficult? 

I’m trying my hardest to not waste any food. I cook smaller amounts, I buy less food, eat the leftovers as lunches, serve smaller portions and try and keep the fridge emptier, which makes it easier to see what I have.

Yet I’m still wasting a small amount of food. Yesterday was our monthly garbage day, and we threw out some chicken soup, some moldy berry puree that someone left at the house and a few other things best left unsaid. (“Sure” I said to the butcher, “I do want the chicken backs.”)

Although I compost what I can, meat and cheese have to go in the garbage. And I have no disposal, which mean I refrigerate leftovers simply because I don’t want the meaty stuff in my outside can for weeks on end, getting stinky and bacteria-tastic.

Jonathan Bloom has written extensively on wastedfood.com about how some food waste is inevitable. Yet apparently I’m a slow learner. 

As an aside, congratulations to Mr. Bloom, whose sold his book on food waste amid a publishing bidding frenzy not seen since Brad and Angelina pimped out their last newborn baby pictures to People magazine. (Okay, perhaps ever so slightly less frenzied.)

I still think Obama should have appointed him as the Food Waste Czar. Oh well, Maybe next term.

Have you taken up my Waste-No-Food-Challenge? Tell us how you’re doing in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Klara LeVine January 6, 2009 at 12:33 am

I sure wish you lived closer to me – I’d happily take all leftovers and pass them on to my two Dalmatians, who’ll eat almost anything!!!! (they won’t eat vegetables unless drowned in meat sauce). You have no unspoiled animals in your neighborhood??

I haven’t read the links you’ve given yet, but I think the secret to not wasting food is being organized in menu planning – which I haven’t mastered yet. But I do try to be mindful of what leftovers there are in the fridge and get those eaten as soon as I can – problem is I don’t eat the way the rest of the family does, so if I do eat the meat or cheese leftovers, I feel I’m not keeping to the healthier ways I’d prefer to eat (I am trying to practice macrobiotics). So am glad when the dogs gobble it up.


Heidi January 6, 2009 at 4:09 am

I am also having a hard time getting down to zero food waste. Every week I seem to have a little that gets thrown out. One strategy that is working well for me is this – I buy slightly less fresh fruits/vegs than I think I’ll use in a week. If I run short, I supplement with frozen or canned. Not as tasty as fresh, but at least I used up all my fresh without throwing any away.

I agree with Klara, it’s all about good menu planning. Not something I particularly enjoy, and need to work on.

An aside here, Katy, I just wanted to let you know that it’s all because of you that I sniffed out our local Goodwill. Woo-hoo! It’s a large, clean, brightly lit store, with a big variety of name brand clothing in great condition. So far my best find has been a like-new Old Navy shirt for my 10 year old (who couldn’t care less where I got it), a deep plum color with a v-neck, three-quarter length sleeves and lace trim on the bottom. Very “in” with fifth grade girls. It was 2.99. I also picked up an Aeropostale hooded sweatshirt (another trendy label for 10 year olds) on their half price day, for 1.50. Also like-new condition, you’d think it had never been worn. Every time I go up there I browse for at least an hour and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, they have so much. Lots of clothes from Lands End, LLBean, Gap, etc, in practically new condition.


Marianne January 6, 2009 at 5:31 am

pre-planning is the key. between breakfast and lunch i think about what im going to cook for dinner. instead of waiting till 5 minutes before im hungry, this makes it A LOT easier. then i keep the leftovers for my husband to eat for lunch. lunch for the next day solved. keeping the fridge empty has helped me see what i have and get creative with what i make. i know there is enough cheese to make a casserole instead of letting it sit under lunch meat and finding it months later. the biggest thing is instead of thinking in a vague sense of what i want, i think of what i have in the fridge and create a meal out of that. take it a step further and search the circular for whats on sale this week, and create your meals that way to save even more money.


carocoknits January 6, 2009 at 6:41 am

It seems that a big “hint” for saving money is to plan your meals and then go shopping. This doesn’t work for me in the least. I decide what we are going to eat based on what is in my freezer the day before. Today we are having jambalaya from a leftover frozen piece of fish and spicy smokies. The black beans and black eyed peas just went in the crockpot. It does mean that you need to get a little creative with the ingredient list on recipes. There is Roman Apple Cake for lunches that is from one lonely apple that needed to be used with two bags of frozen crabapple sauce. Later today I will make bread using leftover mashed potatoes. I grew up watching my mother create absolute masterpieces when the pantry appeared bare, so I had a good teacher. We are even making it a challenge for ourselves this year to see how long we can go this year with buying only staples. I am thinking that we can go until at least Easter!


Tracy January 6, 2009 at 7:05 am

Have you looked at the Green Cone? http://www.greencone.com/home.asp?lang=1

I’m not affiliated in any way, and haven’t tried it, myself, but it looks interesting.


tammy January 6, 2009 at 8:36 am

Hey Katy
Be a Casserole Queen! I use leftover pasta, rice or mashed potatoes as a base. Then add anything in the fridge to cream of mushroom soup (leftover turkey, ham, hamburger, leftover casserole-yes! you are making a casserole from leftover casserole! vegetables, etc) and make the middle layer of the casserole. Top your casserole casserole with grated cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. I’ve tried every sensible creation and this is a never miss idea!


Magdalena January 6, 2009 at 9:19 am

We do well with little food waste here, except when I’m out of the house for a couple of days. Then things go bad because I expected them to be used but they weren’t. So the key is that I need to get rid of (eat or freeze or re-use) the leftovers, salad, pierogie dough, etc. before I leave. Discipline is the key, and I’m the only experienced cook in the house! So it comes down to my discipline and a bit of cajoling the others to eat things they may think they don’t want.


thenonconsumeradvocate January 6, 2009 at 9:26 am

I don’t plan meals out more than a day or so. I kind of follow Amy Dacyczyn’s “pantry principle,” (I keep stock of certain items from which I can make a variety of different meals.)

Or perhaps I should say, neighbor’s pantry principle. (I’d like to give a shout out to “Andy” across the street who had cilantro on Xmas Eve.)

I did leave town for four days last week, which may have something to do with the food waste.

Also, keep in mind that the food waste I wrote about was for an entire month.

I have looked into the “The Green Cone.” I wasn’t able to find where it’s sold here in the U.S. though. I also don’t like that it is essentially another huge hunk of plastic that will live forever.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


another number January 6, 2009 at 10:05 am

i like your website. i am trying to be green not poor too. our food waste is low, there is no secret though it helps if the person who does the most cooking actually shops. i find i shop according to what i am planning to cook for the week ahead or i buy whatever is cheap and good and make up the week ahead menu on the way home from the shop. certainly there is very little if anything to go into the bin at the end of the week.


Jonathan Bloom January 6, 2009 at 10:09 am

Thanks for the shout-out, Katy. I’ve enjoyed reading all these tips and suggestions in the comments.

I like to think of zero waste as the ultimate, but possibly unattainable goal. You might never reach it, but you’ll be better off for getting closer.

And by the way, it’s not too late for the Food Waste Czar appointment! Obama’s first term hasn’t even begun. Yes we can!


sissie sue January 6, 2009 at 12:44 pm

My household is slowing getting our food waste down. We contributed to the cause last night by eating some leftovers that were a little older than we’d normally eat. And you know what? We’re still alive to tell the story 🙂


camelama January 6, 2009 at 1:49 pm

A problem for me with food waste is with fresh veggies, specifically salad stuff, as a single person.

For instance: I’d love to add red cabbage to my salads, but faced with one of those 5 lb heads of cabbage … I’ll never finish it by time it goes bad! The grocery stores don’t want to cut it in half to sell you half, if I buy a whole one it goes bad before I can use it all (my system simply can’t process that much red cabbage in a short amount of time, so no, eating it all in different formats in two days won’t work), I try sharing with neighbors but it never seems to be on their schedule for salad days etc etc.

So I’ve started doing without certain foods – which unfortunately means some meals just get so BLAH I can’t stand it, so I don’t finish it, and I don’t want the leftovers, which means … more wasted food!

Am trying to find the right balance.

Imagine my delight when the greengrocer down the street had wee little tiny baby red cabbages the other day! I bought one and *RAVED* to him about them, and he said he hopes to continue getting them for as long as they last! YAY! Red cabbage in my salads again, and NO WASTE! He asked for a list of other such items I can’t really use due to single consumption, so we’ll see what other solutions he might come up with!

I’m off to go coo over my mini red cabbage ….


Di Hickman January 6, 2009 at 1:50 pm

I started documenting our food waste around October and the key is finding a system that works for you. To tie in with this I’m also trying to reduce our grocery budget.
Steps we’ve taken so far:
1- put a notice board on the fridge, we have a small white board. I write down leftovers, or items that need using. Lunches, snack and dinner items are first taken from this list THEN new/fresh items are added.
2- don’t be afraid of eating the same thing for a few days.
3- learn to freeze stuff, this one was key for me!
4- only buy things you NEED
5- menu plan! I just started this last week. I planned out the next two weeks of meals. We already had a glitch, when DH is out tomorrow night at a poker game but that means I just set things back by one day. Work around the meal components so that if you use 1/2 block tofu for a meal, either use the rest for lunches etc that week, smoothies, or freeze it. Get used to thinking about the leftovers as you’re preparing meals.

Our food waste has reduced considerably, we’re not perfect but we’re doing MUCH better!


Kassie January 7, 2009 at 11:57 am

I have 4 uniquely picky children as well as my dh, for a while i tried making interesting/different meals to expand their palates, with the new goal of reducing waste I will go back to making dinners that I know they will consume ALL or most of…this makes meal planning relatively easy as there are only about 10 meals they love… I circulate in some different small portion side dishes for them to try and know that that small amount of leftover will be eaten by myself. I also send alot of leftovers to my mom and dads house, a great payback for all the meals my mom had to cook -way back-! I also have one night of the week which is what i call buffet style where we have to eat what is in the fridge…this might mean creating 5 mini-meals but worth it to get things eaten up!!


Kristen@The Frugal Girl January 7, 2009 at 6:11 pm

I’m doing really well lately, but it took me a fair number of months to really get into a good no-waste groove. Something has just clicked lately, though, and I’ve had a lot of zero waste weeks.


DSF January 9, 2009 at 9:53 pm

While it’s not for everyone, bokashi–essentially, fermenting kitchen waste before composting/trenching–does work with meats, dairy, etc. [Obligatory disclaimer: Not a retailer, but far from impartial]. And though the standard practice uses plastic buckets, there’s nothing to say you couldn’t repurpose something more attractive.

small-batch compost for small spaces


Pennie January 21, 2009 at 2:24 pm

So many great ideas here.

I look in my fridge (first) to glean dinner ideas–not waiting until the last minute is key. Knowing the basics of how to cook from scratch helps immeasurably.

Scraps and unedible leftovers have their place: meats and dairy go to the dogs–the rest goes in the garden compost pile. Zero food waste.


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