Managing Food Waste

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It’s cold and soggy out tonight, despite it being nearly June.  We had a lovely, summer-like Memorial Day weekend, but the weather turned this morning, and it’s cold enough that the heat is back on.  Still, I got tons of time in the garden – more on that later – and the soaking rain means I don’t have to water plants any time soon.  I’m excited for the season – our garden is partially planted, and the CSA starts up next week.

Our life at Sithean creates a little too much waste, like most of us first-world folks.  Despite the fact that we use cloth napkins, try to buy in bulk and garden/have a CSA, the amount of waste still astounds me, and we’re working on it.  We can’t reduce in all ways, but we’re going to try.

One thing we do manage pretty well is food waste.  Our food-waste management program has 7 distinct areas, and together they serve to help minimize our load on the environment, at least in this one way.   None of them work perfectly, mind you, but it is something I feel pretty proud of generally.

  1. Kids create a lot of leftovers.  Eli and I are midway through Whole30, so we’re not eating a lot of the kids’ food. Under normal circumstances he finishes a lot of what they don’t eat.  I do occasionally, but significantly less.  This is simple and doesn’t require a farmlet or any special equipment.  He simply waits until they are done with breakfast or lunch before figuring out what he’s eating.  Dinner we eat together, but we still have been known to polish off what they don’t. 
  2. Compost.  We have 2 compost bins and we compost peelings, icky fruit, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags etc.  This eventually becomes soil for my garden.  Coffee grounds in the summer also directly fertilize my rose bushes about once a week – roses love leftover coffee.  I keep a small compost container on the kitchen counter, and we empty it as we fill it, every few days.  I know we’re eating healthiest when we have to empty it every day or so.
  3. Bunnies.  Apple cores, broccoli stems, zucchini ends, lettuce leaves and other vegetable pieces supplement their bunny pellets, hay and 2-carrot-a-day habit. In kale season, they can give my blanch-and-freeze process a run for it’s money in their kale consumption alone.
  4. Chickens.  Chickens are omnivores, and ours, at 3 months old, are just starting their scrap-consumption.  There are a few things that aren’t good for them, and I don’t ever feed them chicken (eww) but otherwise all the scraps go to them.  They love their extra treats, we love not tossing food, and in a few more months there will be eggs galore.
  5. Reuse.  Leftovers from dinner are often lunch.  Roasted chickens become soup.  Mushroom stumps and onion peels add flavor and complexity to the broth.  Parmesan rinds flavor soups and stews.  So many things can be transformed into another in the kitchen.  Fruits that are starting to get soft or slightly less appealing go into our smoothies.
  6. Refrigerator and pantry management.  This is the most labor-intensive one, and requires constant monitoring to ensure that nothing is going bad, and adaptation to recipes to ensure that things get used up on time.  It’s the one we are the least skilled at remembering to do, of course.
  7. Eating less and preserving more.  This too, is hard.  But it’s good for our health and our waistlines, as well as Mother Earth.  The less food we buy, the less there is to go to waste.  In the summer, when the CSA and the garden are producing food we preserve for the winter months.  I reuse my canning jars over and over, and every jar of salsa or sauce I make is one less I buy later.

I’ve still got so much more to do to reduce our footprint.  But food waste management is a skill I have been perfecting, and it’s not much effort.  Need help in managing your food waste?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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