I came across a terrific book while browsing in the public library the other day. It is “Waste Free Kitchen Handbook, A guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food”, Dana Gunders. When it comes to wasting food, I am right up there in the big leagues. Particularly produce. I have all kinds of good intentions about eating healthy when I am in the store, but after I get the fresh produce home (particularly the leafy, green stuff), my enthusiasm peters out. The produce gets jammed in the crisper drawers, and well you know, out of sight, out of mind. And then at some point, it becomes a cringe-worthy pile of crud.
What got my attention right off the bat was the fact that 40% of all food in the United States doesn’t get eaten. According to Ms. Gunders, that is like buying five bags of groceries and leaving two in the grocery store parking lot. That’s a pretty good visual, isn’t it? As a nation, we are wasting more food now than ever. But yet we are losing the battle with obesity. Our portions have grown larger and larger, and let’s face it; sometimes we finish it (bad for the waistline), and sometimes we don’t (hello, garbage can!). Many people, and I have been guilty of thinking this way, have the mindset in a restaurant that they want a big portion to “get their money’s worth”. We are not only spending more on these increased sizes, it is contributing to a host of medical problems: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and type 2 diabetes. We use a lot of water in food production. Water is probably our most precious resource, a fact that our neighbors living in the western part of the US could tell you. Without water, what would we have? There is a great chart in this book showing how much water is used in food production for various items. As you can guess, one pound of beef takes over 74 times water to produce than a tomato. Rotting food produces methane gas, which has a disastrous effect on the ozone layer.
Now here is the good news. We can start to turn this around just by thinking twice before we toss quantities of food into our grocery cart. I know that just since reading this book, at the store I ask myself if we are really going to consume this entire cart full of food before it rots. I have started keeping a list of the leftovers on the refrigerator door to remind me to eat these first. This is the way my grandparents thought and they spent a whole lot less at the store and they didn’t have any weight problems or their accompanying maladies. Some religions practice fasting periods, where a modified amount of food is consumed. Maybe our bodies need a break from overeating. Maybe they weren’t meant to be dumpsters, inhaling all the food we can shove in.
Another thing I learned is that we produce all of the food to feed every person in this country, if we can only capture it and use it wisely. Even if your motivation is less than altruistic, think of the increased productivity in this country and the reduction in tax dollars!
In some ways this time of year will be somewhat challenging for food planning. But maybe this is the perfect time of year to begin. Thanksgiving was just a few days ago. Maybe I can show my appreciation for the bounty I have by using it wisely and thinking of ways I can share with others.
May we all be blessed with peace.
There is enough on earth for everybody’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. Mahatma Gandhi