Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Project Nowaste - keeping track of food waste

Project NOWASTEIn this week's Project Nowaste post, we are concentrating on food waste instead of over-eating. For those of you interested in the weight loss component of this project, see last week's post.

Last week we calculated out how much we should weigh and how much we have to lose. This week I want you to keep track of how much food you throw out, whether it goes into the compost pile, food waste pickup or the garbage. You may need to keep a separate container to hold all of it and weigh it at the end of the week or you can weigh it on a day by day basis and total it up at the end. It's up to you. Primarily what we are trying to achieve with this is how much we are throwing out.

What I want you to save and weigh (because this is more helpful than total waste) is just the food that could have been eaten. So, you don't need to keep track of egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels, etc. You get the picture. This will tell you how much you are actually wasting. In other words, how much food that could have been eaten but was either left to rot or too much food was taken at a meal or snack.

One thing you need to be careful in doing this project is to not get trapped into eating more than you should (to stay at your weight) just so you are not wasting food. Instead, concentrate on not buying, making or taking too much food on your plate so that, while you are essentially "cleaning your plate" you aren't stuffing yourself full. This will take some time to learn how much is too much, but that's what this project is all about. We'll cover this in detail in future posts.

So, your assignment for the next week is to see how much food you are throwing away that, under better circumstances, could have been consumed.

One caveat - now is also probably a good time to clean out your fridge and cabinets of food past it's consumption date, but you'll need to use your discretion as to whether or not to count it in your totals. Counting month's old food as waste for the week will skew your total weekly food waste disposal.


Chile said...

Yikes, this one hits where it hurts. I can be very good about using every last edible part of produce, but I also can be bad about having too much on hand to deal with. If I don't get the processing done to store the excess (by freezing, canning, or drying), then it goes to compost.

I'm trying to give a little extra use to today's wasted salad mix by taking it to a friend with chickens. Maybe she'll give me some chicken poop in return for my compost

Say, can I offset the weight of the lettuce with the chicken poop? ;-)

laurel said...

Ooh, I am excited about this challenge. It will be interesting to see the difference in what I think we waste, and in how much we actually do. This will be a challenge for me...I have three small, picky I am going to have to be really careful to give them small amounts of food until I see if they like it.

Anonymous said...

Oh maaaaaannnnnnnn! Now we have to work at it? :)

Full disclosure: I'm cleaning the fridge first. I am really bad at this.

Thanks for the encouragement. Diva cup, no problem. Turn the heat down? Yipee - hold me accountable! Argue over proper toilet paper to use -- I'm in.

But this challenge is going to hurt. Time to make some solid changes.

Natural Louisville said...

On a slightly different track, but definitely related to wasting food, this link tells about an 11-year-old working to pass legislation allowing restaurants to donate unused food to the homeless instead of throwing it out --

DC said...

This is a little bit of a tangent, but did you know that there are some freegans who live solely on food discarded by restaurants and grocery stores? They are not poor or homeless. They are often middle class people who have just completely rejected the consumer lifestyle. It's a little too extreme to work in our household, but I think there are some good lessons to learn from it.

Susan M.B. Sullivan said...

We do pretty well. I think our big waste is when the kids only eat part of their meal or the outside of an apple, or when carrot sticks that look good at home languish in the fridge at work. We'll see if I'm right!

crstn85 said...

I know that food that goes down the disposal is still wasted food, but does anyone know the environmental impact of it? That is one of those things where it just goes 'away.' Where do the ground up bits of food go, and what do they affect?

Jennifer said...

Do we weigh the waste from cooking, too? I'm talking about pepper stems and seeds, and other such things.

Just checking in... if I don't eat all of my food BUT I place it in a container and eat it the next day, it doesn't count, right? (because it still was eaten)

Unknown said...

Oh, I'm going to do really poorly with this one! I have a 3yo and a baby and the number of half-eaten cheesesticks, yogurts, and other kid food is truly, truly shameful. At least it all goes to compost, not the landfill, but it's still awful....

ruchi said...

Yes, I am VERY bad about this. And yesterday, I was anxious about food waste and I was out to eat with a friend. My gardenburger came with an enormous amount of fries. And because I got so stressed about food waste, I ended up eating all the fries (well we shared them) so that I wouldn't have any waste. And I was full!!

(And then I wasn't hungry for dinner so I skipped a meal. Not healthy.)

Crunchy Chicken said...

Chile - no. I'm just kidding. Some "one" (even it's my long lost relative) is eating it, so it doesn't count.

crstn85 - it depends on the wastewater treatment in your area. In Seattle, our wastewater gets treated and the solids (all of them) get treated as well. These Biosolids are used as fertilizer.

jennifer - include cooking, but don't include things you wouldn't eat like stems and some seeds. Count only what is edible. Some people wouldn't include watermelon rinds, but others pickle them and eat them. So, you have to think real hard about what is "inedible".

If you save the food to eat later that's fine. It got eaten, not thrown out so it doesn't count.

susan - our kids aren't great with finishing food either, so I've taken to only giving them what I think they'll eat. And if that means I cut the cheesestick in half and save part of it for later or dish out a little yogurt and save the rest, that's what I do.

arduous - when eating out you have a few choices: split a dish with others so you have the right amount of food; take home what you can't eat (although fries are kinda gross the second time around, but I suppose you could always construct something edible out of them); or ask your waiter/waitress for only 3 pounds of french fries instead of the usual 8. And stop eating out at Claim Jumper.

Anonymous said...

In my refrigerator, I have about six plastic bags, each with the ends of bread in them. Whenever I buy a new loaf, I never, completely finish the loaf before it. I also have a few pieces of fruit wanting to be thrown away because when I buy fruit, I want to eat whatever is fresh first (same as the bread) and same for baby greens that we buy at the farmers market. Those are the major offenders.

Other ways that I waste food--if I see free food, I usually try it, even if that doesn't translate to skipping a meal later on.

I also tend to take bites of said free food and throw it away if I don't like it.

Going Crunchy said...

O.k., I'm in. I actually got much better at this last year when I started making meal plans, etc. in more of a thrift effort. I've now realized that thrift is also environmental thriftiness too...not just pocketbook.

This will be fun! Shannon

Oldnovice said...

Great timing! I just finished updating my inventory files after cleaning out my frig and freezers.

Thing is, though ... just being conscious of being part of a project will mean that absolutely NOTHING goes to waste until the project's over. Um... when is the project over?

Lissa said...

I'm excited about this! I just cleaned my fridge/cupboards, and figure I'll use my food-waste from "last week" as a baseline. (Because I was traveling, I didn't calculate waste from meals.)

So, for the "baseline" week I tossed
- 8 ounces of milk that soured
- 8 ounces of sour cream
- 2 ounces of goat cheese
- 12 ounces of leftover chicken and vegetables
- 6 ounces of yogurt
- 6 ounces of very moldy hoummus

Total: 42 ounces (2 pounds, 10 ounces) of food waste.

Anonymous said...

I started out on a bad note - somehow we ended up with two giant containers of applesauce open, so one of them molded :(

Susan, would you eat those bread ends in the form of fritatta, croutons, toast, or rusks? I'm not a bread pudding fan, but I know some people like it. And of course it's good as stuffing.

I got an awesome book at the library (on either Crunchy's recommendation or Sharon's) called Hungry Planet, pictures of families with a whole week's worth of food on a table in front of them. Also little stories and recipes. It's amazing. We paged through it as a family and talked about what we buy and eat and how it's packaged and what we could reduce.

Anonymous said...

This week I ended up tossing four pieces of cornbread that had gone moldy...I forgot to weigh them; maybe six ounces? And there was a sweet potato that had gone seriously icky, but that had been in there for a *long* time, so I'm not counting it.

If I don't finish a meal at home, I always put the rest back in the this considered unhygienic in other households? When eating out, I generally take the leftovers home, and it tends to be things like Thai or Indian that work well as leftovers.

My biggest problem tends to be not eating those leftovers soon enough, and learning which of the CSA veggies need to be eaten first. (Poor sweet potato...they were so tasty, but there were so many of them)

Cave-Woman said...

I seldom throw food away unless it's a condiment "gone bad". If I have veggies that are close to gone, I make soup out of them.

If I end up with bread ends, I toast them and use them as bread crumbs. Also, I use my freezer more than I did once.

I find simply putting food in the freezer can extend the life of my food by quite a bit.

I'm terrible about figuring out my calories, but food I can save!

Anonymous said...

Cool idea, Crunchy Chicken. Glad to see everyone taking up this challenge. I write a blog about Wasted Food, so I'm for anything that raises awareness on how much food we actually toss.

I try to put my money where my mouth is, but I still end up tossing things at times. Mostly veggies like cukes and lettuce. From my experience, food waste begins in the supermarket. Plan your meals and stick to your list and you'll be on the right track.