April 24, 2009

Is it Friday already?

Well, that's not a very pretty picture. That's this week's food waste, and this ugly photo makes me more determined than ever to have NO waste next week so I don't have to post another photo like this one.

What's in the pan, you ask? Homebaked cornbread. About half of it never got eaten. My husband is from the south, but doesn't like cornbread very much. Now I remember why I don't bake it very often. I love cornbread, but if I ate that whole pan by myself, I'd probably gain a few pounds.

This photo, ugly as it is, is typical of our food waste and raises two issues for me. The first is about eating something just because you don't want it to go to waste. But it might be fattening or unhealthy to eat too much of it. I grew up with the "clean plate club" philosophy, and that's not really the best thing for your health (or your figure). You should eat until you're full, not until your plate is clean.

The other issue is the lettuce and spinach. I like to ALWAYS have fresh greens available, so they are often wasted. If I used them up, they wouldn't be in there the next time I wanted a salad. That one is kind of a conundrum to me.

Please let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for these dilemmas. I don't think I'll be making cornbread anytime soon, but when I bake something and I don't want to eat too much of it, I'll try to remember to give half of it away to a friend or a neighbor, right after I bake it. As for the greens, the only thing I can think of is to try to eat them when I know I'll be going grocery shopping within the next day or two.

I also wanted to mention an article I read this week about the truth behind "sell by" dates on foods. An editor from Prevention magazine gives the lowdown. She claims milk is good up to a week past the sell-by date, eggs are good for 3 to 4 weeks as long as they're refrigerated in their original packaging, hard cheeses will last 3 to 4 months beyond their sell-by date, and yogurt is fine 10 days to 2 week later. Read the full article to get the details.

Another thing the article mentions is that on average, a family of four throws out more than 120 POUNDS of food each month. I hoped that couldn't possibly be true, and checked the figure with Jonathan Bloom at Wasted Food. He agreed that the number seemed high, but reiterated the finding (from Garbage project founder Bill Rathje) that we don't eat 1/4 of what we bring home. So if the family of four brings home 120 pounds of food a week, then the statistic is correct.

Even if the figure is high, there's an awful lot of food going to waste! I've been inspired to do something about ours from reading Jonathan's blog and by Kristen at The Frugal Girl. I never would have imagined when I started this blog about going a year without buying anything new that I'd be taking photographs of spoiled food, but what can I say? I'm actually amazed at how easy it is once you pay attention. And if saving the environment isn't inspiration enough, so far I think I'm saving at least 25% on groceries.

So how did you do this week? Weigh in with your triumphs, confessions, ponderings, and questions in the Comments section. And please share any tips you have for my problems with wasting greens and baked goods.


Anonymous said...

I love it! Excellent post about food waste. I just wrote about trash - seems like we're on the same wave length. :)

Lettuce food waste? Have your tried switching to heads of lettuce? I buy a head, wash it, and put it through the salad spinner thingee so it's ready to go. I fold a paper towel (shock and horror) and put it on top of the lettuce in the spinner thingee. This technique seems to make my lettuce last a little longer, so that I get more time to consume it.

calimama @ compactbydesign said...

Thanks for the info on the sell by. Milk is easy but to crack an egg and have the rotten egg smell has always made me overly cautious.

As for breads and such, I freeze half almost immediately. I did it when I bought store bread and I do it now when I bake. I just used the second half of a batch of cornbread I had frozen the day I made it because I knew my husband and I did not need to finish it in two days! It tasted & felt just like the fresh from the oven half.

Anonymous said...

I found a great site today that's all about shelf life: http://www.stilltasty.com/

Ellen said...

I echo calimama's suggestions. I buy my bread from the day old bread shop on double punch day, and you get a free item if you spend more than five bucks. That adds up to a lot of bread for a single person. So I throw all but one loaf into the freezer, and take them out as I use one up. That way it's thawed by the time I go to use it. Also, something I picked up from my grandma--I keep all my (opened) bread in the fridge. My mom always kept bread on top of the fridge, but I find this helps it to last a LOT longer.

Debbie, Canada said...

From one guilty party to another.

The only thing that I can think of to solve your lettuce problem is to plan salad eating into your mealplan. That way you know when you are going to run out and have to make a trip to the store to buy more.

I just found your blog recently and I just want to say keep up the good work.

zoe said...

I'm going to try growing some lettuce to help with this - you can eat it at basically any stage sprouts/microgreens/lettuce and it grows pretty fast.

I think if I have a couple containers on the go, with staggered starts it should work well. I can plant the seeds pretty thick, and then 'thin' it by making a salad, and letting the rest grow.

It might work for you!

FOO said...

Also, do you have a juicer? I throw any going-south greens in with apples, lemons, beets, celery and ginger and make a delicious and very healthy juice.

If you don't have a juicer you might put in a request at Freecycle - I've seen them come up in my area occasionally. Cheers!

Angela said...

Thanks everyone for your great suggestions.
I do often freeze bread, usually when I buy it 2-for-1, but didn't think about freezing quick breads like cornbread- I don't usually need to! But I'll try it next time.
And I do have better luck when I buy whole heads of lettuce and wash, spin, and store them in the crisper inside paper towels. That's mostly just a laziness/convenience factor. There are a few salads I still make that use a whole head of romaine or butter lettuce. I think I'll make sure we have salad often the few days before I go to the market.
Thanks again for coming by and for all your comments and suggestions!

Anonymous said...

Calimama is so right about freezing, Angela. Cornbread is great frozen or I've even cut it into really thin slices,put cheese on top and toasted it and made cornbread crackers. I bake sheet cakes and freeze all of it in two piece containers for instant fresh cake. I love freezing!
Spinach is excellent in soup or stews. I tried wilted lettuce (spring baby greens) in a soup once and it was NOT good.
I buy salad mix on sale always when it's been marked to a buck a bag. I eat it until it's yucky then compost it.
Yesterday I planted spinach and lettuce in my garden! Can't wait for that fresh stuff
LOVE your posts! Keep it up!

Alea said...

I usually bake my cornbread in muffin tins, then freeze any uneaten portion. For some reason I find it easier to freeze and reheat in this form.

It is okay to run out of salad and be deprived for a day or two. It makes you appreciate it more when you by more!

Spring through fall, I grow my own lettuce and salad fixing, so I just run out to the garden with a collander and pick what I need for the day. In the winter when I have to buy salad, I write the salad's expiration date on the white board on my refridgerator when I bring it home from the store. Then I plan a salad to use up the lettuce as well as any other leftovers the day before the expiration date. i.e. taco salad, Asian chicken salad, strawberry spinach salad (which cam be done with any mixture of fruits and greens and a frity vinagareitte) etc.

Anonymous said...

you blog is so great, Ang!!!
I am getting so many tips and ideas from it.

Re: milk.

I have found that my 1% Horizon Organic milk will last...get this......sometimes over a month!! past the expiration date. I always smell milk before i use it - even if I just opened it new and lemme tell you - this milk lasts!

As a single woman - my fridge is usually pretty bare - I buy what I use and use what I buy.
Thank goodness for so many stores that now sell self serve/unpackaged portions of things - spinach, nuts, coffee, cheese, whatever. Back in the day when I had to buy regular sized packs of anything I had to throw away LOTS.


Anonymous said...

p.s. I would advise you to buy smaller amts of loose lettuce/greens instead of the full plastic bags of it. Cheaper, fresher, doesn't spoil as easily AND you can control how much you purchase!


Angela said...

Debbie- Thanks for your encouragement and comments. It is always appreciated. I am going to have to "plan" to eat salad whenever I haven't used it up.

Zoe- I don't think I'm up to growing my own lettuce just yet, but my herb garden is doing great and I love it. That must be really fun to go pick fresh lettuce for a salad, and you know it doesn't have any nasty chemicals on it.

FM- Thanks as always for coming by and making comments. Now I know I can bake cornbread whenever I want. Good luck with the spinach and lettuce!

Alea- That's funny you mention that about the muffin tins, because I actually had the thought that my husband might eat more of it if it was in the form of a muffin. And I'm going to get in the habit of planning lettuce and spinach in meals right before shopping for anything that hasn't been used up.

I'm so glad you like the blog and that it's giving you ideas. The idea of food waste back when I was single was incomprehensible. My refrigerator was never full enough to let anything rot. Once in awhile there might be a piece of fruit that I'd forget about when I was working a lot.
Thanks so much for reading!

Marylyn said...

I think I would have made stuffing from the cornbread, whether I had a chicken to stuff or not. Which would have required buying some celery and water chestnuts.
My spouse always buys Romaine lettuce, intending to make salad, and it almost always goes partially bad. But he's gotten REALLY good at picking out the good parts!
Wanted to mention a use I made of leftover guacamole that had gotten a little brown (but not bad, by any means!) I threw it into the mixture for a casserole. The casserole had some swiss chard, laid down like noodles, mushrooms and onion fried, and then mixed with eggs, mayo, and this guacamole. There was more, but basically, I used up the leftover guacamole, and it added some excellent taste to the casserole.

KateSommers said...

I tend to wait until I'm too hungry to prepare something so If I plan ahead and make a big bowl of salad and keep it easily available I'm more likely to eat it.I'll put the basics like lettuce, arugula,red cabbage,beet and some carrot as a base.I found that if I put the things that won't last like avocado,cucumber and tomato on it with each serving then the salad stays fresh longer.It also helps to put a couple of paper towels in the bowl to absorb any moisture.
The pre packaged greens are nice and handy but I've found they don't last as long as a head of lettuce.The farmers market produce lasts alot longer.I think it's because it hasn't been sitting in a warehouse somewhere.
An idea for your produce waste is to simply put it in a hole in your yard and then put leaves and green clippings on it.It will turn to compost really fast and it's a fun way to feel like you're feeding the earth.It's also fun to see the earth worms just show up out of no where.They love watermelon!

Life is better barefoot said...

We have chickens so we have no food waste as it all goes to them and turns into eggs for us. My conscience feels so much better having them!

Angela said...

I wish I had thought of making stuffing before I noticed the little dots of mold on top of the bread! That sounds delicious. I love stuffing, it doesn't having to be stuffed into anything.

Yes, the more convenient the better, as far as salad goes. I love salad, but sometimes if I'm too hungry I won't take the time to make it. And I'm going to start composting this year. I was just looking in the backyard and thinking we could start with a hole, and work up to the bins...

Life is Better Barefoot- That is a great side effect of having chickens, the no waste thing. And I'll bet the eggs are delicious. You know they're healthier, that's for sure. Thanks for coming by!

badgermama said...

Cornbread - make bread pudding.
Lettuce - if it's not actually bad, but just a bit wilty, chop it up and put it in soup.

Or, compost both of them, then they're not really going to waste - they'll feed the microbes and worms and fungus that keeps soil healthy!

Angela said...

Badgermama- Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment. I would have tried to do something with the cornbread if I'd thought about it before it got dots of mold on top- yuck! But you're right, both things could be easily composted. It's one of my projects I'm going to pursue this year. I'll research it and write about my progress in a future baby steps challenge.
Thanks for the suggestions!

WilliamB said...

I like to ALWAYS have fresh greens available, so they are often wasted. If I used them up, they wouldn't be in there the next time I wanted a salad.
You have only three options:
1. Plan very well and stick to the plan.
2. Run out sometimes.
3. Have waste sometimes.

For myself, I prefer option 3 because I'll eat more greens that way.

Wilted but not rotten greens can be made into soup. I make "Cream" of Green soup:
1. Saute onion and garlic in a bit of oil.
2. Add greens and some water. Cover, steam till mushy.
3. Puree (stick blender, regular blender, sieve, whatever). At this step you can add old bread to thicken, before you puree.
4. Add liquid till you like the texture: water, chix stock, corn cob stock, tomato juice, V-8, milk, etc.
5. Optional: add other veggies or leftover meat or beans (that go with the flavors you have already).
6. Season to taste.

You can remove the moldy bits and use the rest of the bread.

For an easy compost bin, take an 18 gal (or larger) Rubbermaid-type bin. Drill several dozen holes in the sides, cut out the bottom (it's much easier if you do it in that order), put on the ground. If you have critters or a lot of wind, anchor it with any kind of stake on an inside corner. Presto! For $8 or less + 20 min time you have a compost bin.

WilliamB said...

PS - eggs are good practically forever. As long as you keep them on a fridge shelf and not in the door. The door is too warm.

Practically forever = 8 weeks at least.