How little changes can add up to make a big difference

The topic of food waste has been following me around for some reason. First, I went to a conference where a gal gave a great talk on the topic, then a daily newsletter in my in-box featured an article about a couple who ate out of dumpsters for 6 months (I think this might have been the same couple I heard on talk radio a few months back…) and most recently, my father gave me a copy of a magazine featuring food waste on the cover (thanks Dad!). Ok universe, I get it! The article featured on the March 2016 cover of National Geographic had some pretty alarming stats- 800 million people worldwide suffer from not having enough to eat- that’s a lot of people!  The world throws away 2.9 trillion (2,900,000,000- I like that visual reference) pounds of food each year which is enough to feed each one of those 800,000,000 people more than 2 times over- for the year! Holy bananas! This got me thinking about my own role in food waste. As a young adult trying to figure out how to cook for one, I tossed out an embarrassing amount of food. I either made too many portions or just never got around to cooking things. When I worked at a bakery/lunch counter in college I would take huge bags of pastries and bread home where they would be feasted on by my cash-strapped friends (we used to donate the old bread to a homeless shelter but then the higher ups said we couldn’t do that anymore). Still, we threw bags and bags of pastries and bread into the dumpster daily. Don’t even get me started on the cakes. So.Many.Cakes.

Currently, I feel like I do a pretty good job of not wasting food. Meal planning has definitely helped with this. There are some areas I think I could step it up a bit. Despite meal planning, there are always the items that go to waste- the last portion or two in the box of salad greens that’s gone slimy, the apple that has been in the fruit bowl for so long, neglected until it turns wrinkly, the jar of sauce in the pantry that doesn’t stir enough inspiration to realize it’s dream of becoming dinner. Poor sauce. I posed the question on Facebook of what was commonly thrown out at other’s homes and while the answers were varied, there was definitely the theme of fruit and veggies and also those leftovers. It was nice to know I’m not alone in my struggle with salad or the lemons and limes that never dress up my water glass.

Where does that leave me? Here’s my own personal inventory of what’s working and what could use some tweaking-

What am I doing that feels like I’m doing my part:

Meal planning

Seriously, if you want to make a simple change and you aren’t meal planning, start here! Even if you don’t want to approach it from a “Monday: spaghetti, Tuesday: tacos, Wednesday: tuna noodle casserole” mindset, you can make a list of meals you want to make (and have time to make and eat!) that will serve as a guideline when you are at the store.

Having leftovers for lunch and sometimes dinner

I love leftovers- I don’t have to make lunch AND I don’t waste food! Win!

Utilizing my freezer for extra portions

Similar to the leftovers, only there are only so many days I can eat the same soup and even lasagna gets boring after awhile so I freeze individual portions for those times when I need a quick lunch or dinner. It’s like your current self and past self are high-fiving each other for thinking ahead!

Where I could improve that doesn’t seem overwhelming:

Stop buying so many pre-packaged veggies

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to buy veggies, but my behavior needs a little change. In writing this article, I gave some thought to what I’m frequently throwing away. One of those things is those plastic boxes of spring mix or baby spinach. I’m not going to buy those anymore- I’m going to either just get a head of lettuce or buy the spring mix from the bulk section so I’m not wasting it. My point here is to take a look at what you throw away and see if there’s something you can do different.

Put my substantial veggie scraps in the freezer for stock

I was recently at a friend’s for dinner and was getting some ice out of the freezer. I saw she had a big container for collecting vegetable odds and ends, and veggies that were reaching use-it-or lose-it status (think wimpy celery, not that already slimy bell pepper). When the container gets full, she makes yummy veggie stock. Genius!

Put little veggie and fruit scraps in the compost

I have a compost bin and a little crock that sits out to collect scraps. We stopped using it because it would get gross and attract fruit flies. With some dedication, I can build a habit to take it out routinely.  

Have an “eat from the pantry” meal routine

I am pretty good on FIFO (first-in, first-out) when it comes to the same of one item like canned beans or canned tomato products. It’s those odd cans, jars and random baking mixes I have laying around that get neglected. I’m looking at you crushed pineapple tidbits and curry simmer sauce! Even if I have a pantry meal or use one item per week, I’ll make sure I’m not just letting sit there until even the food pantry doesn’t want them.

I think a big part of what bogs folks down about making a change in anything is that it can seem too daunting or overwhelming to do it completely “right”. I think I’ve identified several easy ways for myself to make a change that won’t take too much effort. Something else that helps with making a change is being accountable so I’m going to make a pledge here on this blog to commit to the above changes for 30 days. No more pre-packaged greens, I’m going to start a container in my freezer and make stock at the end of this challenge, pull out that composter and use at least four forgotten pantry items. Next month I’ll give an update on my progress.

What about you? Are there any changes you can make to help cut back on the 2,900,000,000 pounds of food waste this year? Join me in this challenge by leaving a comment below with what changes you can make or let us know on Facebook. Happy eating!

Kathy Kimbrough

By Kathy Kimbrough

Kathy Kimbrough is a Registered and Licensed dietitian practicing in the Austin area. A love of science and health, coupled with the drive to help people lead a full life, led her down the path of becoming a Registered Dietitian. An Austin resident since the age of two, Kathy pursued her degree in nutrition and graduated from the coordinated program at the University of Texas at Austin.The beginnings of Kathy’s nutrition career focused on the care of the older adult, traveling throughout central Texas working in long term care facilities. Her work at iLiveWell has expanded her demographic, Kathy works with teens, college students and adults to help build a healthy relationship with food. She believes nutrition truly impacts one’s health throughout their life journey and that it’s always a good time to make positive change. Kathy strives to educate and empower her clients to take charge of their health and live their healthiest life. Kathy lives in Austin with her husband and their two rescue dogs. She enjoys cooking, staying active, spending time with her family and a good movie marathon. Specialties: Eating Disorders, Diabetes, Weight Management, Medical Nutrition Therapy

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