Updated: Mar 31, 2020
As the Holidays are fast approaching...let's start with the facts.
According to the USDA, between 30-40% of the US food supply is WASTED each year. During a 2010 study conducted by the USDA Economic Research Service, that year a total of 31% of food waste was calculated across the US, which resulted in $161 billion and 133 billion pounds of food lost!! (source: https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm )
If your jaw isn't hitting the floor by this point, then you seriously need to re-evaluate your life, because this is absolutely heart-wrenching. Just think of what $161 BILLION dollars extra each year could do for US agriculture, or how many hungry adults, children, and animals could not have to struggle for food with 133 billion pounds that is just wasted.
If people wasted less food, we could afford to have an abundance of smaller, niche farms that served local communities with higher quality foods at higher prices that wouldn't have to compete with big box stores. Farms wouldn't have to struggle with the idea of "get big or get out", and consolidation would be a thing of the past. IMAGINE THAT! What most people term "factory farms" nowadays (which is still not entirely true, but we will not dive down that rabbit hole right now) would be so few and far between.
What our problem is right now, is that there is this expectation that the agriculture sector has to produce soo much food in order to feed the population, so the pressure is put on the Farmers' shoulders. When farms produce massive quantities of food at once, then economies of scale come into place. Sure, at this point, it will cost this farm less capital over a certain quantity of food produced, however, this in turn will drive down the amount that a consumer spends on that food...and maybe that is the issue? Soo many people take food for granted, because it is so easy to get cheap food, that they don't care if it goes to waste. It's really a full-circle effect that consumers and producers need to be aware of and start taking steps to mitigate all of this waste.
If 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted each year, that is the equivalent of scraping almost half the food off your plate, each time you sit down to eat a meal. Americans have a serious problem and I am writing this blog post today to help provide alternative solutions to food waste. How can you help, and what are some ways you can eliminate food waste in your home.
1) RECYCLE YOUR FOOD
There are many types of produce that can be reused, believe it or not. At my house, you will always find a mason jar in the kitchen window sill with water in the bottom, and green onions sprouting out the top. Many produce items you buy from the store, especially ones that have roots intact, can be used in meals, and then set into a glass of water, and they will regrow. Not only are you recycling food, but it can be a project at-home science experiment to try out with your kids.
Here is a link to a list of foods that can be recycled: https://www.diyncrafts.com/4732/repurpose/25-foods-can-re-grow-kitchen-scraps
2) COMPOST YOUR FOOD SCRAPS
Composting food scraps is super easy to do, and only requires a little bit of time. Keep a container in your kitchen and throw your produce food scraps into it. Once a week or so, empty the bin into a larger big, preferably an unused garbage bin outside with a lid. Let the food slowly decompose over time, while adding small amounts of soil to it, and even Earthworms. The food scraps will break down into organic and inorganic matter, and can then be tilled into the garden, or used in flower beds or shrubbery. I don't do much composting, so there is a link below explaining it better than I can. Number 5 will explain why I don't compost.
Here is a link to getting started with composting: https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/composting/
3) GET CREATIVE WITH COOKING
Nothing is funner than pretending to be Emeril in the kitchen, get creative with your cooking! I had this instilled in me from a young age, I guess, as my Parents were always finding ways to use the fridge scraps and leftovers to make the next meal. On the weekends, my Parents used to make, what we coined "garbage eggs". This usually consisted on leftover meats and veggies we had in the fridge from the week before. My favorite was leftover gyro meat, onions, and mushrooms, mixed in with scrambled eggs.
To this day, I still practice "garbage dishes" every week. I love taking leftover dishes and re-purposing them into a new meal. Give it a try!
4) STOP COOKING SO MUCH FOOD
If you read through number 3 and wanted to vomit at the mere thought of using leftovers, or even having leftovers in your fridge, STOP COOKING SO MUCH FOOD!!!! I know too many people that can't stand leftovers and refuse to eat them. No sweat, leftovers are not for everyone. However, if you are this kind of person, please cook less, or eat smaller portions so that leftovers are a thing that don't exist in your food world.
5) ANIMALS LIKE FOOD SCRAPS, TOO
If you read through number 4, and realized you still have leftovers regardless of how hard you try to cook less and eat less, than maybe consider feeding the scraps to your animals. Dogs benefits from eating people food much better than dry dog food. Let me rephrase...dogs and cats can benefit from eating good quality people food than dry food.
I feed my Great Pyrenees, Ellyeska, food scraps that I know her stomach can tolerate. She loves the heel of the bread loaf, squash, and eggs, but she is not the main recipient of food scraps. Chickens. Chickens. will. eat. ANYTHING.
I have a tupperware container that sits in my fridge that is for food scraps. Whether I am cutting up veggies, or cleaning the food scraps out of a pan of food, everything goes into that tupperware container. Every weekend or every other weekend, I give that tupperware of food scraps to the chickens. The ONLY food you really want to stay away from is onions. Most animals cannot properly digest onions, so it's not a smart idea to feed any kind of onions to animals. I will occasionally put onions in the food scrap bin for chickens, only if the onions are cooked. Please do not feed raw onions to your animals.
Fall season brings on some of the biggest food waste ever, as pumpkins, corn, and other fall decorative foods are often thrown in the trash after they are no longer needed for home decorations. STOP THROWING THEM AWAY. Instead, find a nearby farmer, or a backyard chicken raiser, and give them the end-of-season items. They will get eaten and enjoyed by the livestock.
This year, I grew pumpkins in my garden and put them out on display around my farm for the fall season. Now that we are headed into winter, each week, I take a few pumpkins and chop them in half. The chickens and ducks are happy to clean the guts out of the pumpkins, however, they will not eat the rinds. Lucky for me, I have cattle that will! After the birds eat what they want, I take the scraps and throw them to the cows. The cows are happy to devour the rest of the pumpkins.
This is a typical practice for us here on the farm. If Austin and I do not eat it, someone else around the farm WILL!
My challenge for you heading into the holiday season, is be mindful of what you are wasting, and maybe get out of your comfort zone and befriend a local farmer to donate your scraps to. Beautiful relationships are formed that way! :)