Well. Knock me over with a feather.
It’s week two of cataloging publicly the entirety of the food waste situation in our home, and I was certain that we were going to end up with far more waste than we had in week one — after all, we’re just getting the hang of this, and I haven’t even started being super-proactive about it yet; I’m still in the “observation” phase, I think. (Or maybe that’s just how I justify to myself the fact that I’m not constantly thinking about scaling back the waste quotient.) But surprisingly, we didn’t incur that kind of waste. Maybe I shopped smarter or cooked smarter, or maybe the kids liked their lunches better this week (or were hungrier). Maybe I was subconsciously shifting to more waste-conscious methods of cooking and packing, or maybe we just haven’t done a good enough job cleaning out the fridge this week (totally possible). Whatever the reasons, the list is pretty acceptable — something I may still not enjoy looking at, but something I can at least breathe through.
Last week’s waste report got very kind and supportive comments from all of you, which I truly appreciate. Some of you encouraged me to give myself more of a break as far as the kids’ wasted lunch leftovers go — opinions, and forgive me for paraphrasing, seemed to run towards the “kids are fickle eaters and the storage issue of uneaten food in warm cubbies is beyond your control.” While those things are completely true, and having kids is, in and of itself, something of a recipe for food waste right at the outset, I don’t want to take the “easy out” and allow myself ot overlook whatever comes home in their lunchboxes at the end of the day. When you get right down to it, the whole point of this project was to identify, own, and embrace the positives and negatives of our household’s food usage, and the kids’ contributions to the waste pile need to be accounted for, even if I can’t theoretically do a whole lot to change those figures.
Anyway, here’s the list for this week:
2 cups of tortilla soup. Yeeeeahhhhh…we didn’t eat it. I mean, we ATE it, when we had it for dinner…and for a few lunches after that…and then I forgot to freeze it and it got shoved behind something and, well, you can all see where this is going.
1 serving chicken and dumplings. We did pretty well at polishing off the chicken and dumplings, but I have to say, we did NOT do well with picking out all the bones before we packaged up the leftovers. When I tried to eat my way through the last bit, there were little bones and shards of bone all dispersed throughout the gravy and vegetables, and I’m sorry — that’s beyond what I will consider edible/worth my time to correct. So the whole thing went in the trash.
1/4 of a sunbutter and jelly sandwich on whole-wheat. P.’s latest breakfast kick is a pb&j, or in this case, sb&j on wheat. He didn’t finish it one day. I thought he had. I found it on the couch that night when we came home from work. On. The. Couch.
1 banana (roughly) and 1 tblsp. organic chocolate chips. I packed sliced bananas sprinkled with chocolate chips for the boys’ Friday lunches, as a special treat. Neither of them finished the serving they were given, so this is my estimate of what came back, combined.
1/4 cup frozen mango. P. had mango and raspberries in his lunch the other day. He ate all the raspberries and most of the mango. The rest came home looking sad and….wet.
4 pieces dried papaya, 1 dried plum. P. AGAIN. Lunch leftovers, vaguely chewed, perhaps? I couldn’t tell, so I thought it wise to err on the conservative side on this one.
1/4 couscous mixed with sauteed vegetables. Came home as lunchbox miscellany.
1/2 cup yogurt. Total of the leftover carnage from lunches.
1 apple. Found it in the crisper drawer. I thought it was a pear, which would have been a recent purchase. Nope. Then I thought it was still edible. I gave it a shot. Also nope.
1 pound cremini mushrooms. SOOO angry with myself about these. I bought them and accidentally — do NOT ask me how — shoved them in the freezer. They got frozen. When I thawed them, they were slimy and smelled a little funny, even by fungus standards. Word of advice: Don’t try to freeze unprotected mushrooms.
Anyway, that’s it — the sum total for the whole week. As I look at it, I feel pretty good, because so much of it was the lunches — and it’s true that, if the boys were eating at home under my supervision, there’d be a bit more I could do to help mitigate the waste. But just knowing at the moment that the odd bites from their lunches are a big contributor to our waste tally helps me tremendously.
I’m also feeling proud because we did a few things last week, and I’m in the process of doing a few more things this week, that were consciously designed to cut down on our food waste — as well as help keep me set up for easy cooking and lunch-packing. Last week, when we made our breaded flounder for supper, I immediately separated out several portions and froze them for future meals. The only leftovers that went into the refrigerator were a few pieces each for me and J., which we made sure to eat the next day. I also made sure to reheat the leftovers of the couscous with mixed vegetables that we’d originally eaten with lamb meatballs, and serve it (refreshed with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil) alongside a quick portion of pan-seared salmon for Friday fend night, meaning that every scrap was utilized. And at some point during the week, when I made our salad, I added a hefty dose of chopped fresh herbs that looked as though they were about to turn on me, then popped the stems into my stock bag.
This week, I’m working diligently on the buy-less-cook-more philosophy to (hopefully) rein in our waste even further. When I made the mashed potatoes for last night’s spoon roast supper, I made double; the leftovers will be used to bind tonight’s salmon cakes. The extras of the spoon roast are waiting in the fridge to be chopped up and quickly reheated in a stir-fry later this week, while some stray beets and sweet potatoes from last week are already slated to become veggie chips for tomorrow’s sloppy joe supper. They’re small things, really, and not hard to do — but I feel good knowing that I’m at least thinking proactively and setting up a system that may help us to eradicate as much waste in our kitchen as possible.