Saturday, April 16, 2011

Food waste

Quite often on Fridays, I participate in the Food Waste Friday series hosted by the Frugal Girl, in which people blog and/or comment about what food they have wasted and had to throw out during that week.  Lots of people find it helps to keep them accountable.  I remember telling my brother about it and he actually got kind of angry about the idea that people needed to feel the need to shame themselves - it wasn't the reaction I was expecting because I know he tries never to waste food and hates food waste.  But at the same time I could see his point.  He has far less difficulty than I do in not succumbing to a lot of the 'normal' behaviour that is 'expected' of good little girls and boys and follows you in to adulthood.

For myself, I find it interesting to make a point of checking my fridge every single week, when before I would maybe only do it every month or so.  I'm more likely to use something up before it goes off because I am checking more frequently what's in there.

The thing that has really surprised me though is what some people consider to be gone off.  I noticed this when I visited a friend a while back as well.  I was completely shocked to watch her go to her fruitbowl and just start turfing stuff onto the counter to go into the bin.  Now, I don't generally eat supermarket fruit and veg but when visiting friends I don't turn my nose up at their choices for feeding themselves either so although it was really annoying to see the amount of packaging still attached to some of what she wanted to throw out, I didn't comment on it.  But I had to say something about the waste of fruit because even from where I was sitting across the table, none of it really looked bad. 

I stopped her getting rid of two bananas, which were just about to start getting brown spots.  Okay, I know bananas are a bit of a divisive topic and there are lots of people who won't eat them once they've gone past green.  But when I got her to show me the apples, they were absolutely fine.  They hadn't even begun to go even a little bit soft or wrinkly.  There were a few nectarines as well so although it felt very strange to be eating a nectarine in February, we both sat and ate one there and then and I had an apple as well.  Her reasons for wanting to throw the apples out?  'They've been there for at least two weeks I'm sure'.  How on earth are we at the point of just not knowing that apples can keep for months and months in the right conditions?  I've always known I was weird for not minding eating wrinkly apples but to not even look at them and just arbitratily decide to throw them out because they were bought a certain amount of time ago kind of blew my mind.  And we're not talking about a townie like me, this is someone who grew up on a farm.

Reading the blogs of other people talking about their food waste continues to astonish me with what people consider to be waste.  From those who won't keep or eat yoghurt or milk if it has been allowed to reach room temperature, to the green banana brigade, those terrified of eating chicken that has been out of the fridge for a short while (okay, terrified might be an exagerration and chicken, especially raw chicken, does need to be treated with care but overreaction seems to be very common) and those who think that if a potato has started to grow 'eyes' it has gone off (the fact that most potato peelers come especially equipped with a bit at the top designed especially to dig out the eyes should be a clue, folks).

It would be easy to just think that there are lots of stupid people out there but I know that's not the reason for most of this.  We're talking about mostly very intelligent people who just don't know.  I know when I was a young adult I was fairly slavish about best before dates and it's possible I still would be now - I just don't buy an awful lot of stuff that comes with a date on it.  And I know I can keep stuff fresh for ages by keeping it in tupperware but sometimes it just feels so wrong that something sitting in my fridge for a week still smells and looks okay that I might throw it out without needing to.

But learning how to tell if an egg is still fresh was one of the best things I ever learned.  Realising that chopping the bad bits off something solid is okay and that not everything that is mouldy will be mouldy all the way through was important too, as was finding out that this may not be a good idea for less solid foods, like jam, since the spores are likely to be all the way through and not just resting on top.  Knowing that if I did ingest a tiny bit of something that might be slightly gone off, it probably won't kill me is important (and I don't believe I'm the only person who has on occasion been so hungry they've taken a bite from a slice of bread before bothering to butter it and only when they do so look at it properly and realise it's growing something!).  I still have lots to learn and I'm very happy that I'm open to it.  Of course the biggest lesson to learn in dealing with food waste is to not buy so much.  I grew up in a very big family but I live alone now and I still struggle with figuring out how much to buy/not buy purely because I have all of these fixed ideas in my head from childhood of how much space the weekly shopping should take up.  Like so many other things, it's time and more to let go of the past - but very difficult.


Suze said...

Thank you for provoking thought. I often wonder why people toss out food. We have lost so much knowledge over the last few generations. Some foods do need to be treated with real respect so that we do not become ill but many are safe beyond the numbers.

I am trying hard to do as you say. Buy less. I would rather buy a little more often than waste so much.

Could you post some of your use it up recipes? I am not good at this. For instance last night I made shepeherd's pie from the roast lamb left overs. Now I have left over left overs.

Moonwaves said...

In one sense I suppose I'm lucky in that I have no problem eating the same thing several days in a row. And I really love shepherd's pie so would be happy to eat it for lunch and dinner for a couple of days in a row. Although I never think potatoes freeze very well I have frozen shepherd's pie before and it has been fine so you could always do that with a portion or two.

I'll have a think about some of the things I do to use food up and do a post on that soon. Thanks for the idea.