Filed under: And Justice for All, Food Waste | Tags: biodigesters, BOGO, community gardens, Craigslist, Farm Bill, FIFO, gleaning, global issues, inmate labor, landfills, Livable Communities, local foods, regional food systems, seasonal eating, small sizing, urban gardens, waste disposal
I’ve spent this summer reading “American Wasteland”, a tome by Jonathon Bloom about the reasons so many American children are going hungry. My mother’s admonishments about how I shouldn’t leave food on my plate because of the “starving ‘negra’ children” had an impact on me. I’ve always quietly prided myself for paying my daily dues so that I could be a member of the “clean plate club”. Fast forward 60 years and into our current-day ‘disposable’ society. On one hand our country is blessed to have so much, but the easy availability of everything from food to plastic water bottles has also devalued much of what we have. So much so that a tremendous amount is simply wasted. There’s an old saying, that “Familiarity breeds contempt”. That’s what Mr. Bloom writes about so compellingly. I like my new saying much better: “There is no ‘away’, as in, ‘throw it away‘ “.
Turns out, there is tremendous food waste in this country especially, but also in developed countries all over the world: from farm to table to landfill, every step of the way there is unbelievable waste, with home plate waste being less problematic than my mom led me to believe. I’ve spent much of my adult life patting myself on the back for cleaning my plate, planning and preparing meals based on what I have on hand, then feeding chickens, dogs and soil with the rest. I tend to feel that I have the most control over things that can be handled at the personal level, and that it’s more difficult to control food waste at any other level, but it’s certainly not impossible.
This is where WE come in: I am certain that, just like with any other ‘movement’, this problem of so much food waste can be greatly reduced, as long as there are enough blogs, letters and emails written, enough news reports spread and petitions signed, enough Facebook pages created and enough folks like you and me to care enough to “Do Something!” beyond cleaning our plates every night.
According to Mr. Bloom’s research, the number one source of food waste is right in the fields and orchards, where growth begins and ends. Many issues come into play at that level, from crop price (sometimes it’s not even profitable for a farmer to pay a crew to harvest the crop so it is left to rot in the field), to consumer demand for perfect looking-stunningly perfect looking-fruits and vegetables. Anything less than perfect is discarded, or in a best case scenario is sent to a cannery. 30-50% of each and every crop goes unharvested for that reason alone. Then, when the produce department employee culls out the tomato that’s developed a tiny blemish ( and I do mean tiny) or the pepper that shows a slight wrinkle, it’s tossed. Food rescue groups have surged in larger metro areas, sometimes picking up 1000 lbs of edible, good food a day, from a single grocery chain. CASES of farm fresh vegetables, boxes of fruits, bags and bags of greens and salads, potatoes, carrots and onions are dumped each and every day. That’s just at the store level.
Restaurants and cafes-especially buffets- schools, work place cafeterias, dairies, canneries, convenience stores and bakeries all contribute to food waste because not only do we expect to see fully loaded bins or steam tables 5 minutes before a food retailer closes, the practice of ‘keeping it full’ forces them to throw away prepared foods due to the threat of it going bad faster…
BOGO offers that tempt us to buy more than we can use…
and refrigerators that are too large…
all contribute to this problem. Easy ‘out of sight, out of mind’ disposal methods add to our tendency to waste food. In many parts of Europe, large disposal fees have been imposed, cutting down on waste and prompting the building and use of local digesters that use anaerobic decomposition to break down the waste in an environmentally friendly way, producing enough renewable energy to power small towns or villages.
Why bother with all of this? As part of our transition efforts to re-create our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being, ‘thou shalt not waste anything’ should be our first commandment.
So what can we do at a level that would truly ‘make a difference’? Consider these actions:
* Buying and eating local and regional foods will ensure that they weren’t shipped from across the country or from the other side of the world. Shorter shipping distances means the food is much much fresher when you do buy it.
* Consider growing some of your own food. Trust me, if you’re growing it, you will not let a single thing go to waste! Not a single morsel.
* Start a local gleaning group in your community or join one that’s already established. The practice of gleaning a farmer’s fields was first mentioned in the Bible, making it an especially acceptable practice if you live in the Bible Belt like I do. It also happens that many crops are grown in this belt. Jesus would approve I’m sure.
* Encourage through your buying choices and via letters or personal requests that food manufacturers and retailers offer more items in resealable packaging and smaller quantities (half loafs of bread to better serve smaller households, for example).
* Push for local, or better yet, STATE, landfill food-waste bans would prompt innovation and help us develop environmentally friendly ways to process food waste. You didn’t hear it from me, but I’ve heard our city is poised to begin a commercial food-waste composting facility in the near future, and if landfill operations could no longer undercut them on price, it will help ensure their success.
*If total bans are not in the making, making waste disposal more expensive or charging by the ton would have a ripple effect through the food chain, likely causing a bubble up effect of food conservation from a more conscientious public
* Encourage farmers to donate excess food-form a database or a Craigslist for food in your community
* Use inmate labor to harness already-harvested crops from growers and packers. Thousands of pounds per day are tilled under or discarded because this produce doesn’t meet market specifications
* Bring urban food-bank clients to excess farm food, encouraging self reliance and fostering food appreciation in the process. If transportation is a problem, pair clients with urban or community garden programs.
* Reconsider what foods the government funds-subsidizing commodity crops makes those crops artificially cheap, encouraging waste. Let your elected officials and the USDA know that you want the next Farm Aid bill to be for eaters, not just growers!
* Plan your meals and menus ahead, using what you have on hand before buying more. FIFO is an effective inventory system that retailers use: First In, First Out.
*Get more restaurants to offer smaller portions for smaller prices. A ‘smart sizing’ campaign could even reverse the negative effect of ‘super sizing’.
The future of food is important and implementing regional food systems, with the use of hoop houses to grow warm weather crops year round, along with a return to more seasonal eating would also lessen food waste. “Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall” the old song goes… don’t let that sage advice go to waste!
Filed under: Canning, Food Waste, Frugality, Green Triangle, Mindful Consumerism, Reducing Waste
Ahhh, another day, another
dollar fifty cents-and my two cents worth. I hope you’ll share with me in the comments section at the end of this post how you’ve managed to save your precious time, money or energy recently. And speaking of saving time, this’ll be relatively short because I’ve got a busy afternoon and evening planned-playing music with a friend and then going downtown for the monthly First Friday celebration-both frugal and fun choices!
Monday: We had our annual income tax returns prepared for free by AARP volunteers. This is the 5th year for doing so, and they’re always pleasant, well-trained and helpful. Savings: I just called a well-known national tax service to see what the basic charge is for a simple joint return and was quoted roughly $125-$250! So, I saved a lot going with AARP. You must be over 55 to qualify for this service. Um, let’s just say I qualify.
Tuesday: I’ve mentioned this several times before, but since it’s such an easy savings and I can make it basically from what would otherwise be food waste, I keep making fresh vegetable stock when I run out. This week I canned 7 quarts plus an extra 2 quarts for the freezer. Cost of a good quart of store-bought broth is $1.89. Savings: $17.10 plus tax and all those metal cans or tetrapaks!
Wednesday: Because it was such a beautiful spring day, and because I knew I’d be hard pressed to get supper on the table with all I had to do that day, I decided to make a ‘Solar Stew’ of pinto beans, tomatoes and butternut squash. I put all the ingredients in the cooker about 9:30 AM, and when we were ready to eat at 6 PM it was perfectly done! Savings? Well, we’re often tempted to eat out at the end of a busy day when neither of us wants to cook so there’s that. And of course, the peace of mind that comes from knowing that I didn’t have to leave my crockpot plugged in all day while I was away is priceless.
Thursday: I try really hard not to take advantage of this freebie because I don’t want to abuse it and lose the privilege for everyone: at my local library, no late fees are due if you are 60 or older. (Yet another reason to enjoy being a senior) I had borrowed a book a few weeks ago that I needed as a reference for a presentation I was giving and was late returning it. Fines forgiven: $1.60!
Friday: We don’t make many new purchases but when we do, we always do our homework first and that’s how we managed to save big bucks at the register when we bought our new gas grill today. A completely unadvertised fact is that Lowe’s gives a 10% discount if you present your Veteran’s ID card at checkout. Tonight: Grilled Portobello sandwiches on Onion Faccocias, with the mushrooms bought from Kroger on Tuesday with a 5% senior discount, and the buns bought from the day-old bread store at 75% off regular price. We’d been using charcoal for the last two summers, but I like the additional security that a gas grill offers me in case of an extended power outage. But listen up: new gas grills don’t come with a propane tank. That’s an extra $49.95, which you lose when you exchange it for your next filled tank anyway. So, I drove over to my local recycling center where I picked up what looked to be an almost new (empty) one for free. We took that with us when we went to buy the grill and exchanged it for a filled tank for $19.95. Savings: With the veteran’s discount, we saved a cool $25 on our total purchases, plus I saved $30 on a the tank. A total of $55 saved just by practicing a bit of mindful consumerism!
This girl loves saving money, but I also love reusing, repurposing, reducing and recycling resources. I find it more than coincidence that these activities often seem to be interrelated. I also find it pretty cool that choosing what’s best in terms of money or the environment often turns out to be best for my health as well. That concept is called ‘The Green Triangle’ and is a useful tool when you’re trying to live lightly. We’ll talk more about it next week, ok?
Filed under: Energy Savings, Food Storage, Food Waste, Frugality, Growing Food, Reducing Waste, Resilience, Seasonal Eating | Tags: eggshells, frugal, growing food, Hoop House, Waste reduction
With the extreme cold, I’ve found myself staying home more, cooking a lot, and making some minor changes in order to stay warm without having a $400 electric bill. Maybe one of these tips will help you reduce your energy costs and keep your home cozier too!
Monday: It was a pleasant day but I knew the cold was returning that night so I washed the car at the quarter car wash then brought it home to vacuum it. I also spent time in the sunshine, soaking up Vitamin D while cutting back all the frozen and dead leaves from my kale plants and reinstalling the plastic covered hoops that had blown off in the last ‘Polar Vortex’ (which is why they froze to begin with!). My hope is that they will resprout once things begin to warm up again. Gardening is always a learning experience, and this is just part of that. Savings: $2.50 for the vacuum job, and if the kale resprouts, it will seem quite valuable indeed, coming back from the dead and all. At the very least, the knowledge I gain in growing food is always invaluable.
Tuesday: I fixed my own food dehydrator!!! It was no longer putting out any heat, even though the fan was blowing. I took the back of the dryer off, found a loose wire that seemed to lead to a sheared-off doohickey. I called the toll-free number for the manufacturer, where I spoke with their tech guy, who diagnosed it as needing a new thermostat. After trying to find the part online at a cheaper price than the $35 that was quoted me, I bit the bullet and ordered it and was able to install the new part with very little trouble. High Five! The dehydrator now works even better than it did when new so I spent a very cold day drying a bunch of apples that were beginning to shrivel in storage. Now I have a 3 lb coffee can FULL of dried apple slices to use in my daily oatmeal. Dehydrating foods is a practical and easy way to preserve fresh foods for long term storage, and actually retains more vitamins that other preservation methods. They take up much less storage space and weigh a lot less than canned or frozen foods, and if, like me, you have limited storage space, that’s a big plus. Savings: 15 lbs of organic apples=$30. Feeling of self sufficiency and competence: priceless
Wednesday: The cold sets in…Michael made bread, using bread flour bought in a 25 lb sack for less than $9, 2 teaspoons of yeast bought in one pound foil-packed bags for less than $5 and a tsp of salt. Total cost per loaf: about 25 cents. But wait! The savings continue…while the baking stones preheated, I decided to use that time to bake some white and sweet potatoes on them, along with a pan of Shepherd’s Pie and a tin of egg shells (yes, egg shells are saved year round and dried; after drying them I grind them up for adding to my tomato and pepper planting holes each spring-doing so adds calcium and helps prevent blossom end rot). The Shepherd’s pie and one loaf of bread made 6 servings, which fed us, along with some unexpected overnight company. Then we enjoyed the company, along with the baked potatoes and some chicken and veggie leftovers the next day, finishing the impromptu meal with some summer-canned peaches for dessert. Heating the oven once yielded two loaves of bread, and two large meals. I’m already considering what other things I can cook while next week’s loaves are baking. Spinach lasagne maybe, more potatoes and a pan of macaroni and cheese perhaps? With just a little advance planning, cooking multiple meals offers time and energy savings.
Thursday: The deep freeze continues…more time spent indoors, playing music, making soup, and dreaming of spring. I don my silk long johns underneath my clothes, and add more quilts to the bed. Heat pumps are notoriously ineffective in this kind of weather and we’ve found that by closing off unused rooms and dressing in layers we stay warmer. I stream free movies and hem pants while drinking herbal tea and staying by the gas stove.
Friday: Zero degrees overnight last night, and I’m feeling like I live in Antarctica instead of Tennessee. Michael dons his long johns. We bring in the old kerosene heater from the shed, and fill it with $4 a gallon fuel. Using it and the gas stove in the living room we stay toasty without having to use the heat pump much at all. Two weeks ago I went shopping for an electric space heater, but the cheapest I found was about $40. Instead, I bought one for six dollars at the thrift store. It’s running on low down in the cellar, keeping our water pipes from freezing. I also installed some more foam insulators behind the wall switches and outlet plates, after buying a package of 14 for less than $2. Savings: $34 on the heater and perhaps hundreds of dollars and much aggravation saved over NOT having frozen or burst water pipes. Feeling cozy: priceless.
Filed under: Buy Local, Christmas, Food Waste, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Reducing Waste | Tags: p, Waste reduction
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve entered a period wherein I’m ‘looking for the easy way out’ and frugality is lower on my priority list than usual. It’s due to the fact that we’re facing the winter equinox tomorrow, and, like clockwork, I’m feeling ‘old and gray and in the way’, I’m wearing my fat pants again, and I have a lot of extra things going on each day. So, saving a buck seems pointless right now. Luckily, my winter blues always disappear when the days begin to lengthen and by the New Year, my resolutions seem bright and promising. So, given the current context, I’m digging deep this week to find things I’ve done that promote my own motto of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.
Monday– Fully aware that this is a ‘first world problem’, I decided I needed to clear out the refrigerator and top freezer of leftovers, both frozen and fresh, so this has been a week of…leftovers, both frozen and fresh. I’ve managed to use up withering potatoes, a sprouting onion, bits of corn, bread ends, tomatoes and broccoli as well as repurposed butter bowls filled of various soups. Our meals have been…creative. And extremely frugal. Savings: nothing fresh was bought at all this week, not even bananas! But we did have fresh greens and cabbage from the hoop house, as well as local apples we’d bought in October (and stored in the cellar), tangelos bought from a band student’s fund-raising efforts, and smoothies made from frozen berries and bananas. Let’s put it this way: we’ve eaten plenty well this week, and I’m still wearing my fat pants, so we sure didn’t go hungry. And now I have room to accommodate the holiday goodies and meals that will surely be a part of next week’s meals when family arrives!
Tuesday– This really works. Rub a walnut meat on a scratch and it will cover it. I’d read about this many times but finally decided to try it. These pictures don’t do it justice but I thought it was amazing how well it worked. Savings: $3.49 plus tax for a ‘scratch remover’ pen.
Wednesday: Used Freegal™ Music Service to download three more free MP3 songs. You can do this once a week from the Freegal catalog that contains millions of songs that includes Sony Music’s legendary artists catalog. I’ve managed to download entire CD’s by going here and entering my library card number. Savings: $3 each week!
Thursday: One day not so long ago, I hurriedly poured one cup of water through the top of my coffee pot, but forgot to push fresh coffee in the basket. The resulting brew was as fresh and good as the coffee I’d made that morning with those same grounds! So… I’m getting one extra cup a day now without using any extra coffee. The trick is to pour the water over the spent grounds, because simply adding the extra cup in during the first brewing of the morning just seemed to make the original 2 cups weaker. It’s like reusing a tea bag for a second cup. You DO reuse your tea bags, right? Savings: one extra (free) cup of home-brewed coffee per day= what? $1.40 a week?
Friday– Made my dog a happy one by pouring the liquid from a jar of veggies over her dry kibble. I didn’t do this JUST today, I’ve been doing it for years but it did occur to me today that it was something I could share with you on this Frugal Friday. She loves the extra bit of flavor that the liquids from canned or cooked foods (think tuna, corn, potatoes, pasta) provides to her boring meals. Plus they would otherwise be poured down the drain, so it’s one more way to reduce my food waste too. Savings: good pet health is priceless and I think the extra vitamins in the liquids are good for her!
There won’t be a frugal Friday post next week because I’ll have a house full of family visiting from Ohio then, but there’s certain to be some good tips the following week…waste always seems to be more abundant during the holidays but I’m going to make an extra effort this holiday season to eliminate it as much as possible-starting with reusable gift bags, recycled paper and bows, and repurposed gifts in some cases! One more thing while we’re talking about spending (and saving!) money this holiday season:
Filed under: Composting, Food Waste, Frugality, Herbs | Tags: beans, Bread, Christmas, clothing, food, frugal, Hoop House, Waste reduction
We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, and now, a week later, I’m putting up the Christmas tree. We produced more garbage last week than normal, but much of it was things our out-of-town company brought with them and bought while they were here, but I really did make up for it this week by cutting food and kitchen waste to ZERO and by reducing and repairing everywhere else I could. Remember, these little things really add up week after week and allow us to live very well on very little. And that’s basically what this blog is all about.
This whole week saw us eating leftover turkey, made into several different ‘creations’. We enjoyed turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce on slices of sourdough bread, 4 quarts of turkey noodle soup, and a 9×12 pan of shepherd’s pie, topped with the leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving. The carcass was cooked down…
… and the only thing I had to buy for the gallon of soup were the noodles and some celery. I had the onions, carrots, and herbs from the garden on hand and used a similar combination of veggies, plus some leftover beans and broccoli from the garden for the pie. Savings: 4 lunches and 4 dinners with enough for company too.
I spent so much time in the kitchen this past week though, that I began to get a little silly: (that’s a Longkeeper tomato I used for the head of Mr. Carrot that was later WASHED, sliced and added to our sandwiches-and we were thankful for fresh garden tomatoes at Thanksgiving!)
Monday- Michael received a little book in the mail from a friend, and I got an unexpected ‘gift’ of 5 uncanceled stamps that were on the envelope when it arrived! I’ll use them to mail some out-of-town Christmas cards next week. Savings: $2.30
Tuesday- My favorite very old slipper socks had seen better days, with their felted soles coming clean off. So, I sewed them back on, repaired a few little holes, and they’re good for another winter! Savings: $15 plus shipping, comparing to a similar pair on Amazon
Wednesday- I mixed up a batch of the same laundry detergent I’ve been using for almost 15 years. It’s environmentally friendly, produces no packaging waste, costs pennies per load and works very well. What else could you ask for?
3 Natural Ingredients + Water= 2 Gallons of Pure Cleaning Power
Here’s the recipe I have used all these years, made in the same free icing bucket I got from a bakery. Consider it an early Christmas gift.
Grate 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha soap into 6 cups boiling water. (This all-natural laundry soap can be ordered online if you can’t find it locally) I use an old box grater on the fine side for this-see photo. And by the way, it’s very easy to grate.
When melted, add 1 c. each of 20 Mule Team Borax and Arm and
Hammer Washing Soda. Bring to a boil, Stir till dissolved and slightly thickened.
In a 2 gallon bucket, put 4 cups hot water, then add the soap mixture, mix.
Fill rest of bucket with cold water. Mix until well blended. Set aside for
24 hrs; it will gel up. I ‘squeeze’ the finished gel with my hands to break it up
somewhat, then use 1 c. per load.
This works beautifully on average dirty clothes. For really oily or dirty clothes, you may want to use more soap, or hot water. I use cold, except for whites. This detergent is safe for greywater and septic systems too! These products can be found in the laundry section of most grocery stores.
NOTE: There will be no color and little scent to this detergent, nor will you see suds. Sudsing agents are added to commercial detergents to help the consumer feel that the product is ‘working’. The suds add nothing to the actual cleaning power of the product.
Savings? I’m going to estimate about $10 per gallon of detergent. This recipe makes 2 gallons or, enough for 32 loads for about $1.00 worth of ingredients.
Thursday- I took advantage of the warm, sunny day we enjoyed before the storms came in to uncover my hoop houses so they could get rained on, get them weeded and then refilled my covered garbage cans that I keep for this purpose with dry, shredded leaves that my city delivers free of charge each fall. I layer my kitchen scraps (greens) with the leaves (browns) on my compost piles all winter, so the finished product has a nice balance of nitrogen and carbon. Free shredded leaves + Free delivery= PRICELESS COMPOST
Friday-Printed some free ‘gift coupons’ (on the back of some pretty papers that I’d gotten years ago as part of a ‘gift pack’) and plan to fill them out for my family members for giving them the ‘gifts’ I wrote about here. Here’s the website to download yours too:
Enjoy your weekend!
Filed under: Backyard Chickens, Food Storage, Food Waste, Frugality, Peak Oil, Reducing Waste, Urban Living | Tags: beans, food, frugal, the good life
Some of you know that my hubby is from England, but some of you also know that I’m originally from Alabama, and where I’m from, ‘Hodge Podge’ never referred to food, but to a confused mixture of things. Seems his use of the word is perfect for leftovers though, right matey?
It’s the last day of January, and my last day of blogging about food~at least for now. I’m not feeling too well this evening, but luckily, I’d managed to put together Pad Thai for supper tonight before I started feeling icky, and coupled with a slice of homemade bread, it was wonderful. Putting a good meal on the table is really easy though when you have “Hodge Podge”, which is Michael’s word for ‘cleaning out the refrigerator and making a meal of it.’ For some reason, I think it sounds more appetizing to call it Hodge Podge, rather than ‘leftovers’~ I mean you KNOW what your leftovers were from supper last night, but Hodge Podge, well, you just never can tell! Whether it’s a few leftover potatoes or polenta, a bit of beans or greens, a cup of pasta topped with parmesan cream or pesto, a crust of bread, or half a jar of fruit, it doesn’t matter whether it ‘goes together’ or not, it’s always an eating adventure to have Hodge Podge and a good way to clean out the frig and resist the siren call to ‘eat out’.
But tonight, we’re going to talk about the southern version of this term too, because I have a little of this and a little of that I wanted to share with you, and since none of it is seemingly related, I’ll call it Hodge Podge too:
1. My C.O.O.P. cofounder friend Emily and I will be offering a new ‘Backyard Henkeeping’ class this coming Saturday morning, Feb. 2nd, at Mize Farm and Garden supply in Johnson City. The class will be from 10 to noon and if you stay til the second hour, you’ll receive a $5 off voucher for anything in the store! Please call to preregister: 434-1800
2. Did you know that you can rehydrate and plump dried plums (aka prunes) by simmering them in a little pan of water for 5 or 10 minutes? They are sooo good that way!
3. Storing fresh cilantro or parsley in a jar of water in the frig keeps it fresh for about two weeks! Snip off the bottom of the stems, insert into half full jar of water, then cover loosely with a plastic bag… PS Make sure the leaves are dry when you cover, so don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them.
4. I save the dessicant packs that come in new shoes, backpacks, and pill bottles. The little bags are used to absorb moisture and adding them to my jars of dried fruits, herbs and vegetables, keeps them from molding. Once the bags stop absorbing moisture, they can easily be rejuvenated by putting them in my dehydrator at 300 degrees for about 3 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can recharge them by placing them on a cookie sheet in the oven but I’d sure try to find a way to do this when I had the oven on low for some other purpose; perhaps while baking some potatoes, or even a crock of baked beans. You can also buy silica gel at a craft store and make your own dessicant packs, but why not ask everyone you know to simply save theirs for you and you’ll have plenty of them in no time!
Well, I guess those four things ARE related, seeing as how they’re all about food, but regardless, I’m calling it a Hodge Podge of ideas, just because I think it’s a cool term. Let this be the year that we start to lay the groundwork for a way of life that’s many, many times more productive, meaningful, and bountiful than the one we have today. Peak Oil and Climate Change be damned, transitioning to a different way of living is a journey~ enjoy it!