Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My shame

I looked up some numbers. In the United States in 2010 approximately one in seven households were "food insecure". Meaning that those homes lacked the resources to provide enough food for themselves. On my side of the street on my neighborhood block there are eight homes. So statistically at least one house full of my immediate neighbors regularly went hungry in 2010. Globally the statistics are about the same - one in seven people are hungry.

Here is my confession: I throw away food. Pretty regularly, and much to my horror - without even thinking twice about it.

It is a shameful and entitled and thoughtless and cruel thing. I am trying to change that, beginning by reducing the amount of food we regularly waste in our home. I occasionally read a frugal-living blog and every Friday this blogger posts a picture of food that she wasted that week in an effort to publicly expose herself to the shame and embarrassment that should accompany such a practice. It has inspired me to do the same thing.

In the last two days I've thrown away about a cupful of spinach leaves that I let get soggy before we ate them. Also a squishy, rotting tomato, 1/4 of apple that had become brown and wrinkled, and a hard-boiled egg that was hidden in the depths of the fridge. I can't even remember the last time I boiled eggs. And why in the world would I eat 3/4 of an apple and put the rest in the refrigerator to never again see the light of day?

Nutrition facts:
1 cup spinach has 10 calories,  80% RDA of vitamin A and 20% RDA of vitamin C.
1 roma tomato has 22 calories, 20% vitamin A and 26% vitamin C.
1/4 of a really big granny smith apple has 20 calories and 5% vitamin C.
1 egg has 78 calories and more than 6 grams of protein.

That would have made an awesome, healthful and nutritious omelet with a side of sliced apple for some hungry person. Or for me. It's disgusting that this food has been wasted. Disgusting because I spent money to buy it in the first place, money that Mr. Dub earned and handed over to me without question. Disgusting also because there are people in our country, maybe even in my own neighborhood - men, women, and children - who went to bed hungry every night before that food went bad, while it was still edible.

Thinking about this for the last couple days has shown me there are some things I do without thinking that contribute to this waste. Last night we had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, and while cleaning up the kitchen I saw that there were 6 meatballs left in the pan. I was all set to throw them away before I came to my senses and tried to think about it for one second. My thought process went like this:

"There aren't any noodles left in the pan. I'd have to make a whole new batch of spaghetti again before we will eat these meatballs. We don't like to eat spaghetti two nights in a row. What could I make with just six meatballs, anyway? This is ridiculous. It's not that big of a deal. It's only six freaking meatballs. But I am not throwing them away."

They went into the refrigerator and I chopped them up into a quiche that I made for dinner tonight. Also into the quiche went the spinach leaves that were still good. While rummaging through my veggie bin looking for salad ingredients I came across a number of tomatoes, the one which was too far gone and had to be tossed, but the others, while not exactly fresh and perfect were still on the good side of okay. But barely. So I simmered them in some water, put them through my food mill, and made them into fresh tomato sauce which will be stashed in the freezer until the next time I make soup.  I'm ashamed to say that previously I would have found it "easier" to throw away the whole bagful of tomatoes rather than pick through them to find any that might still be good.

While cleaning up the kitchen last night I also came across 3/4 of a graham cracker that I immediately went to throw away, because for heaven's sake it was the last graham cracker in the box (I had broken off a piece of it to give to Avery for a snack) and I'm not going to put one partial cracker back inside an otherwise empty box, am I? My newfound awareness stopped me in time and I wrapped it back up in its wax-paper wrapper and she had it again for a snack today.

It's the worst sort of entitlement. "These things are mine and I can throw them away in the trash if I want to, la de da."

I know I have a long way to go and there is a whole 'nother part to this that I'm not even going to go into right now which is that me figuring out how to not throw away food from my own refrigerator helps exactly zero hungry people.

But it's a starting point, and I'm on it.


  1. Loved this Amy. I need to really start looking at what I throw away as well. I don't feel like I'm generally a wasteful person, but I honestly don't pay too much attention. This is a good reminder that I should be.

    1. Thank you, Beth. I don't think I'm generally wasteful either, but I'm asking myself is "good enough" really all that good?
      Thanks for your comment on my blog!

  2. Good for you, Amy. Just so you know, I take leftover meatloaf and put it into spaghetti sauce. For a reason I do not understand, we also have sauce with no noodles left. But I took that and Calysta and I made pizzas after school one day and they were delicious!

    Keep us posted about new ideas you have on this subject.

    But I know what you mean about helping exactly zero hungry people. It sounds a little like my mother telling me that children in India were starving and I should eat. huh?

    Maybe we need to help those in our own circles. Somehow I think that if everyone did this then everyone would be cared for.

    The poor will always be with us, and you can't feed everyone, but I'd like to hear your ideas about what we could do.

    1. I'll be sharing what I'm doing as I go along. I'm still figuring out a lot of it.