Food waste is a huge problem in the US. 60 million tons of produce goes unused and wasted in the USA each year. That’s gross and sad.
France has made it illegal to toss unused food from supermarkets– that’s a step in the right direction! That food goes to homeless shelters and food banks. Win-win-win.
Since we aren’t quite there yet, I try to do my part in the food-waste arena.
Mind games are one of my favorite ways to get myself motivated to do things.
One of my favorite mind games is the “no-food waste” game. My sister made this up and introduced it to me when she was living in LA, dumpster diving and shopping at dollar stores. She’s kind of the queen of no-food waste. Side story- she once took me to a dollar store in LA after telling me how great it is. It was a giant store filled to the brim with food… Some of that food was mounds of rotting strawberries and I was super grossed out. It smelled like decay. That night her boyfriend made me a 1/4 cooked baked potato with sour cream. It was very memorable since it was inedible and raw. That was a really fun trip.
This game has no prizes except less food waste. It’s really darn simple, too.
While you’re cooking, try to use up as much food as you can. That half consumed jar of salsa can be dumped into soup to add a little zip. That almost-empty container of roasted potatoes is a great addition to stir-fries or your side dish of rice. That tiny bit of rice still in the bag can be added to stews and soups without much effort. The jar of pickles with two little dills left in it can be eaten as an amuse-bouche just to make room in the fridge! Get really creative in how you do this.
How is this a game, you ask? I get points for every food item that I use up completely. It seems like a tiny little thing but I try really hard to get more points each meal than the last one. It makes me conscious of what I can use up in my kitchen!
Here’s an example of how I play this game: Last night my friends came over to eat leftover taco stuff from the previous night.
- We heated up the fajita veggies and finished them. 1 point.
- We grated the remainder of a half consumed block of cheese. 1 point.
- We finished off a bag of corn tortillas. 1 point
- We downed a tiny container of leftover pulled pork. 1 point
- We used up the remaining tomatoes in the rice. 1 point
- We made rice and finished it. 0 points as this was a brand new thing of rice so it doesn’t count!
In my head, I calculated up all of the food that we didn’t throw away but instead gobbled up. 5 points. That’s a pretty good amount of food that didn’t go in the landfill. Bonus points because we chose to eat at my house instead of going out to eat which saved each of us ~$15. We drank beer from my fridge instead of getting margaritas or wine at a restaurant and that easily saved $10. The beer was brought over the night before as a contribution from a friend for taco night so I didn’t even pay for it.
Some more examples of how I play this game:
- For lunch today I brought a container of fried rice that I made on Monday. 1 point.
- When I get home I will eat the rest of the roasted potatoes from Tuesday. 1 point.
- I will also make a loaf of banana bread because I have 1 banana that is pretty brown and another bunch that I just got. 1 point!
This isn’t a magical equation that will keep you from wasting food all the time but it is a small thing you can do to get yourself to make an effort.
How do you keep yourself from tossing food? Do you play little mind games like this in the kitchen?