It has been one year since Portland started collecting food waste as part of its recycling program. While I have enjoyed new composting program, it has brought to my attention in greater detail how much food my family wastes.
The effects of the citywide program here have reduced residential garbage collection by 38% and tripled the compostable waste to 85,400 tons, both pretty sizable achievements in terms of reducing waste.
A lot of attention is paid to stories about food waste in the media here, but when you literally can see all your food scraps piled together in a lump for any given week, the image of actual personal waste becomes much more clear.
There is not much that can be done about food scraps from cooking (carrot and celery ends, spent chicken carcasses, potato skins), but what I find alarming is the amount of stuff that just goes bad because it doesn't get eaten. I am on a mission to change that in my house, and this is what I am doing.
These are all pretty simple, but I have found that just being more mindful of these things, decreases our food waste quite a bit and that sickening pile at the bottom of my green composting cart is not quite so sickening after all.
1. Clean Your Refrigerator Weekly
Though this seems so simple, I have overlooked it so many times too. However, if I keep up with it continuously, it becomes like habit and much food is saved by simply being eaten before its prime has passed.
I love leftovers and eat them nearly everyday for lunch. It saves on food prep time and I love combining random leftovers together for different combinations. One quick sweep through the refrigerator before the start of a week lets me shuffle things around, freeze large portions that will not be eaten in time and plan accordingly for utilizing the leftovers in the kitchen.
2. Keep Your Refrigerator Tidy
I recently heard a story on the radio (I think?) about how your refrigerator should not be so stuffed that you cannot see all around it. The person speaking suggested putting a picture at the back of the refrigerator and if you cannot see the picture, you have too much stuff in there. So I have done that and it does make the inside of my refrigerator kind of cute, don't you think?
I actually have decided on having the picture on the middle shelf, but I could not get a decent picture like that. Place it where you think it would be best utilized.
3. Repurpose Leftovers
Leftovers can only take you so far. After that point, they often linger in the fridge and then get thrown away. I love making things that can be repurposed later and plan accordingly when deciding what we will eat. Extra rice and nothing to go with it becomes fried rice. Meats are great for this type of repurposing and the possibilities are really endless when you have cooked chicken, beef or pork. Leftover taco fixings can be made into burritos and frozen for later.
Here are some of my favorite ways to repurpose leftovers for different meals: