How often do you overeat? You know, like really stuff your face?
I don’t very often. But of course there are always those situations where gluttony is socially acceptable, if not admired.
For example, on holidays, nice buffets, work conferences where lunch is provided, BBQs where pounds of meat devoured represents masculinity, when visiting your aunty overseas and you know she just loves to continually refill your dinner plate so you keep smiling and eat more to please her. And then you realise you have to eat dessert too. You know, those situations.
Well I had to overeat again recently, but it was for a whole different reason. A reason only strange people like me would think of…
To minimise food waste.
It was at a restaurant in the heart of Paris where I ate enough beef to make a vegetarian cry.
This was earlier in the year when I went to visit my sister and her partner in France. We went out to a nice fondue restaurant where you get to cook your own beef. So much beef. Despite sharing meals amongst ourselves, it was becoming evident that we would not be able to finish it all.
I was determined to finish this beef, at all costs. I was so full, but it tasted so good.
“WHY!?” was the question everyone else had asked me.
It’s simple. I love food, and hate waste.
Alas. Despite my greatest efforts, almost eating my way to a heart attack or some form of cancer, I was unable to finish the last few strips of beef.
Oh the pain – indigestion from grossly over-eating coupled with the feeling of failure having not completed my own personal challenge.
Why you can overeat and feel great about it.
Sure it was just a bit of beef, and we had some fondue cheese leftover too, but it’s not just about the actual food. What we often don’t realise is wasting food is also wasting the resources, fuel, energy, and water that were all used to bring that food to us.
So in fact, I was doing my bit to help reduce the amount of food waste I make! Because I bought that amount of food, I felt it was my responsibility to finish it (especially when it’s meat)! And doing my good deed for the day felt great (mentally that is, not physically).
Disclaimer: Eating ALL leftover food rather than throwing it out is not normal, and not the ideal (or healthiest) way to reduce your food waste. Sometimes it is better to do as I say, not as I do. Buying less food is actually the message I hope to pass on here. I’ve listed some actual good tips further below.
Quick facts on food waste you need to know.
- Food waste + other organic materials is the main contributor to making methane gas – a greenhouse gas 25x more potent than carbon dioxide in its impact on climate change.
- Agriculture and the food production system is the second biggest maker of carbon dioxide emissions, second only to power generation (power plants – think The Simpsons).
- More than one third of the garbage at home is filled with wasted food each week.
- In NSW (population of 7.2 million), more than $2.5 billion of edible food is thrown away each year. That’s $347 of food wasted per person per year. And that population data is including babies (damn wasteful babies!) so it is actually much higher than that.
- 34% of wasted food is fresh food, 28% is from leftovers (cooking too much).
- Waste just one kg (2.2 lbs) of beef and you waste the 50,000L (13,200 gal) of water it took to produce that meat.
- Throw out one kg of rice and you waste the 1,550L (410 gal) of water used to grow it. (Sourced from CSIRO data)
Here’s a sweet infographic I found on food waste in the USA.
It’s similar to what I just wrote about, but it looks pretty so it’s much more readable.
Note 254 lbs = 115 kg.
So what can you do to reduce your food waste?
Organise a shopping list
Stick to a written shopping list. This encourages you to only buy food you need, and therefore decreases the amount of food waste that ends up in the bin. You also save money and time.
This is my shopping list for lunches and a few extras that I’ll eat on weekdays. Seriously. I eat the same breakfast and lunch every week day. And I love it.
What do you think? (just as well blogs aren’t handwritten).
You need to give extra thought to the amount you are going to cook. We must learn to get serve sizes right. Remember 28% of food waste is from leftovers. Also plan when you can have the leftovers.
With my work, most days I am out in the bush somewhere, so I only cook a big batch of food when I know I will be home to eat the leftovers. This saves me cooking each night.
The issue is when I try cook something new and it sucks, because I get stuck trying to finish it for the next few days (I can’t throw it out, that would defeat the purpose!). Unpleasant.
Or cook foods you can freeze. Whichever.
Store foods properly
For example don’t leave cashew nuts open in the cupboard when you live in a tropical climate (such as Darwin!). The ants here seem to eat anything during the wet season, even foods that just don’t seem like an ants regular choice.
But to be honest, I ate the cashews anyways, ants and all (this decision was driven more by money than eco-friendliness - nuts are expensive!)
Plus insects have the highest protein mass pound-for-pound.
Make a garden compost
If you have a garden you should be doing it. No excuses!
Stop being so fussy!
Yes, you. I don’t mean to get all World Vision on everyone but if we know and understand how many resources were used to bring that food to us, and how easy it is for us to access good food compared to billions living in poverty, we may start to appreciate and value the food we have.
I understand if you don’t want to eat brussel sprouts or peas though. Blah.
Where to Start
It’s clear that our relationship with food is unbalanced – everyone loves food, but no one cares about waste.
In fact, 3 out of 4 readers here will shrug their shoulders and click X in the corner.
The other 1 reader will share this Love Food, Hate Waste message with their friends, and take the first steps to minimising food waste…
Which reader are you?
Before you go…
Are you a current or ex-serial food waster? Or have you got any extra tips to share?
Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your story and learn more :)
Also if you enjoyed the article, I’d really appreciate if you shared this article on Facebook or Twitter or email. It will go a long way to help me have more than ten readers! Plus the amount of shares will help me work out what you like to read and what you don’t (blogging L plates here don’t forget). Thankyou!