Dust In My Coffee

Loving my life as a woman in agriculture one sip at a time

I don’t like to waste food.  I don’t like to find containers in the refrigerator with fuzz growing on the contents.  I don’t like the fact that I am contributing to the statistic that says Americans throw away 20 pounds of food per person on a monthly basis.  How did Americans like myself get to the point of throwing away enough food to feed 90,000 people each day?  Is there something we can do to change our habits and keep some of that $2,500 that is going into the landfill as food waste?  Yes, there are several things we can do and I would like to share with you a few tips and resources of how we can join together to reduce food waste.  We can increase the sustainability of food production by looking at how we buy, prepare and eat our meals.

One way to cut waste is to share your food.  In the photo above, our son, Jeff,
 is sharing hissandwich with younger sister, Kim.  Steve and I have learned from
 experience some restaurant portion sizes are large enough for us to share a meal. 

Did you know that 40% of the food brought home in America goes uneaten?  In our home we are only a family of two so the issue of making sure we eat what we buy is more challenging then when we were a family of seven.  My husband, Steve, is very intentional about minimizing waste so we are careful about the amounts, sizes and perishability of the foods we buy.  Rather than buying fresh vegetables we use more frozen vegetables.  When we buy fresh food we only buy an amount we can eat.  Sometimes we buy fruit from the local FFA Chapter at Christmastime which is more than we can eat.  We will usually bake some of the apples to avoid having them rot.  Most of the time we buy items in sizes that give us the best value per serving.  We are learning an item, like milk, is better purchased in the smaller size which we can consume before spoilage.   Making food purchases that follow meal planning can also help us eliminate food waste.

This slow cooker apple and oatmeal recipe is a tasty way
to use up apples before they rot.  This is a breakfast treat
that also makes the house smell good as it bakes!

For many of us, “what’s for dinner?” is a challenging question each and every day.  When we had our children all home I would often think of several meals for the week instead of going day to day.  It was also important to know the school activity schedule to accommodate for meals eaten away from home.  One of my biggest challenges was trying to avoid concession food for meals.  As a mom and a cattle farmer I had little energy left to come up with creative meal solutions.  Families today have many advantages to help with meal planning.   We can use our phones to search for recipes as we shop so we know which ingredients to buy,  some of us can receive home delivery of groceries allowing more time to think about what we need and there are meal services that will deliver meals with the ingredients and recipes right to your door.  If you can utilize services that help you with meal planning then you will find it easier to design meals you will eat rather than waste.  We can also find creative ways to use leftovers.  You can find a variety of ways to use beef leftovers here.

Jeff, the cute little boy in the first photo, is now in his 20’s and his grandma
likes to make sure we all get plenty to eat at Thanksgiving.  When families
celebrate holidays we tend to make more than enough food to eat. It will help
us manage food waste if we can get creative at using up all of those left-overs.

When I was in high school I worked for a restaurant called “Bonanza”.  People loved the “all-you-can-eat” salad bar that was provided with every adult entree.  Over the years buffet style eating and super-sized portions have become the norm while American waist lines continue to expand.  Conversations about what we should and shouldn’t eat seem more focused on removing food groups rather than looking at serving sizes. I hear even fewer voices discussing the nutrient density per calorie of what we are eating.  If we are truly concerned about cutting food waste perhaps we need to cut portion sizes and seek to get the best nutrients in the smallest amounts needed.  I have come to appreciate the nutritional value beef has to offer.  Beef is also one of the least food items wasted at 20% versus 30-40% of other products. The beef community believes we can do better than 20% so we have done studies and have a program to help us all reduce food waste. The “30 Day Food Waste Challenge” is a great place to start if you want to cut food waste.

When I was growing up my five siblings and I were fortunate to share many suppers together with meals prepared by my mom including meat, potatoes and a vegetable.  I can recall hearing numerous times “eat everything on your plate because there are kids starving in Africa”.   There was little food waste in our family because we were taught to appreciate the food we were served, we came to the table hungry and there were rarely any leftovers. There are still people in the world that don’t get enough to eat.  Farmers and ranchers are ready and willing to meet the challenge of feeding an increasing population using less resources.  One way we can each help is to cut food waste in our own lives.  Are you ready to make some changes?  Do you have some great ideas on cutting food waste?  Please share in the comments below so we can help one another fight food waste!

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