#FavoriteThings Friday

Waste Free Kitchen by Dana Gunders

Mr. Foodie and I spent three hours at our local library today! There is nothing like a quiet library to get a TON of work done. Also, I challenge anyone who says “what use are libraries anymore” to visit one and see just how many people use it for reading, studying, working, researching, tutoring, meetings, and the list goes on. Ours was packed even though it was mid-day on a Friday. Of course, I couldn’t leave without browsing the food writing section, and I couldn’t browse food writing without checking at least five new books out!

The one I want to showcase for my new #FavoriteThings Friday series is Dana Gunders’ Waste Free Kitchen Handbook. Mr. Foodie and I already do a lot to recycle and reduce landfill waste, but I will be honest in saying that we don’t always think about the fresh food we end up throwing away. I’m sure we aren’t alone in thinking, “so I had to throw out the rest of that Kale bunch, at least it’s biodegradable.” Dana’s book will change your mind about that. Her abbreviated dissertation-like style of presenting information might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it immensely. The basic premise is that tons of food gets wasted in the US every year. This is not only a waste of money for each consumer, but also a waste of resources and a drain on the environment. I won’t quote the statistics here, but they are staggering. Did you know that wasted food in landfills generates a ton of methane gas? Not to mention all the water, land, and other natural resources it took to make the thing that you just threw away…seeing it all laid out in handy little charts made me cringe. Even if you buy local and organic, eat mostly veggie food, use reusable bags, and recycle what you can, throwing out food that spoils due to unrealistic meal planning or insufficient food storage will undermine your very admirable efforts to feed yourself sustainably.

Even though it made me balk, I found this little gem of a cookbook inspiring and timely—last week I almost cried when we ended up throwing out two uncooked pork chops because we had let them sit in the fridge for too long. Mr. Foodie was less concerned, but I hate wasting anything, let alone perfectly *good* meat.The best part of Dana’s book is the many practical tips and facts she offers to strive for a waste-free kitchen. I’m sure google could tell you that one of the topics most frequently googled is “how long can X keep in the fridge/pantry/freezer?” She tackles the confusing world of best used by/use or freeze by/sell by dates as well as proper prep and storage to maximize the life of your fresh food. The recipe section is also quit helpful. She organizes it based on what you might try to use up – stale tortilla chips, for example. While some might read this and just feel guilty for the amount of food they throw away, Dana is by no means judgy which I appreciate. She just hopes we’ll all be more mindful knowing what kind of immediate impact food waste has on our wallets as well as the long-term impact food waste has on our environment. It has already shaped my behavior and awareness. Instead of letting two on-the-edge bananas end up in the trash (since our plans for making banana bread fell through), I peeled them, chopped them, and froze them for smoothies!! Even Mr. Foodie held back at the salad bar to avoid the too-frequent waste of food that happens when your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

She notes that we are especially prone to food waste around holidays. So this 4th of July, take care to avoid some of the situations that generate food waste – buying too many burger buns (freeze what you don’t need!), cooking too many dishes for a party (at least pick up some boxes or bags so you can send home the bounty), and letting food spoil in the heat (pack extra ice, limit the dairy-dishes).

What about you all? What strategies do you have for cutting down on food waste in your kitchen?

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