Part of being a crunchy mom means translating things you care about into actionable steps that you live out in your day to day life – but sometimes that can mean getting a little uncomfortable. And food waste is uncomfortable.
I’mma be real here for a second. We all have triggers around food. Sometimes they’re positive. Nothing like the smell of cookies in the oven to put a smile on your face and make you think of after school snacks with Gramma. Sometimes they’re negative. An empty fridge can trigger fear, concern, and downright panic (for you AND for the loved ones in your life).
However, being a mom means getting comfortable with the uncomfortable (remember those 2am wake-ups with your baby playing boxer with your bladder? Yeah, that’s what I mean). And that’s where the extremely relevant and important topic of food waste comes in.
This post isn’t about meal planning, but it directly ties to it and plays a part in food waste. When you start meal planning and using a budget consistently, things like “extra” food doesn’t really happen. The whole family gets in a rhythm around eating what’s on the menu and planned for (trust me here, it can take time, but it does happen) but every now and then that means an empty fridge.
“Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year”
No joke. The ‘Thursday empty fridge’ is a very real phenomenon.
We’re talking like a pot of soup, a stick of butter, and some broccoli, and that’s all there is kind of empty. The kind of empty that when your toddler refuses their cheese stick for the third time, you start to get a little wobbly and wonder what else you can give them because you had purchased 12 cheese sticks for two weeks on the thought that they’d continue to LIKE cheese sticks and now suddenly they don’t.
And that’s scary as shit.
It can trigger things like “do we not have money for groceries?” and stir up all kinds of irrational thinking around what it means to have a budget and… money for groceries?? It also can trigger things like “do my kids even get adequate nutrition and calories when I do this!?” It can also trigger things from loved ones like “we literally have no food!!” and they’re not exactly wrong. That’s all really uncomfortable. Being yelled at by your 2 year old that they want popsicles when there are no popsicles but you also KNOW there will just NOT be popsicles for a while… it gets old fast. Really fast.
And that’s okay.
No really. It’s fine. You do have food. You planned for whatever you planned for, and if the family member can’t get on board with whatever it is you planned on, they’re welcome to find a way to either a) help with the grocery planning + budget (for teens and significant others) or b) eat what you planned (basically everyone under the age of 10). Yes, some tough love is required here.
Guess what? You have everyone’s best interest at heart here – from making sure everyone has food to eat, to making a realistic food budget (so your financial stress is lowered), to making sure that nutrition is top of mind in figuring out food for everyone. If your kids fall between 4-10 and they’re mad they don’t have popsicles, take the opportunity to involve them in meal prep, in the planning, and in making healthy choices for their bodies, along with making decisions about food. Food is not a response to boredom any more (because guess what, you don’t plan for boredom snacks).
How does this tie to food waste? A few ways, actually. But first, let’s look at some facts about food waste and how it ties to TMC.
First – “Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.” – Natural Resources Defense Council (1). To me, this is a huge piece of how I want to show up in the world. I want the family next door to feel just as good as I do about feeding my family healthy meals. I want the family at my daughter’s preschool to not worry about where dinner might be coming from. I want food to be the last problem my friend who just lost her job is freaking out about. Food security, in a beautiful, abundant, resourceful country like the United States, should be the last thing families face in times of stress or financial strain.
Second – Global Warming is a real thing, friends. And even if you aren’t on the global warming train, how about preserving rainforests, traditional grasslands, and biodiversity of insects and small mammals? Again, The Natural Resources Defense Council points out some very interesting information regarding what it means for food to be thrown away. “40% of food goes to waste in the United States.” And that means about 16% of all methane production from the U.S. is coming from decomposing organic matter in landfills.
Think about your groceries for a second – how many bags did you picture? 3 or maybe even 4 if you have multiple children? Now, take an entire bag and put it the garbage. Now, take at least half of another bag, and also put that in the garbage. About 20 pounds of food PER PERSON, PER MONTH in the United States. That’s the average amount of waste an American is putting into a landfill. It’s absurd, to me, to think we’re throwing away food that can help other people, if used properly, become composted, or even just if we spend 2.7 seconds longer about a decision around our food for the day, not be tossed.
Third – we spend, collectively, a shitton of money feeding our families (yes, scientific, I know). But, no really, the average American spends between $150-239 for a “low to moderate food budget” according to the USDA (2). If you’re on the “liberal” plan, the USDA averages out $289 for a family of 4 (this works out to $1156 a month). USA Today reports that “Costs today are up from 10 years ago, when a thrifty-cost food plan for a family of four was $108; a low-cost food plan, $139; moderate-cost plan, $173; a liberal plan, $208 a week.”
That’s a pretty big difference between when I was a teenager and now when I’m trying to grow my own kids.
BUT, in reducing our family’s food waste is how we – as conscious, concerned, and crunchy moms – can make a difference in the world around us. And to us at The Modern Crunch, this means we’re showing up in the world with integrity to who we are and what we value.
So, how do we do it? Go re-read that first part of this article. The first step is to get comfortable with having an empty fridge.
The second step to eliminating food waste is NOT THROWING SHIT AWAY that you could eat.
- Limp lettuce/spinach/etc? Throw it in the freezer and have it in your smoothie next time.
- Half a potato left over from when you made hashbrowns? Stick it in the fridge for some soup later in the week.
- Bought too many boxes of cereal this week because they were on sale? Well, DO NOT buy cereal next week and just “store” the cereal you already have. Eat what you have.
- A few straggling raspberries in a clamshell that can’t get eaten? Freeze them.
- Bananas going brown too quickly? Freeze for the smoothies.
- Quarter of a bag of plantain chips that’s mostly small fragments? Use them as crunch in a salad as a topping.
- Meat that’s on it’s last leg because you haven’t wanted chicken legs for dinner all week? Well, either make a decision to freeze them, OR, cook them and have them as snacks as the cooking will extend their shelf life.
- Too many half empty bags of raisins, peanuts, dried fruit pieces? Make snack bags that resemble trail mix. You’ll clean out the cupboard and have some healthy grab-and-go snacks.
- Small portions are FINE to add to regular meals. 3 small celery sticks left after the week is done? Cut them up and serve with lunch. A normal sized portion of protein + all the odds and ends of veggies and fruits = no throwing away of those leftover veggies and fruit.
- Rotisserie chicken carcass? Make bone broth, or pick over the carcass for the leftover meat that isn’t the main cuts of meat, and make chicken salad, or have over top of veggies.
- Start a compost! Buy a bin, or considering building your own.
Use what you have. Eat what’s in the fridge. Stick to the meal plan. Post the plan on the fridge so that those in the household who are able to read can see what the choices are.
Move from seeing
food as security to food as fuel; something you make deliberate choices around.
It probably will feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but the benefits are worth it, and we’re here to help you navigate.
Go forth, and crunch.