Pope Francis’ comments at a weekly audience last summer really hit home for me:
“This culture of waste has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition,” the Pope said.“Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times we are no longer able to give a just value.“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry,” he said.
I spent the beginning of my homemaking career letting food go bad in the fridge, turning my nose up at leftovers, and tossing out entire meals because they hadn’t turned out the way I had envisioned.
I really thought I was experimenting, and bettering myself, and was pleased that I was teaching myself how to cook for my family. But I was also being really wasteful. Seen in light of Pope Francis’ comments, my early wastefulness with food feels especially humbling.
Over the years of learning to provide meals for an ever larger family, and becoming a more mindful homemaker, I have gotten much, much better at reducing food waste in our home.
Here’s how we do it . . .
A meal planning system of some kind, no matter how unsophisticated, makes a big difference in food waste. Meal planning means I don’t buy more food than I need. So I don’t have food that’s going to spoil before we can get to it. It also means I can plan leftover days, so they don’t just sit there until they’re inedible. And I can be sure to plan meals that will use up the food we already have before it goes bad.
I can plan meals that turn the leftovers from one meal into another meal, or two. I can serve roasted chicken on Sunday, have chicken fajitas on Tuesday, and use the carcass to make chicken corn chowder on Wednesday.
If unexpected things come up, and I can’t make the dinner I had planned for a particular night, having meals planned on the calendar means I can quickly see if I’ll be able to serve that meal soon, or if it needs to go into the freezer.
Being less particular and encouraging the same in my kids has meant a lot less wasted food.
It fell on the ground? We rinse it off. The five second rule is scientifically proven. Science!
It’s expired? Unless it smells or tastes “off,” we eat it, regardless of the dates on the packaging. Which really don’t mean anything anyway.
It’s got mold on it? We scrape/cut/tear it off. According to the internet, that’s a bad idea, so probably don’t listen to me. But we’ve never gotten sick doing it. Again, unless it smells or tastes “off,” we eat it.
It’s got weevils? Extra protein. The first time I found a bag of rice with weevils in it, I threw away all the food in our pantry. The second time, I did some research, and didn’t throw away anything at all. We just sift it, and it’s fine. Seriously. It’s FINE.
It’s not exactly just the thing I’d most like to be eating in the whole world? Tough beans. We eat it anyway. This one can be hard. But eating something I don’t feel like eating on leftover night makes a great little mortification.
We eat more parts of food than we used to as well. I buy stalks of broccoli, not just the crowns, and chop up the stems for cole slaw or to mix in at our family salad bar. I don’t hand whole apples to my kids.
But even so, there are some things that are kinda food, but we really don’t want to eat. We don’t throw those out either. We turn our strawberry tops, shrimp shells, apple cores, watermelon rinds, meat trimmings, eggshells, and underseat noodles into . . . EGGS. I have a little crock on the counter and all that stuff goes into it and gets fed to the chickens.
If you don’t like the sound of that you could always compost it. Either way, it’s not becoming trash.
Mindful homemaking has made a big difference for me. It helps me sanctify my daily work. It saves me time and saves our family money. Perhaps it would work for you too. Your pocketbook and your pope will approve.