On Stopping Shopping, Eating Up Your Kitchen & Doing Good in the Process

Ever find yourself "discovering" food in the back of the fridge that you didn't remember existed until the stench of its decay or the slime of its rot somehow made its way into your purview? How about dry beans in your cupboard that never get cooked until they're too petrified to eat? Or cereal so stale it chews like rubber?

OF COURSE YOU DO.

Last night's FC Korean-Vietnamese Cold Noodle Salad

Most of us do.

And do you know why?

Because there's too damned much food in our kitchens is why.

And do you know why there's too much food?

Because for people who live amidst a kind of reliable abundance and variety much of the world can only fantasize about, we are probably some combination of irrationally concerned with running out of it, too overextended to prepare it, or just too fucking spoiled to live with a little monotony and adaptability for the sake of using it wisely.

FC Pesto Pasta

So we stockpile 5 different kinds of cereal and 4 different kinds of cheese at a time, or we buy bulk meat on sale and shove it into the recesses of our freezer, or we clip coupons for crap we don't even enjoy eating because we think it's a good deal, and we never finish any of it before some part of it goes too stale or spoiled to enjoy.

Unless we run up against a little desperation resulting from our own lack of planning, in which case we are willing to eat all kinds of odd leftover concoctions. But even then, how many of us are anywhere near truly using up all the food we've bought before we have to throw some of it away?

(By now you've figured that if you're one of those people who uses up every last morsel in your kitchen for whatever reason, and by whatever means, this post isn't about or for you.)

And how does that waste radiate from our homes to our world at large? Well, according to some studies, the immediate effect to our families is the loss of thousands of dollars annually from our budgets that could otherwise be saved or truly enjoyed elsewhere. 

FC Breakfast Chorizo Chili Cheese Fries

If that waste is not composted, it ends up taking up to 40% of the space in our landfills and eventually generates lots of excess methane which you know, unless you're a climate change denier, is no bueno in a number of ways.

Beyond that, a universal and organic consequence of one segment of the population overconsuming and wasting a limited resource is the lack of that resource for other segments of the population

In short, in wasting food, we screw ourselves, Earth, and our hungry fellow humans in the process.

And while there are a number of ways we can curb that waste, the thing over which we have the most direct and immediate impact is our own consumption - how much we take and how we use it.

Outside of the home, that might mean only taking two packets of ketchup at McDonald's instead of grabbing a handful because that's what we know we will use well. It could also mean filling that "small" beverage container only two thirds of the way because we know we never finish a full one, even if we paid for it. It might also mean limiting what we order at a restaurant to what we know we can and will finish, either at the restaurant or at home or work in the days to follow.

FC Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry Thingies

Basically, it's just being mindful of what we take, knowing that, perhaps not directly and immediately, but inevitably and eventually, we would rob something or someone somewhere, including ourselves, with thoughtless excess.

In our home, among other things, it means taking a break every 4 to 6 weeks from our weekly shopping trip to use up the perishables in the fridge and freezer, and even some of the non-perishables to keep from overstocking to the point we no longer have any idea of our inventory, as best we can before replenishing our supply.

Which has had the effect of making me a more creative, resourceful and adaptable cook in addition to reducing both food and money waste in our household. So while I generally say my grocery expenditures are roughly $120/week, the actuality of it is that every fifth week or so, I save that $120 for other things (my current savings project is a major family vacation) and use up my accumulated ingredients while they're still fit for consumption.

FC Coq au Vin

Admittedly, I have a lot more practice improvising meals from odd ingredients than your average person. So I get that, in the beginning, it could be a real challenge for some. But that's where the internet comes in so handy (as it so often does) - from recipe sites like allrecipes and epicurious where you can search recipes and meal ideas by ingredients, to communities like chowhound and egullet, or my ridiculous hungry community, with cooking boards where you can pick the brains of other members for ideas on how to make the best of what you've got on hand. You'll not only get some great suggestions, but you'll enjoy a sense of community with other people who love to cook and eat well.

By regularly stopping shopping and eating up what there is to be eaten in our kitchens, we benefit ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and Earth. And we adopt a more mindful way of living that doesn't deprive us in the least, and if anything, gifts us with a greater sense of meaning and purpose in a thing we do every day.

To making the best of what we're blessed to have,

shinae

P.S. For more ideas on fridge cleanout meals, you can search my #SFPFridgeCleanout posts on G+. (If you're wondering what SFP stands for, it's S.hinae's F.ood P.ost. :) )

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