J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!”, commonly mistaken to be Rosie the Riveter.
CC image via Wiki.
A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology estimated that Americans waste nearly 350 million barrels of oil per year in the form of food. These figures represent 2% of our annual energy consumption, and are based in part on an even more shocking 1995 estimate that 27% of our edible food is wasted – simply thrown away – at both the individual and institutional levels.
While much of this waste happens before food even reaches consumers – for example, produce that looks “irregular” or is marred by “blemishes” may be tossed by farmers or rejected by grocers – who among us can say that she’s never thrown out a half-finished bag of moldy rolls or composted the odd bruised apple? If just half of this waste occurs in our own kitchens and pantries, then the average American is tossing nearly 15% of the food she purchases straight into the garbage.* By cutting out this waste, then, we could potentially save 15% on our grocery bills.
Reporting on these findings over at Salon, Francis Lam offers seven tasty ways to stop wasting food – six of which are vegan or vegan-friendly. These include:
- Be creative about stale bread;
- Freeze in-danger-of-expiring (nondairy) milk;
- Save trim and scraps for stock;
- Sauté leftover pasta, rice, and cooked grains (or, you know, just reheat and it, if you’re not a food snob like Lam);
- Repurpose leftover sauces, soups, and (vegetable) meat juices to add flavor to other dishes; and
- Don’t toss an item just because it’s expired – many foodstuffs are edible past date. Trust your senses and use good judgment.
Building on Lam’s list, Jordan @ vegansaurus! recommends that you be a more awesome vegan by:
- Making impromptu soups, stews, and curries with neglected veggies;
- Baking fruit crisps and crumbles with overripe apples and such;
- Liquefying extra produce into smoothies;
- Investing in high quality food storage containers; and
- Buying a spiffy new lunch set that will hopefully inspire you to take leftovers to work.
Of course, because I am a totally awesome – and usually-frugal – vegan, I have a few additional suggestions to add to the mix!
If you’re new to dumpster diving, be sure to do your research beforehand. Be informed about local laws and customs; know which businesses are amenable to the practice; and, if you’re well off enough that dumpster diving isn’t an economic necessity for you, don’t dive in areas that support a low-income or homeless population. If you know an experienced diver, you may want to accompany him or her before setting off on your own. Go to http://freegan.info for more.
Do your homework beforehand; you want to make this as simple as possible for the powers that be! Spell out potential benefits, stressing how they outweigh the costs: donations equal tax breaks, a reduction in waste disposal fees, and all the great PR you can exploit!
Be creative: if there are any animal sanctuaries in the area, get in touch with them to see whether they can make use of past-date produce (or even packaged foods). Don’t overlook “pet” stores, either: our nonhuman friends also suffer in rough economic times, and “pet” food banks have sprouted up across the country in order to provide dog and cat food to families in need.
In this vintage, WWII propaganda poster, the president sternly-but-lovingly (he’s our super-dad, yo!) issues the following reminder to the American public: “Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness and all the ugly distemper that makes an ordered life impossible…the future belongs to those who prove themselves the true friends of mankind.” (And human and animal-kind, I should add.) “Save food, don’t waste it,” signed the United States Food Administration.
* Indeed, in 2003, researchers teamed up with the USDA to study food waste in American households. Tim Jones, a researcher at the University of Arizona’s Contemporary Archaeology Project, and his students spent a year surveying 200 families in Delaware and Arizona about their purchasing habits, tallying grocery receipts, and combing through household garbage in order to collect and weigh wasted food. Their results? The average American household throws out an astounding 470 pounds of food per year – or 14% of all food brought into the house.
What about you vegan mofo’s? How do you keep food from ending up in the trash bin?