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Home » 9to5to9, Food

9to5to9: Cutting waste one chicken at a time

Submitted by on Tuesday, 14 October 2008 No Comment
Usually I wait until Tuesday evening -- just before I roll out the trash cans in eager anticipation of the Wednesday morning garbage truck run -- to tackle the fridge.

This week, though, I got a jump on it and saved myself from the weekly self-flagellation as I toss pounds of rotting produce and dump bowls of stinky leftovers.

Today, I took a family pack of chicken breasts out of the fridge and to the deep freezer. That's $10 in poultry that won't become a statistic.

And the statistics are depressing. A tweet last week led me to a 2004 study by University of Arizona Professor Timothy W. Jones that concluded an American family of four wastes $589 worth of food a year. That's $43 billion -- or 0.6 percent of a bank bailout -- as a nation.

Ten bucks and some change a week. A year ago, that figure would have made me pause. Today, it stops me cold. I'm throwing away how much money each month, in this economy?

That figure's probably low, too. It doesn't include food that goes down the garbage disposal or into compost. The calculations are based on "hand-sorted refuse data." I'm not sure what that entails, but if it's what it sounds like, I admire the field researchers' determination. Talk about a dirty job.

Most of the waste -- $14 billion -- is in meat. Beef: It's what's in the trash can.

Next comes grains at $10 billion, and we're definitely not to blame there. I've never known a grain to go bye-bye around this place. If anything, the guys are always sniffing around the crumbs begging me to bake more.

Finally, fruits and vegetables at $9 billion each. Ay, the latter is my weak spot.

Unless it's Little Guy's beloved "corn macabre," which I usually have about 10.6 seconds to cook after it walks through the front door, I'm often the victim of good vegetable intentions.

Part of the problem is my own stupidity. How long ago did I learn the dangers of going to the grocery store hungry? How long before that lesson really sinks in?

Merely strolling the produce aisle in a half-starved state evokes fantasies of the mom I want to be. The mom who serves roasted asparagus and braised carrots. Who buys an eggplant to parmesan and actually gets around to parmesaning it.

Not to mention the mom who buys 10 pounds of chicken and turns into nuggets for Big Guy before the rotting poultry smell pervades the house the second Little Guy throws open the "engirator."

Oddly enough, I've been a much more prolific produce chucker in the five weeks since I've been without an office job. I thought it would be easier to get a nice meal on the table in a calm, leisurely manner when I wasn't rushing home with my hair on fire. I overlooked the fact that there is no calm and little leisure with the guys around.

Turns out I need the same organizational skills at home that I need at an office. Chiefly, planning and execution.

OK, back to the deep freezer for a beef roast. I'll add green beans -- it's always amusing to watch Big Guy turn equally green when he sees them -- and the sweet potatoes that were part of this week's "vegetables of good intentions" purchases.

I must save them from becoming next week's garbage-day guilt trip. And work on saving $590 a year in the process.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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