We throw away HALF of our food...you, me, your neighbor, that cute person at work, your go-to bartender, and even the guests sitting at the table next to you in your favorite restaurant. That's about 165 BILLION dollars a year.
As a young twenty-something who lives alone, one of my biggest challenges with the GROW method is reducing waste. Every week I always attempt to buy exact proportions of food to last me a week, maybe two. Despite spending an hour planning meals and maybe two hours at the store and farmer’s markets, I find myself still disposing of wilting or just plain moldy fruits and veggies. Sometimes I cannot help but to buy a meal when I forget to bring lunch to work, or maybe I am just tired of cooking alone. After all, living in the small cold town just makes cozying up with a bowl of boxed tomato bisque more enticing. I can only imagine how distracting it must be living in the city with endless options of new and fun restaurants to enjoy. Before I joined Oxfam and had even learned about the GROW method, I never thought much about the food I was capable of wasting. Now, it’s on my mind whenever I think about food.
We all make our lists and go to the grocery store, maybe with coupon clippings and of course a few reusable bags in hand. Yet, whoever you are, the occasional spontaneous event or invitation forces you to leave acorn squash or berries in the fridge. But there is a solution! I basically overlooked this option until a warm night in Chicago at Karyn’s on Green on October 16th. A small group of fellow foodies and Oxfam veterans alike sat around a table for the World Food Dinner. We had discussed Farmer’s Markets and how climate change really affected corn crops in Illinois. We saw it. We saw how it devastated farmers from all over the Midwest. It particularly hurt those who see their farmers every weekend, growing relationships for several years. A representative from Sisters of Our Planet mentioned freezing strawberries that were grown from our local farmers so that she could enjoy a fresh strawberry juice in the middle of winter. FREEZING! The solution was freezing your fruits and veggies!
One weekend I spent the time to meet my producers at a bustling farmer’s market and learn new recipes. Alas, during the week we continued to receive food at work. I went home wrapped my zucchini and carton of raspberries in paper towels and bagged them in re-usable freezable zip-lock bags. A week later I grilled zucchini and added it to my pasta for dinner. And I had a pint of raspberries to snack on with my yogurt. I used the same technique for soups I didn’t get a chance to eat the week I made it. The simple concept of freezing foods helps me reduce waste!
Compelled by Oxfam philosophy of food justice, I wanted to find more ways to reduce waste and even extend the uses of foods. A simple fact about me…I love raspberries and strawberries. I came across the idea of canning produce. My first reaction was my dislike for cans. When perusing instructions of canning, it just looks intimidating. Boiling, peeling, jarring, what kind of jar, pressure or water boiling? And why do they call it canning when glass jars are used? Regardless, I felt it an important practice. The process of canning is to preserve freshness of prepared food by creating a vacuum in a glass jar using heat. In the Midwest, there are plenty of produce for canning. It is important to note that there are books, online guides and classes in Chicago (Canning Across America and The Glass Rooster) to learn about the art and science of canning. Some guides include how long different foods can last in the freezer.
I have a New Year’s Resolution. Reduce waste, sure. That is easy to say, but I have a plan. This year, I plan to incorporate The GROW Method by freezing food when necessary (like a cereal-for-every-meal sort of week) and start canning. I am thinking of a class...