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Wasted Food - How to Stop This Horrible Habit

Seems like there are a lot of us out here having to face the fact that too much food is being thrown out for all kinds of reasons / excuses. If you have conquered this awful problem, please let us know how you did it. Is it some kind of psychological problem, organizational problem or just plain laziness for not taking control of the situation? Do we need to go through some sort of ten step program or what? Be honest with us, we can take it.

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  1. Based on my own observations, wasting (throwing away) food is attributable to a number of factors, some of them existing is combination with others depending on the household.
    1. Impulse purchases - selecting items from the store shelf with the glimmer of an idea on how/when to use it but failing to ever follow through with the idea.
    2. Bulk purchases - buying items (e.g. "2 for 1 sale") subject to spoilage that we can't possibly use within the "use by" or freshness period limitations. Example: buying two heads of celery that probably needed to be sold a week prior to our getting it and finding that it rots in the crisper before we can use it.
    3. Preparing too much food and not knowing how to use "left overs" for another meal.
    There's more, but I've got an appointment to keep .....

    13 Replies
    1. re: todao

      todao, please, please come back here as soon as you can, we will be waiting at our computers for more info....

      1. re: todao

        Wasting food may also be partly a cultural thing. I won't say which state my wife is from but it's a poor state. Her mother never saved leftovers. Didn't ever make a meal from leftovers. All food leftover at the end of a meal was thrown away. I believe that the idea was to show others that they were well off enough to not have to save food.

        However, this behaviour did not apply only to food. It also applied to house hold appliances. Nothing was ever repaired. If something ceased to function it was thrown away and a new one purchased. The house was filled with the "newest",the "largest", and hopefully the "most expensive". Pay attention neighbors, we are not "poor".

        1. re: dhmill

          Ah, dhmill, that's so sad, but I've known similar. My family was "lace-curtain Irish" back in the day so I understand how the need to keep up appearances arises.

          1. re: DuchessNukem

            The really sad part is that now, her children are behaving the same way.

          2. re: dhmill

            I'll never forget, when I was a kid we didn't starve but didn't waste food. One time I was at my friend's house and her Mom came home from shopping. She had bought a new package of bacon, and when she went to put it in the fridge, she threw out a half used package of perfectly good bacon that was already in there. I remember thinking she was crazy! But you're right, they did think they were better than everyone else, maybe she just did it for my benefit.

            1. re: dhmill

              I recall hearing about some east coast relatives of good friends who threw everything away including a 1/2 eaten birthday cake. Nothing was saved from one day to the next. The entire concept boggles the mind.

              1. re: John E.

                Okay, throwing out a birthday cake is crossing the line. At the very least take it to work and fatten up your co-workers!

                1. re: livetocook

                  My sister's take on dieting: Fat friends make her look thinner. Voila!

                2. re: John E.

                  The cake would never have spoiled, although eventually it would have dried out. Weird, really weird.

                  1. re: John E.

                    They threw out half of a birthday cake?? Sweet jujubes, the inhumanity of it!

                    1. re: John E.

                      But birthday cake for breakfast is one of life's greatest joys!

                      1. re: mpjmph

                        I tell myself if I eat things like birthday cake for breakfast, I have all day to work it off.

                    2. re: dhmill

                      I've seen this type of behavior too many times, too. It's not an American thing. I've seen it from people in several countries and from quite a few cultures. I don't get it.

                      I actually plan my cooking so that I can mostly cook a meat dish every other day - I'm chronically ill, so only have so much energy, and this is a much more efficient way for me to cook so I have energy to do other things as well, like bake a cake on occasion. :P Veggies sometimes are for one day, sometimes two - depends on how much there is and what kind it is.

                  2. For me the issue was one of buying new food when I should have been eating leftovers, or using up ingredients.
                    My way round it is to cook in bulk as soon as I have bought fresh food and to freeze leftover portions. That way if I crave pizza there is no food sitting around uneaten - and if I don't want to cook there are always several meals to choose from in the freezer. (I should add that I cook almost exclusively vegetarian food).

                    40 Replies
                    1. re: Peg

                      I'm not vegetarian, but I freeze every last scrap. You just have to be aware of what is getting old before it actually expires. I'm contemplating freezing all the cookies we have left; when I'm not sure what works I just do it and see how how it goes. Usually better than you think.

                      Odd bits of meat go into a Ziploc bag for chili; chicken bones, veggies and such into another bag for stock, and casseroles onto a microwavable plate as is, for a homemade TV dinner. Free food!

                      1. re: coll

                        I was saving every last dang bone my parents went through and the fat trimmings and finally put the crockpot to good use (30 hours on low). now I have pints of frozen rich beef stock. veg trimmings too.

                        1. re: hill food

                          I have a beef bone collection started myself, but not enough for stock yet. I'll have a lamb leg bone after Sunday but don't think I should mix...plus probably couldn't fit in the pot anyway. The neighbors Rottie will be getting that probably.

                          1. re: coll

                            Please tell me these are raw bones.

                            Cooked bones should NEVER be fed - they become brittle and can and will puncture the esophagus and stomach lining. It's not an absolute, but it's a very real possibility - the dogs that are rushed to the emergency vet aren't the ones eating raw bones and raw diets.

                            1. re: JReichert

                              Even a dinosaur bone like that? I cook my lamb very rare so not as brittle as some might be. My friend used to feed her dogs the chicken wings after people ate the meat off them, now that scared me a bit. But guess she was lucky.

                              1. re: coll

                                My brother is a vet, and he told me that beef bones were not bad, but pork, and chicken bones were nono's as they are too brittle. Our boxers gnawed on beef bones all the time, and never broke one.

                                1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                                  Some interesting info here

                                  http://rawfed.com/myths/bones.html

                                  All that being said, all this info is relatively recent. Growing up dogs got bones of all types, raw and cooked. All the family dogs liived till they were over 20 years old. Back from a year in Guatemala where dogs were lucky to get any type of food, even bones ... the bigger threat was starvation.

                                  Ya know, it could just be that since society switched to canned dog food and kibble, dogs don't build up whatever they did in the past to deal with certain types of bones.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I only feed my dogs certain kinds of chicken bones. No hollow bones. Legs, wings etc. I do give them more solid breast bones.

                                  2. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                                    If they were so dangerous, Petco wouldn't be selling bones and taking a chance on getting sued.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      a lot of dog products are made in China, I always read the back of the packet. My dogs are too important to give them chinese made food/treats

                                      1. re: smartie

                                        That has become a real concern lately. Luckily I only have cats, and they're not big on bones, just solid meat. I try to puree my homemade leftovers when I can.

                                        1. re: smartie

                                          I NEVER give my dogs anything from China, or anything with components from China, either. I do give them bones I get from the butcher - sometimes, my bigger dog ends up consuming the whole thing after breaking it down - is this OK? These are cow or buffalo bones, and raw. When I hear her crunching away I always have to be in the room with her eyeballing her because it makes me nervous she'll choke.

                                          1. re: montrealeater

                                            Forget the dogs. i never feed ME anything made or grown in China.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              me either, I walk the aisles with my reading glasses on checking the smallprint, I also am amazed at all the shower gels and candles etc made in China nowadays. Mandarin oranges and other canned fruits are often Chinese these days, it's getting hard to buy a whole lot made in the USA. I hear garlic is also Chinese oftentimes.

                                              1. re: smartie

                                                Beware the small heads of garlic stacked into a tube of stretchy mesh--usually about 5 or 6. Those ARE from China. Sold at 'cheap' grocery oultets everywhere.

                                              2. re: rworange

                                                RW - agree!! I stopped eating tilapia as all I can find here is from China or Ecuador....no way!!

                                                Also have cats myself (shock?) and am careful giving them not only grains but food from China as well....

                                                My stepdaughter began her dog on a Raw food diet and she is doing so much better! Her coat is sooooooooo shiny & her skin rashes are all gone....

                                              3. re: montrealeater

                                                Raw meaty bones are the best thing for keeping your dogs' teeth and gums healthy, especially if you don't/can't brush their teeth diligently. Raw chicken necks for smaller dogs, turkey necks for larger ones, are excellent and pos no danger of breaking teeth, since the bones are smaller. Beef knuckle bones do a good job, too. Marrow bones are not as effective because although dogs enjoy eating out the marrow, the leg bones themselves are so dense that only the strongest jaws can grind away at them. Some dogs may break teeth on marrow bones. The idea is for the bone to scrape away the tartar as the dog gnaws, so the bone must be consumable. Pay attention to what's happening at the other end of the GI tract, because the dog can get constipated from digesting all that bone. Chalky, dry, whitish stools may occur.

                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                  Absolutely

                                                  With my pup a few years back, I did raw for his first week, did a premium grain-free kibble for a month due to ease of feeding, and went straight back to raw after that junk. He farted up a storm and his stools were never solid on kibble - on raw, he had compact stools that I couldn't smell unless I were on my hands and knees above t hem and he never passed wind - or if he did, I couldn't smell it.

                                                  Plus he spent longer 'worrying' his bones and took his time digesting, and most importantly he wasn't being fed food that he had no biological need for (vegetation/grain).

                                              4. re: smartie

                                                Not to defend the safety record of China but I find that the anti-China rhetoric to be overstated. The recent dog food recall because of mold was an American producer. The recent fatal listeria contamination in beef, cantaloupes, salmonella in eggs, e-coli in spinach, peanut butter, bean sprouts were all American producers. It's so much easier to say, "Avoid Chinese products" and your food will be safe.

                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                  No it is easier to say "Avoid Chinese products" and your food is less likely to be harmful.

                                                  If anyone wants to start an Avoid China because, I'll contribute there because the abuses by this country are not limited to the small examples you give. It also unfortunately extends beyond food which is beyond the scope of this board. China earned its reputation by cutting corners and doing multiple coverups.

                                                  One recent examples is cheap Chinese truffles may actually destroy the truffle industrin in both France and Italy because spores from those inferior truffles that are being mixed by unscrupulous vendors are moving to the fields and taking over the local crops.

                                                  The greed, corruption and total disregard for the consumer from more examples than i can relate in a single post have earned them my personal disdain.

                                              5. re: coll

                                                The distinction that I pointed out is RAW vs. COOKED.

                                                "Dog" bones at pet stores are generally smoked; they're never cooked.

                                              6. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                                                "My brother is a vet, and he told me that beef bones were not bad, but pork, and chicken bones were nono's as they are too brittle. Our boxers gnawed on beef bones all the time, and never broke one."

                                                To a point - it depends on the bone's structure.

                                                Heavy weight-bearing bones are not advised because they are too dense and can cause broken teeth. Chicken bones and red meat non-weight-bearing bones are great - you can toss a dog drumsticks, quarters, and the base ratio of muscle meat to bone is just about perfect.

                                                You do need more red meat because it contains complete amino acids, whereas if you feed a lot of poultry you have to supplement and/or feed more organ meat than you do with red.

                                                1. re: JReichert

                                                  With some dogs the splintered chicken bones cause problems in the digestive tract, resulting in an expensive vet bill. I never give chicken bones to my dogs, only big beef bones, and none of the boxers, or other dogs we had ever broke a tooth.

                                                2. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                                                  Geez. We've always given our dogs the bones from pork chops without issue. :/ Maybe not any more?

                                            2. re: coll

                                              I almost never give our dogs bones from our dinner, but we had two round bones left after supper one night... I watched them work them over and before I could stop them, they each swallowed their treat whole! I was pretty horrified but once it goes in, what can you do but wait and watch? Both dogs were fine afterward but no more dinner bones!

                                              BTW, my black lab loves chewing so much, I've actually heard him break a tooth. He spat it out and kept right on chewing. THAT was a fun trip to the doggie dentist.

                                              1. re: MouseAndFork

                                                Somethings that I learned from my terrier (15 lb):
                                                - beef shank rounds are too hard, and too small to be very interesting. They are an awkward size to hold for chewing
                                                - pork bones from the shoulder and shank end of are great chewing - but:
                                                -- the shoulder blade is too soft
                                                -- the ball ends of bones are softer than the shank part, and, as best I can tell are safe to chew. They add a lot of bulk to the next day's deposit.
                                                - ribs, chops etc, are not good chewing bones.

                                                Fundamentally, bones should be given under supervision, and tossed as soon as you are concerned, whether you hear cracking, or they are disappearing too fast. Be a smart and observant dog owner.

                                        2. re: Peg

                                          Peg, that sounds good to an extent, but sometimes it is hard to do when you come home from the store & it is super late...there I go whining again. Yes, people who are mostly vegetarians have to deal with a pretty big load of fresh veggies, so you all are probably used to cooking ahead. I have actually frozen quite a lot of food, & labeled it etc...but when I take it out & open it up, I just think to myself..."this frozen pale looking blob just does not appeal to me, I can't believe it was that delicious chicken & wild rice casserole I had last week. Yuk, I don't want this!!!" Mind set, but bottom line is I still don't want it. All I can say is....get over it, let it thaw, sprinkle some fresh cheese over it & eat. Maybe if I get hungry enough....do I need a really good food sealer or is that just going to be another "gadget"...another couple of hundred dollars just to seal some food for the freezer. All these things are worthwhile for folks with a couple of kids, but for the singles or just pairs out here, it is truly a dilema.I am going to lock myself up in a closet for awhile until I come to my senses, talk about being "bucky"!! I think I am regressing or something.

                                          OK, I will freeze some stuff today...going to make a pot of soup from all those leftover Christmas veggies...I will freeze a batch for later....now I feel better already. Thank you. Are there any veggies that don't freeze well...maybe that is part of the problem...freezing foods that don't freeze well? I shall research that on the net. Bye & thanks for letting me vent.

                                          1. re: cstout

                                            Not sure if this would help you, but I am also in the position of getting home late from work and/or just being too tired to cook. Don't allow yourself to buy as much produce (or whatever it is you're wasting). I used to go to the store to buy food for dinner, and I'd end up with 5 different vegetables, and I'd never manage to cook all of them. But vegetables for 1 or 2 meals tops. If you waste dairy, make yourself finish the cottage cheese before you buy yourself a new yogurt. If you waste fruit, make yourself finish the apples before you buy bananas. Do this in whatever category you're experiencing the problem, and you'll get more used to forcing yourself to use what's on hand rather than indulging in the shiny new product at the market despite the fact that you have a fridge full at home. Good luck!

                                            1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                                              Miriam...this is exactly what needs to be done....we are buying way more than is necessary...your suggestions will certainly help.

                                              1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                                                This.

                                                We cut down on the amount of veggies we buy on a grocery trip. While we still ate the veggies, they certainly weren't as appealing when we got around to eating them. Also, I'd usually have veggies left over from the last time we went shopping when we went shopping the next time. By cutting down, the veggies we eat are fresher.

                                                Okay, I'll grant you that it helps that the grocery store is across the street from us...

                                              2. re: cstout

                                                Whole potatoes don't freeze well, if you mash them first it works better. Most vegetables are great, for a soup or stew at least.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  coll, yes, I thought I read somewhere about potatoes not freezing well. I will just mash them, like you suggested. Thanks.

                                                  1. re: cstout

                                                    Then when you thaw and reheat, add some milk or half and half.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      coll, I was just adding more chicken broth (yes, it is canned broth). Never thought to add milk or half & half. I need to be kicked off this forum for not even knowing basic stuff. You are so kind to walk me through this.

                                                2. re: cstout

                                                  Don't even look at it until it's been nuked. The unappetising icy blob will magically turn into something delicious in five minutes! Smell is more than half the battle, and that doesn't come back until it's heated properly.

                                                  1. re: Kajikit

                                                    Icy blobs....yes I do have a problem getting over the visual appeal...my mind is already getting into gear & saying, "This is going to be delicious again?? No way!" I just quietly leave the kitchen for awhile & hope things will look better later on. Nope...but after awhile I am getting mighty hungry so I start to put it in a dish or pot & hope things look better after cooking. Sometimes it works, sometime not. I try. I honestly don't know how/why some things don't turn out just as tasty as they once were. It's not like I left it in the freezer too long.

                                                    Case in point, I made a delicious chicken & wild rice casserole & froze some...well, that just did not even taste near as good....this has happened several times, so don't know what is happening.

                                                    How do other folks cope with this frozen syndrome??

                                                    1. re: cstout

                                                      My chest freezer is my best friend and I love pulling out delicious things that I have made previously when I am too tired to cook. Some things freeze better than others though, soup and braised items being examples of things that freeze well. However, I avoid adding rice or pasta to them and then freezing them because the starches get soggy. I make my starch fresh while my frozen block of stew/soup is in a covered saucepan on medium turning into dinner.

                                                      Lasagna freezes beautifully (I use my vacu-sealer for that, but foil could work also). I also like to make large batches of chicken stock, tomato sauce, meatballs and pesto. I find that Deli-tainers (the plastic containers they serve takeout soup in) are excellent for freezing things in, they are durable and space efficient. Another thing I always have going in my freezer is a bag with chicken bones, once I have enough, I make a giant batch of stock.

                                                      Air is the biggest enemy in your freezer so getting as much of it out of your food storage containers is key. For cstout's chicken and rice casserole the vacu-sealer would have been my first choice for storage and I also would have defrosted it overnight in the fridge and probably microwaved it to heat it up. The reheat method is important too. I have also learned a lot by simply googling 'can you freeze...?' and reading a few opinions on various blogs and chat rooms.

                                                      Cooking in large batches saves time and money so sometimes I devote a half a day to cooking a few things, portioning them and freezing them and I am happy that they are there waiting for me on lazy days.

                                                      1. re: suzysue2

                                                        Reheat method...I had no idea reheating needed to be considered too. I usually just thaw & put in the oven.

                                                        I will definitely be googling the "can you freeze" question. Thank you.

                                                        Also, that food sealer is sure looking like I could use one. I read somewhere to leave the food (chicken or whatever) right in the package it came in, wrap in freezer wrap, then put it in a brown paper sack & then sealing that up with some duct tape. Also, wrapping in newspaper instead of the sack would work too. Has anyone tried this? I am trying to figure out all kinds of ways to keep things from getting those nasty little "sparkles" on it.

                                                        1. re: cstout

                                                          If you are freezing fresh vegetables, many of them freeze better if they are par-boiled first before you freeze them. Removing as much air as possible is good. Another way to exclude the air is to cover the fruit/vegetable with water and then freeze it. The item will be encased in ice which excludes the air.
                                                          Also, remember that nearly everything and particuarly foodstuffs contain water. The water freezes and the ice expands which will break down the molecues of the food. When the food item is thawed this is why most fruits will be mushy.

                                                      2. re: cstout

                                                        cstout: "Case in point, I made a delicious chicken & wild rice casserole & froze some...well, that just did not even taste near as good....this has happened several times, so don't know what is happening.

                                                        How do other folks cope with this frozen syndrome??"

                                                        Leftovers, frozen or otherwise, often need a bit of salt, pepper, vinegar or lemon juice to bring them back to life when reheated.

                                                3. Some of the threads here address this topic: http://www.chow.com/search?query=food... I am sure you will find more if you do an expanded search on leftovers.

                                                  I do not waste food, pure and simple. Though I am now on a limited fixed income, I never did, even when I could have afforded to. They say "time is money". So is food. Would you throw money in the trash? My garbage can rarely smells, because there is almost nothing organic in it. (I wash and recycle most food packaging.) It's a combination of commitment to economizing and to the environment, organization, and creativity.

                                                  Did the milk go sour? Use it now (or freeze it) for mashed potatoes or for baking a cake or quickbread. Bread get stale or moldy? Cut away the mold. Make home-made bread crumbs (keep in freezer), French toast, or strata. Soupmaking is the ultimate reservoir of leftovers and trimmings.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                    But isn't the mold that you see only a small part of the organism? Like the mushrooms that you pick?

                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                      Ditto everything greygarious said, esp. the last paragraph.

                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                        Thanks for posting that link...a lot more to read about & learn from.

                                                        http://www.chow.com/search?query=food

                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                          I used to work where we had a stove, and everyone would bring leftovers in from home to combine with pack of ramen noodles into "Must-go Soup" for lunch for the contributors. Never the same ingredients twice!

                                                          1. re: Nanaverm

                                                            OK Nanaverm....that was a wonderful idea....can you give us some info as to what folks brought to put in the pot?? I am always trying to figure out what to throw into one of those packages...

                                                            1. re: cstout

                                                              Small amounts of leftover vegies and meats that weren't highly seasoned. And, hill food, the people involved were very responsible and not adding moldy oldies from the back of their fridge.

                                                              Which reminds me: One day I ate leftover mincemeat pie from the work fridge that had been sitting in there almost a week. Tasted OK, a little dry near the crust. Got bad food poisoning - or maybe not, ha, ha? A week later I learned I was pregnant! (Had no significant nausea during my pregnancy...)

                                                              1. re: Nanaverm

                                                                I'll even add highly seasoned food, like curried chicken. But then, we're big fans of highly seasoned food. :)

                                                            2. re: Nanaverm

                                                              I like the idea of an occasional omnivore and no-holds "stone soup" lunch (but would demand 2-3 participants give the goods a 'sniff test' before addition)

                                                              so few offices have anything more than a microwave sadly.

                                                          2. I will give this a stab. It took me years to figure out how not to waste food, to be honest. But it takes some determination and discipline.

                                                            No food enters the house without a plan for its use. It is fine to be inspired at the market, but then make sure you use that inspiration to get the other ingredients required to use it. Be rational about how much everyone can actually eat. If your family eats a pound of meat at a meal, don't buy 5 lbs if you don't already know how you will repurpose the leftovers into other meals.

                                                            If you have three days of food in your fridge, then no deciding at 6pm that you want pizza. You have the food in your fridge and now you actually have to fix and eat it. Seriously look at your calendar before going to the market. If Tuesday is a really busy day and you won't be home until 8:30, acknowledge that either you are pulling something from the freezer that night or getting take out. You won't want to start cooking a from-scratch meal when you get home.

                                                            Plan ahead for those days. When you make a pot roast or soup, freeze some extra for "those" nights.

                                                            Pick a country cuisine for the week so that the little side dishes can be used over and over, and added to. Perfect example is Indian food. Night one you make a tamarind sauce, the next night you might add some quick pickled vegetables. By committing to a cuisine, you can use all those bits and bobs and still have interesting meals.

                                                            Or pick a protein that can be repurposed. The most obvious is a roast chicken. Night one is the chicken with veggies and a starch. Night two is chicken enchiladas. Night three is a soup made with a stock from the carcass.

                                                            This is just a start, but maybe it is helpful.

                                                            16 Replies
                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                              smtucker...great ideas from your post. I don't know how to cook Indian food, maybe that is part of my problem...need to expand on the things I fix..got me to thinking here....more selections.

                                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                                But if cstout commits to making Indian for one week, won't she end up with a slew of spices that she won't use up in a year? I bought a block of tamarind paste a couple of years ago, and still have 3/4s of it left. I have half a dozen jars of spice paste and Indian pickles in the fridge. Basmatti rice vies for space on my shelves with arborio, calrose, and ordinary long grain.

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  paulj....yippee!! I have one person on my side...these are some of the kinds of things I get faced with & don't know how to solve. I will trade you that jar of Indian pickles for my jar of Herbs de Provence with Lavender. Maybe we could start up some sort of co-op where we just exchange all this stuff..postage is another problem though......by the way, what is calrose...do I need to buy some of that or maybe you are willing to trade for something else.

                                                                  1. re: cstout

                                                                    Suggestions for tamarind paste http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/384283

                                                                    suggestions for herbs de provence http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/370628

                                                                    Chowhound to the rescue again!

                                                                    1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                      Chowies are always rescuing somebody from drowing in their own stupidity!!!

                                                                  2. re: paulj

                                                                    That wasn't really the point... the point is to have some consistency in the menu for the week to reduce the amount of prep time daily by reusing common components throughout the week. If you don't cook Indian regularly, then that specifically isn't the solution. Pick Yankee, Southern, Greek, whatever...

                                                                    1. re: smtucker

                                                                      This is a good idea. I find myself gravitating toward "theme weeks" for this same reason.

                                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                                      buy whole spices. They hold up longer

                                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                        I've bought more than my share of whole spices. My whole coriander seeds must be 20 yrs old! :) Black cardamon nearly that. But I don't worry about waste of unused spices and condiments - they come out of my 'experimental food' budget.

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          I also have my whole spices for a couple of years. At first, I was using them at a good solid pace as I was go through my Indian cooking phase. Now, things have slowed down and I haven't used them for awhile. I should really consider asking people around if they want some.

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            "I should really consider asking people around if they want some."
                                                                            ___
                                                                            that's what my friends and I do--we go through a Penzey's catalog, compile a group order, then split up the contents so we can try new things in usable amounts.

                                                                            1. re: pine time

                                                                              :) My problem is like... I bough my species from Indian grocery stores. They are very affordable and they offer a lot of "whole" species, much cheaper than McCormick. This is one area which I absolutely disagree with the whole notion of "you pay for what you get".

                                                                              I spend much less in buying species from my local Indian stores and I get better quality too.

                                                                          2. re: paulj

                                                                            An experimental budget??? Every Time I cook something it is "experimental".
                                                                            Know what you mean about those fancy spice jars...I have ended up with several pricey spices to make an "experimental" dish & I did not like the dish or the spice. If the spice is in one of those nice clear jars, I just wash it out & save it for rub mixes or even garden seeds. That way I don't feel too guilty. I tried planting my whole coriander spice, thinking it might come up....by golly a few of them most certainly did...unfortunately night roaming rabbits found them. I am wanting to do chili pequin seeds from the store just to see if they could come up....love those little babies.

                                                                            1. re: cstout

                                                                              I can't wait til I get my garden going and I can start saving seeds.

                                                                          3. re: scubadoo97

                                                                            I am also buying more basic foods, like whole spices. They not only last longer, but they cut down on variety. A lot of the variety on my shelves was actually unnecessay.

                                                                            If I need ground coriander, I grind up whole coriander, why do I need a separate set of bottles for ground spices? Plus, you can stop filling your shelves with spice mixes & make your own as needed or in batches, like making "chili powder" from chile powders, cumin, oregano, etc. Also, melanges like Herbes de Provence, can be put together as needed.

                                                                            My spice shelf was out of control, with too much unnecessary variety that didn't get used up, until I switched to buying fewer, larger units of whole spices at Indian stores, COSTCO & Penzey's.

                                                                            1. re: AsperGirl

                                                                              Yup, I absolutely do not get spice mixes. I mix my own on demand as a specific dish demands. And I cook with a lot of spices - most of our diet consists of curries of one description or another.

                                                                      2. Keeping your frige clean and straightened up helps tremendously. If you don't lose it, its less likely to go bad before you see it again and can use it.

                                                                        Make it a habit to thoroughly go through the frige at least once a week, preferably at least twice a week just to see what you have in there and what needs to be used first. Then, plan your meals around those items. Rotate stock as it comes in from the store.

                                                                        Buying less to start with helps as well.

                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                        1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                          weezieduzzit, excellent suggestions about the fridge.

                                                                          I really can't buy less because I have restricted myself to only going to the store once a week...that is a long time between shopping, but yes, buying less would be so helpful. I think it would be wonderful to shop daily, just enough for the following day's meals, no more. You would have to live around the corner from the store to do that, I live 24 miles from a store, so that is out.

                                                                          Back to the fridge....I can definately make it a top priority to know what is happening in there. I am pulling up the trash can next to the fridge...got a feeling there are some undesirables lurking around in there....yep, what in the world is that brown gunk in a Mason jar....oh gosh, that is where all my Mason jars have disappeared to...I know I labeled these jars...what is that stuck to the wall of the fridge?.....can't believe one of those labels ended up there...I have just found enough stuff to start a new compost pile, not to mention a half dozen jars that I sure could use.....to store more stuff in....is this a bad dream or what???

                                                                          1. re: cstout

                                                                            But if you regularly have waste, then couldn't you buy less? It might mean keeping some cans of soup or dried staples around until you get the amounts right, but it sounds like you are buying too much if you are throwing stuff out. Once you get into a habit of having to eat what's available because you don't have so much excess, then you can start bringing more into the house again.

                                                                            I don't mean to be holier than thou... this has just been on my mind because I keep dumping produce after it rots in my fridge. I have the luxury of living walking distance from many markets, so I guess I have zero excuse for this problem, whereas living so far away certainly presents a challenge!

                                                                            1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                                                                              dear Miriam...please don't feel you are trying to be holier than thou...you are just trying to be helpful...we are all trying to work out these problems & start the year out on a better note. As we confess to our sins, I think we are finding solutions & others are helping us to get there. It's all good.

                                                                              1. re: cstout

                                                                                you're very kind. :) good luck with the process! Oh, another thing I've started is buying frozen organic vegetables (I like trader joes, particularly the stuff in bags rather than the little boxes, becuase it's easier to just use a little). Allows me to have more variety on hand with less food that can spoil easily. Also, eliminates the need to chop/prep, which makes a big difference when I'm lazy. (go with frozen, not canned, because there's no salt and there's much better vitamin preservation)

                                                                                1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                                                                                  You get a free bag of veggies of your choice for the suggestion!!!!! Great idea...frozen is always a good idea.

                                                                            2. re: cstout

                                                                              If your main problem is 6 mth old jars in the fridge, then maybe you are trying to be too frugal. Those should have been tossed long ago, or never saved in the first place.

                                                                              In fact saving things in the fridge or freezer might contribute to waste, because there's a long time between when you bought or made the item and when you toss it. You can forget why you bought it in the first place.

                                                                              Your travel distance and long time between shopping trips in an important consideration. What is frugal for someone who can buy produce daily will not apply to you.

                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                paulj...you have turned my thought processes around...BUYING TOO MUCH + STORING TOO MUCH = WASTING TOO MUCH. But hey, what are you going to do when you need only a small bit of something....gotta put the rest someplace. I don't want to plan the next meal based on that half jar of canned tomatoes...or should I???

                                                                                This is getting too complicated. I am going to fix a peanut butter sandwich while I figure out how to use up that jar of tomatoes....or is that really tomatoes in there...I sure could have sworn that's what it was...Nope, that is actually Miss Gracie's canned tomato preserves that she gave me last year...don't really know what happened to that jar of "real tomatoes". Somebody just shoot me.

                                                                                You folks are really trying to be helpful & I appreciate all the efforts & ideas. I am just kidding during all this, but in the real world, I am also listening. Thank you.

                                                                            3. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                              We throw away very little food. That comes from good menu planning, knowing what foods to cook, and what to avoid. (If the food was not well received when it was first made, what is the reaction when it returns as leftovers?)

                                                                              Your point about the refrigerator provides the best answer to the question of how to avoid throwing out food. There is a thread somewhere about the topic of too much stuff/not knowing what is in your freezer. (I keep a not-updated-often -enough list on the freezer door).

                                                                              I just threw away some science project that I could not identify. It was in a cereal dish covered with plastic wrap that was way under the meat drawer on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, but that's the first thing I've tossed in a long time.

                                                                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                There are only two of us, both retired. We have two freezers. Both chock full of food. My wife makes good soups BUT she will not use the vegetables that are rotting in the refridgerator. Instead she buys canned mixed vegetables for making the soup. For example, I like rutabagas. But her mother in W.V. never cooked rutabagas so she refuses to cook them also. It would be good in soup but there it sits, turning green.
                                                                                I have found out that you can't teach some old dogs new tricks. Throw our money into the trash and complain about the lack of money..

                                                                                1. re: dhmill

                                                                                  You mention you are retired, so are you the old dog that can be taught tricks?

                                                                                  If as you wife doesn't eat anything but bland food and refuses to eat soup with a routabaga, why not eat it yourself. Make your own food and let her make the rest for her. If she chooses to waste her food that is her problem.