A Meltdown Over Cheese

Change is good. That’s what you hear anyway. Just Google “change quotes” and you’ll get a veritable plethora of adages on changing your life, your mind, your hairstyle, and more. Change is good, I don’t disagree, but sometimes change has some pretty undesirable consequences. Like moldy cheese.

On Monday, I had a meltdown…over cheese. I opened our little refrigerator and pulled out our deli ham and sliced cheese, only to find it covered in green mold. The same thing was true for the mozzarella. In just a little over a week, we’ve had to toss out a half gallon of milk, half a cantaloupe, a bowl of fresh peaches, 2 slices of ham, and a good 6 oz. of cheese! Now this might seem like nothing to the average person but to me, it was beyond awful.

Two years ago, I took a free class through Coursera called Sustainability of Food Systems. It was eye-opening…especially seeing the excerpts from Hungry Planet that show how much food families in countries all over the world consume in a week and the cost of that food. What most folks spend on just pre-packaged, processed snacks (like cookies and chips) each week here in America, will feed an entire family of 4 in Ecuador for a week. And the kicker – on $31.55 per week, the Equadorian family eats BETTER than we do. So does the Nicaraguan family at $75.70 per week. Just look at this picture and tell me that doesn’t look delicious.

Peter Menzel, from the book, "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.
Peter Menzel, from the book, “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

In America, 40% of our edible food is wasted. That’s not spoiled, moldy cheese…that’s good food that we just don’t feel like eating anymore. Yes, food waste is my pet peeve. After taking the Food Systems class, Angie and I took a pledge at Transition Sarasota to reduce our food waste to 10% or less. In our suburban apartment, that was an easy promise to keep. We learned to shop with intent, buying only foods that we knew we would eat. We had a monthly grocery list of stock items and a menu plan that revolved around those items. We bought fresh fruit, veggies, cheese, and eggs from the Amish market each week and turned them into all sorts of healthy meals. Never was there a time that something went to the garbage just because we were tired of eating it and very few, if any, items ever spoiled.

Tossing those deli meats and cheeses out made me consider tossing in the towel on this adventure. After all, it’s not just about seeing America. Our journey is one of sustainability, and sustainability means utilizing your resources and living on less – not running to Walmart every day for convenience foods that won’t go bad before you eat them. When we made this transition to camper life, the goal was greater simplicity but the inadvertent result has been a complication to our food system.

In a way, this food challenge has helped me better understand why it is often difficult for people to adapt to change, especially when the change goes against something they believe strongly in. We are a society that could care less about tossing half eaten meals into the garbage before heading off in search of dessert. But I strongly believe in good stewardship of all of our resources – food included. 1 out of every 6 Americans faces hunger and yet we throw away 40% of what we buy at the grocery store. You’ll never be able to convince me that’s okay. Maybe I really am too simplistic to think that one family – my family – can make any difference by choosing to eat with intent. But what if we all did??

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can cut back on wasted food, here’s a great article I found today that can help you get started: http://biobokashi.com/2013/09/18/whats-up-with-all-the-food-waste/.

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