This morning I’m sitting at my desk eating a rescued Panera cheese bagel and a banana while I work. I haven’t bought any groceries since Angie left for Texas on May 4th. Come to think of it, I haven’t bought groceries all month! It wasn’t my intention to skip the grocery store during the 2 weeks I’m home alone (with Caesar) but a few days in, I saw the possibility and at that point, the zero-grocery challenge was born. What can I say, I love a good challenge (and I needed something to keep my mind off Angie being gone).
I didn’t expect this to be a very challenging challenge. I knew from the start that my mom had every intention of having me over for dinner at least every other night. I also knew we had food at home. It’s not always what I want to eat but nonetheless its food. And I knew our CSA was set to start yesterday. So I felt pretty confident that I would be fed…and fed well.
There were 2 things I didn’t anticipate though – first, a major storm flooded the farm that supplies our CSA share so they had to delay the start of the season for another week. Second, my mom went back to work. The latter brought with it a delightful consequence – the ability to rescue food.
On the first day Mom returned to work, she came home with a Ziploc bag containing 3 apples, an orange, and a bunch of grapes. They were all in good shape. One of her coworkers had been cleaning out the breakroom fridge and tossed them out. She also tossed out a dozen Panera bagels. My mom brought the fruit home, telling her coworker, “Melody and Angie will kill me if I let you throw these things away!” Good job, Mom! (She’s still learning.) Mom was too late to get the bagels (though had I been there, I would most definitely have pulled the box back out of the trash).
My mom works for a large corporation. They like to buy breakfasts and lunches for their employees, especially during meetings (and they have a lot of meetings!). Sadly though, not much of the food is ever eaten. Last summer when Mom was working more often and we were camping full time, she brought home whole untouched pizzas, half eaten deli trays, full loaves of bread, and more than once, an entire fruit tray from Chick-fil-A.
Yesterday was Nurse Appreciation Day so they threw a party – with more Panera bagels. This time, Mom brought the leftovers home. She also brought a still-warm Chick-Fil-A sandwich (which I ate with a salad and baked potato for dinner). Yes, I know it’s technically fast food but that’s a battle for a different day. Today, I’ll celebrate it as a victory in reducing food waste.
We think a lot about food waste and food security around here. You might say, food waste is our passion project and it has been for a very long time. I don’t want to disparage my mom’s employer. In their field of expertise (nursing), they are superb, but when it comes to good food stewardship, they have much to learn. They are just one branch office of one company in one city and it bugs me to know that they are not the exception. We are a country of wasteful consumers.
So what can we do? The simplest answer is to buy less. If everyone bought only what they could actually eat, a lot of our food waste would end. Challenging myself to stay out of the grocery store for 2 weeks is a small sacrifice. At most, I’ll forego milk and bananas. At best, I’ll clean out the cabinet and fridge, readying them for restocking of good wholesome foods in quantities that make sense for our small family. And who knows, along the way I might rescue a bagel or two!
Do you subscribe to Amazon Prime? (If not, you can get a 30-day FREE trial here). If you do, check out Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. It’s an eye-opening documentary about a couple who spend 6 months living only on wasted food. I was blown away by the volume of food they found!
If you want to learn more about gleaning and food rescue, I encourage you to visit the Society of St Andrew. They’ve gleaned nearly 30 million servings of fresh produce this year to feed the hungry.
If you’re interested in learning ways to reduce food waste at home, consider taking the Food Steward’s Pledge.
If you happen to work for a company like my mom’s that likes to treat their employees to meals, encourage them to treat less often or give gift cards instead.