Why You Should Keep A Food Waste Log

Food waste is a bigger problem than many people realize. An apple core or leftover slice of pizza thrown away here or there doesn’t seem to be too big of a deal. However, all of that food adds up. 

The average household throws away about 32% of the food that it buys, according to the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. That roughly translates to about $1,500 wasted each year for a family of four, not to mention the larger environmental effects when all of that food winds up in landfills and releases harmful methane emissions. 

Of course, reducing food waste starts with only buying as much food as you know you will eat each week, but that can be easier said than done. Another useful strategy is keeping a food waste log. 

You can attach this log to your refrigerator or put it on your kitchen counter. Every time you throw something away, you note what you threw away, why you threw it away and how much it may have cost. 

Ideally, over time, you can become more aware of how much food you’re throwing away and hopefully take steps to fix it. 

To reduce food waste, you should also make sure that you’re storing your food smartly so as to keep it fresh for the maximum amount of time possible. For example, you should remove the green tops of your carrots when storing them since these tops tend to suck the moisture from the carrot. Or, as another example, you should store celery in foil, not plastic, so as to keep it crisp for longer.

Check out this food saver cheat sheet with storage tips for more than 20 common foods. 

Finally, you should think about the “best by” dates on the products you buy from the store. In the vast majority of cases, these dates are simply suggestions, not requirements. That means that you can eat many foods past their listed dates. 

For example, ketchup and mustard often last six months to a year past their stated expiration dates. Meanwhile, peanut butter can last up to eight months past its listed date, and yogurt can last up to three weeks past its date. Attach this printable resource to your refrigerator to remind yourself of how long common foods last. 

According to the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, even the least wasteful American households throw away 9% of their food. Reduce your waste with these printable food waste resources

Today’s post was provided to us by Matthew Zdun. This is not a paid post, as we are always happy to share great content from a variety of sources. If you have a post you’d like to share, please reach out to us at minimalistsnextdoor@gmail.com. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy these great printables as much as we do. 

The Universe Gave Us Garbage (and We Like It!)

Call me silly, but I have this belief that if you want something and you’re meant to have it, all you have to do is “put it out to the Universe” and 99% of the time, you’ll find it. I have done this so many times that I know there’s some truth to it, and from what I’ve seen, other folks find it true too.

I’m a huge fan of Anne-Marie at Zero Waste Chef and always marvel at the things she finds on her walks around the neighborhood. Just the other day, she needed an iron for a class she was teaching and poof! an iron appeared on the sidewalk. A few years back, she found a cast iron dutch oven.

Over the past month, we’ve had a few things on our wish list – things that we didn’t want to buy new but definitely had a use for. The biggest thing on our wish list was canning jars. With all our canning this summer, we ran out of jars! And if you’ve ever priced them in the store, you can’t help but wonder – when did food preservation turn into a hobby?? And an expensive one at that!

For weeks, Angie diligently scoured Marketplace almost every day for a good deal on jars, while also rummaging through the recycling bins on Mondays. This landed us 33 awesome Ball canning jars – most of which had been used as candle holders in a wedding. We paid $10 for 30 and found the other 3. The bonus on these jars was that they still had the candles inside and jute twine wrapped around their tops. We rolled the twine into a ball to use in the garden next summer.

On Saturday, on a whim, we decided to stop at a yard sale on our way home from my mom’s house. It was getting late in the afternoon and we only had $2 in our pocket (and a handful of change in the cup holder of our car) but we thought, what the heck, it can’t hurt to look. Thank goodness we did, because we hit the jar lottery! The lady hosting the sale had 2 boxes of jelly jars, pints, and quarts for $1 a box. She also had a sweet little Fire King 8” pie plate (another item on my wish list) for a quarter.

I can clearly see a pumpkin pie in our future.

When we got home, we found that not only had we had bought 36 canning jars for $2, but some of them were vintage.

Now I realize, the Universe did not provide all these jars free of charge, at least not directly, but I did find the quarter that I used to purchase the pie plate in the parking lot at Aldi that very same day. What the Universe did provide though was the 16 pounds of red, ripe strawberries that we used to make jam in those jars.

We found these in the dumpster, of course, and out of the 16 cartons, only 7 strawberries were bad.

We had a similar score with sweet potatoes a few days before. All of us (my mom included) had been hungry for a sweet potato (being Fall and all) but the Farmer’s Market has been slim on them this year. I’m pretty sure there’s about 20 pounds of sweet potatoes in this photo. Courtesy of the Universe (via the dumpster).

For anyone new here, you may at this point, be appalled, either by the fact that so much good food gets tossed in the dumpster or that we go in after it. Rest assured, we stand firmly with you on the first one and encourage you to read this and this for more info on the second one.

Another item on our wish list was “something to put our indoor planters on”. One afternoon, as I was heading out, I saw a blue-topped console table just sitting by the dumpster in our apartment complex. It was just the right shape and size for our small apartment, so we cleaned it and tightened it up, and now this “garbage” has new life as a plant stand.

And those planters that you see – they are made from milk cartons – from the recycling bin.

This one too.

We found it and another just like it, sitting by recycling. The price tags were still on them and no dirt had ever touched them. (By the way, I had also asked the Universe for a terra cotta pot to try making a grill sometime prior to this find. The grill is still a work in progress.)

Of course, every gift we receive this way is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we are completely grateful to find something that saves us money or provides for a need that we (or others close to us) may have. But on the other hand, it doesn’t go unnoticed that these things were in the trash and if we hadn’t come along, that’s where they would still be. We can’t rescue everything. Even with our mini army of fellow dumpster divers, tons and tons of good stuff goes to landfill every single day.

Though I do encourage you to try asking the Universe for things you might need, the bigger thing that I want to encourage you to do today is to be a good steward of our environment and a helping hand to others. Buy only what you need. Donate your unwanted items to a non-profit thrift store or homeless shelter. Our shelter even takes food that is still in date and hasn’t been opened (and fresh produce from the garden). Check with friends, family, and neighbors before tossing something out, post it for free on Marketplace or FreeCycle, or in a pinch, sit in by the curb with a sign that says free (or course, if no one picks it up, please remove it in a timely fashion).

And if you want something – particularly things that are prone to being trashed, like furniture, household goods, plastic totes, containers, flower pots, and more – don’t be afraid to do a little curbside shopping first before hitting the retail stores.