Overwhelmed with Food [Waste]

At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing…

I’m sure you know how that statement is going to end. Often in life we endeavor to do something we think is good or right, only to have it end up backfiring on us. That’s what happened to me this week with food.

My uncle and his kids are in town. Still bored, in case you were wondering – even though they went to the Grand Ole Opry and the Wilson County Fair. But before I fall down that rabbit hole, let me get back to the subject at hand – food.

As my relatives were coming into town on Thursday, they stopped at a BBQ restaurant to pick up a family meal to bring over for lunch. The meal consisted of a whole chicken, several sides, and bread. When I arrived that afternoon, my mom had packed up the remnants of the meal for me to take home. She knows how I feel about food waste and had at some point told my uncle if there was anything they weren’t going to eat, save it for me.

Now, as a general rule, we don’t eat meat. On occasion, we make an exception, when not doing so would hurt someone’s feelings (particularly my mom, who has a very hard time standing at the stove and every effort she makes to cook, is done with love) or when the meat is raised by someone we know. However, I thought – no harm in taking this leftover chicken. I can make a pot pie and freeze it for the next time our niece comes over. So, I put the chicken in the fridge to deal with later.

The next day, I came home with half of a leftover pizza – with meat and enough cheese to cover 10 of our homemade pizzas!

The following day, a handful of pizza rolls and chicken tenders, a spoonful of mac ‘n cheese, 2 sausage patties, 3 stale donuts, a cup of fresh corn and ¾ of a canary melon.

And yesterday, a seriously half-eaten ham sandwich, slathering in mayo. What on Earth am I supposed to do with that?

For a while, our refrigerator looked like a dumpster. I wish I’d had the forethought to take a picture, but I was too busy agonizing over what to do with all the food.

One the one hand – I didn’t want to waste it. There’s already enough food in our landfills creating ozone-depleting gases and I certainly don’t want to add to it. On the other hand, if I were to eat this stuff, I’d be sick – physically sick and sick with myself for putting things into my body that aren’t good for me. It took nearly 3 years to embrace a mostly plant-based diet and frankly, I don’t want to go back. Call me crazy – most of my family does – but I don’t want to eat processed foods or fast foods that sap me of my energy, clog my arteries, and fill my body with chemicals.

I even tried to find a happy medium. I pulled the meat off the pizza and heated some of it in the oven for lunch one day. The grease bubbled up like lava and yet I tried to choke back a few bites, but I just couldn’t do it. You may think this is silly, but I literally felt my heart sink as I tossed the pizza in the trash – along with its Styrofoam container (which could be a whole other blog post in itself).

In the end, I decided that this was not my waste. I did not buy it. I did not create it. I cannot feel responsible for it. It doesn’t matter that these folks are my family, it’s no different than a stranger handing me half of a Big Mac. I wouldn’t even hesitate before throwing that away. It’s ridiculous to think that the solution to ending food waste is to simply have someone else eat all the things that other people don’t want. Yet, that’s kind of what I was doing…

I ate the corn and since I’m not a fan of canary melons, I made a video on what I did with it (which will be posted to our YouTube channel later today). I threw away the rest of the food – even the chicken. And I have no regrets.

The way to end food waste is to take responsibility for our own actions – to not buy things that we aren’t going to eat, to practice portion control, and plan meals. We can educate others, but we can’t take responsibility for their choices.