I like to shop on Saturdays. In an ideal world, the fridge is cleaned out Saturday morning, a list is made, and before the end of the day we are set up with supplies and a meal plan for the week. I don’t always get to the purge, however, and if I miss a week, the following week presents with something that might look like this:


Throwing out this much food makes me feel guilty. I was part of the generation that grew up hearing, “Someone is starving in India!” and “Waste not want not”. Back then, I used to say (inside my head), “Great-send these mashed potatoes to India because I am sick of mashed potatoes!”

Then, I couldn’t conceive of a world where “starving” literally meant that someone did not have enough food to keep them alive. Now, these old thoughts run through my head and I know that it’s true; someone is hungry. Many are hungry. They probably live a lot closer than India and if I had not cooked a couple of meals that I cooked, replacing them instead with leftovers, I would have less waste (and more time and money).

I read a story a few months ago and every time I throw away food I think of it. It was about an 11-year old refugee living in a camp. She was in charge of securing food for her brother and father because her mom was not there to do it. She went daily to an area where people consumed their meals and collected bread crumbs from the ground. One of the comments she made to the reporter was that, “People are so wasteful.”. And she didn’t mean me. I doubt she could have conceived of a waste as great as mine. She meant the other refugees. The ones who allowed bread crumbs to fall to the ground. What would she think if she saw the amount of food I threw out?

I started this post almost a year ago and left it languishing in my draft pile. More leftovers. I never posted it because I felt ashamed of the amount of food we were wasting when there are people like that little girl scouring the ground for crumbs. I vowed to do better; shop more often, buy less, use it up. I’ve curbed our food waste over the last year. My goal this year is to curb our “stuff” waste. You know what I mean, right? All the stuff we did buy or want to buy that we don’t need. What do you do to avoid waste? What do you do to avoid temptation?

Chicken out


  16 comments for “Left

  1. Anonymous
    November 9, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    This is something I struggle with, as well. Food waste – guilty. Very guilty. And while I’m standing in the bathroom, letting the water run until it warms up because my teeth are more sensitive to cold these days, I think of eleven year old girls walking ten miles a day to fill a single battered jug with muddy water, I am ashamed by how they would see me. How shocked to the core they would be by the pristine clean water swirling away unused. We are so spoiled.


    • November 9, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Hi! Yes, I think of that, too, when I’m washing dishes or letting the water run to get rid of the brain-eating bacteria that I’m afraid might be lurking in my pipes. How did we get so lucky and others so unlucky?


  2. November 9, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    What a sensitive topic. We do the same Saturday purge here, except there is little to purge. Little Miss Cookerer makes one chicken breast, one potato and a bunch of asparagus or spinach or something feed the two of us. She is a demon about her utensils, which she loves. The steel (?) pans are cleaned and put wet onto the stove burners to air dry. And knives! Stand aside. Never put one in the dishwasher. Wash, towel dry and put back in the rack.
    I find the things I’ve bought for her kitchen, on a whim, sit unused in the bottom cupboards. The crock pot, for instance. I just feel like a hanger on these days. Though, I did buy underseat baggage for our Christmas flight to Milwaukee. Laura has never been on a plane.


    • November 9, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      I wish I had a Little Miss Cookerer:-) I am equally conscientious about my pans and knives although I have not had them sharpened since I was a banquet cook and the hotel used to do it for me. That was a very long time ago so my knives are all dull. It’s on the list of things to do. Part of my problem is there are four of us and we rarely eat at the same time. TWLITB works varying hours and eats on his breaks when he can get home, BigB often skips dinner, but he’ll eat leftovers for lunch if there are any, and littleb never eats as much as I think he will. I have had to learn to be a better judge of portion size. I’ve been on a plane but never to Milwaukee. Hope Laura enjoys the experience.


  3. November 9, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    I hate throwing out food (because I’m frugal, not so much because of guilt), but we do pretty well at eating the leftovers. I love leftovers, but only for another meal or so, for health reasons (histamine/gut issues). Then whatever’s left gets tossed. So I try not to cook more than the two of us will eat within two meals. Watched a documentary called “Just Eat It” within the past year, on the subject of food waste. I think you can see the whole thing on YouTube now. Very eye-opening.


  4. jenny_o
    November 9, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    Oh, the guilt . . . I’ve come to a place of accepting that me feeling guilty won’t help anyone else unless I do something about whatever is causing the guilt. If it’s caused just from being born lucky, I can’t help that, but I can help food waste, so I try to. The best two tips I ever learned were: (1) look in the fridge before deciding on a meal because my little brain can’t remember the leftovers in there without a visual reminder (2) if I’m buying for a week, leave out one day’s worth of meat and vegetables, because there is ALWAYS something that comes up at least one day out of seven, either an emergency that scuppers my plan, or a Very Tired Day that ends up with take out or scrambled eggs and toast, etc.

    A third and lesser tip is to freeze small portions before they are hopeless. And use them up while you still remember they’re in the freezer. Don’t save them for “emergencies” because by then they’ll be buried under other stuff and you’ll just end up throwing them out later rather than sooner. Once I stopped thinking of my freezer as long-term storage and started thinking of it as a suspended state of animation I used a lot more stuff from it 🙂


    • November 10, 2017 at 12:17 am

      Hi Jenny-thank you for the tips. I do skip planning for one night for the same reason you mentioned, but I have a habit of not looking in the fridge before running out to the store to pick up something else (something I’m craving if I’m being honest). I do not freeze things, however, and I love this idea. I will start doing that.


  5. Doug in Oakland
    November 9, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    John Oliver did a long segment on food waste. It was pretty good:

    Having been hungry a time or two, I am especially sensitive to throwing out the edible. Some times it can’t be avoided, but I’m pretty careful about it.
    When I used to work in restaurants, I was appalled at the food that was thrown away. At one restaurant in Eureka, we had a salad bar that generated pounds and pounds of waste daily, so we made a deal with a pig farmer to feed a bunch of it to his pigs, but still a lot was thrown away.
    When I worked at the natural foods distributor I talked about yesterday, I was responsible for inventory, so I spent a lot of time checking sell by dates to get the oldest stuff out first. You have to try to give the businesses who buy from you a realistic amount of time to sell the food, so anything that gets too close (say within a week) isn’t usable in your main stock and has to be sold as a special at a discount with the date clearly marked on the box.
    If your buyer and inventory person are good at their jobs, that doesn’t happen much, but mistakes do get made.
    Companies who make the food have rules for dealing with it should the date be passed, and some of them really burnt my duck. Like all of the chip makers demanded that each bag thrown away had to be cut open so no-one would pull it out of the dumpster and sell it. It really sucked having to pull bag after bag of Kettle Chips out of the case, slash it with a box cutter, and throw it in the dumpster.
    We tried to donate the expired food to the Richmond Rescue Mission, but they only came around twice a year, and by then a lot of it wasn’t edible any more.
    Then we got bought by a different family when the founders of the company retired, and they never did figure out the buyer job, and things started expiring. Every Friday I would take that week’s expired stock, and put it on a pallet with a label. After there were twenty or so pallets of the stuff and it was getting in the way of our regular stock, we managed to donate about a third of it, and threw the rest away.
    By then, I didn’t have much of a food bill, and ate almost exclusively expired stock from work, but that didn’t really make a dent in the waste we generated.
    These days I have a standard grocery list and just replace stuff as we run out, but that means I cook the same things over and over, and that gets boring, so I’m trying to fix some different things now and then. We were going to try a spaghetti squash a few days ago, but it turned out to be something else, probably a misshapen butternut. It wasn’t bad, but now I’m still curious about the spaghetti squash…


    • jenny_o
      November 10, 2017 at 12:22 am

      That is an excellent John Oliver piece – thanks, Doug. He’s my favourite of the crew 🙂


    • November 10, 2017 at 12:43 am

      Hi Doug-before I forget-I eat spaghetti squash ALL the time. It’s a great vehicle for sauces you’d ordinarily put on rice or pasta. Around here it’s mostly for the sauce and meatballs I make every Sunday. I eat mine with the squash and I love it. But I’m going to try using it with stir fry veggies because I’ll bet that’s good, too. I cut mine in half, put it cut side down on a pan, cover it with tinfoil and bake it a half hour at 350. Then I let it sit for a little bit and then scrape a fork across the insides to make the strands. It’s awesome. But back to waste-I work in a hotel-we throw a lot of stuff away. And I used to volunteer at the food bank. They can’t use anything expired so we threw anything expired away. I just read, though, that canned goods are typically good way past the expiration date. Sad. I was reading about canned good expiration dates because I wanted to make a recipe for skinny bean salad that I found on Paulette’s blog but my chickpeas expired last month. I used them anyway. It was an excellent bean salad:-)


      • Doug in Oakland
        November 10, 2017 at 8:51 pm

        The recipe I got for spaghetti squash online was for some sauteed veggies and garlic mixed in with the strands from the squash. It looked yummy.


      • November 10, 2017 at 10:22 pm

        It sounds yummy, too. I’m going to try something like that.


    • November 10, 2017 at 1:21 am

      Wow Doug=that was a good segment. I wonder if it is the same one Paulette mentioned


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