This week I put myself on a $40 grocery challenge for the week to save what little money I can. Initially, my eyes were properly opened to the amount of food I have in my kitchen, even though I’ve been actively whittling it down because there’s no good reason one person should have as much food as I do.
I am in the habit of buying two of something if it’s on sale for half price, which is something the grocery stores routinely do lately. I also purchase back-up items, sometimes well before the item in use is going to run out – I hate running out of things. I have definitely been purchasing less food and working through what I have, but when staring into my fridge, pantry and drawers figuring out how to make it last given my tight budget, I was surprised. Apart from fruit and vegetables, I could probably eat for two to three weeks easily (maybe not gourmet, and maybe lots of rice with sauce, but still, it’s food that will keep me alive).
Six days into this challenge, I sat down today to write a list around my remaining $23.35 for the week and the food I have. I realised I had even more food I had forgotten about, even in my tiny fridge it seems impossible to lose anything in, and my surprise grew. Not only about what I can fit and forget about in my fridge, but that I would have eventually wasted cucumbers, a bunch of eschallots, sun dried tomatoes, a carrot, half a kilo of grapes, probably the opened tofu, coconut yoghurt, and that’s just what I’m using up today.
I’m literally watching a news story now as I write, on the drought and famine in East Africa, and I am gutted that I am so privileged and complacent that at 37 years old this is the first time I’ve really taken stock. Really had a hard look in my fridge and pantry and make a concerted effort to use every single thing up so as not to waste it. And to think I’ve done this because I’m doing a little challenge to save money when these people have nothing. I’m watching an interview with a mother of six in East Africa who has lost one child and may lose another to famine related illness. The whole family share two handfuls of rice each day. I was proud of how much food I used up today but now I’m ashamed I’ve let so much go to waste for so long.
People of my generation and older particularly grew up hearing “waste not want not”, and “if you don’t want your dinner we’ll give it to a starving child in Africa then!”, and with no real frame of reference it meant nothing really.
This has been a real wake up call and I am committing to spending two days per week ensuring I am working my menu plans around wasting as little as possible. Nothing if possible.
This blog post started out as a light-hearted acknowledgement of my oversight of wastage, and as the timely news story ran while I wrote, this post is now a revelation of life changing perspective. I will obviously save the money I need to be saving if I’m not spending it on food I waste, but now it’s not the most important reason to do it. I no longer want to be so arrogant as to waste, when others are starving.
I think I will do a post once a month or so, giving a round-up of how I have avoided waste that month. A good way to remember this lesson, and not let it fade away as a phase.
Have you ever really taken considered stock of your food waste?