Monday, January 16, 2012

Taking Steps Towards Change

A few weeks ago, before doing some grocery shopping, I took on the task of cleaning out the refrigerator and cupboards.  It had been some time since I had last tackled that job and there was definitely a need.

I was so disappointed, once again, to find spoiled and rotten food tucked far into the shelves and drawers.  I say “again” because this has been something I have struggled with for so long.

Wasting food bothers me for many reasons. My husband works hard to bring in an income and letting food spoil in the refrigerator is like tossing dollar bills out the window.

Even more than that, though, is the realization that there are children that we love that may just get one good meal a day.

I think of stories I have read about families who sometimes have to eat food found discarded at the dump.

(Photo Credit: Compassion International.  Entire story can be seen here.)

I remember when we received a “Step Into Your Child’s World” brochure for our child in Burkina Faso.  One picture in the literature really affected my daughters.

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While I knew this to be the reality for many in this world, seeing it in print was a jolt to Kaya’s heart, especially. For a while, this image prompted us to be very thankful for all the food provided for us, but in time we let things slip again.

The pile of rotten food that had gone to waste in our fridge a few weeks ago, was a wake up call that the problem had come back with a vengeance.  My heart was saddened and I was inspired to focus on this issue and make a change!

Making changes takes deliberate steps.  Over the last few weeks, I have been mindful to look for ways to use up food before it goes to waste.

  • When I found a bag of veggie chips a bag of Veggie Booty in the cupboard that had been left open and had gone stale, I poured the contents out onto a cookie sheet. A few minutes in the oven at 300 degrees and the snacks were brought back to their former crispy glory.
  • I made the bag clips easily accessible by putting them in the cupboard where bagged snacks are stored and reminded my girls to properly close things up when finished.
  • Grapes that were starting to get a little squishy were put in the freezer. Frozen grapes are a tasty treat and freezing them stops them from going bad!
  • Crackers that had gotten a bit soft were crushed and put into the next batch of vegetarian meatloaf. Ziplock bags were put in the cracker cupboard and everyone has been encouraged to put opened sleeves of cracker in a zip-lock before putting it away.
  • A head of broccoli that had started to turn yellowish on the tips was not thrown into the compost pile.  Instead, I got brave and steamed it up.  I ate it for lunch one day…. and I survived.  I say that tongue in cheek, but I learned that some things can still be eaten safely even if it seems to be not so fresh.
  • I’ve started to anticipate snack time for my girls.  Instead of waiting until they ramble into the kitchen and declare their hunger (in which case they would likely grab a bag of pretzels or sleeve of crackers and some hummus), I have been thinking ahead. Preparing a plate of cut up veggies and fruit before snack time means we’re using up some of the more perishable foods before they have a chance to go bad.
  • I’ve been keeping track of what is in our fridge and making an effort to use up leftovers a day or so later at lunchtime.  Taking stock of our available produce, the items most likely to go bad before we use it, and planning upcoming meals based on what needs to be used first has been helpful.
  • Instead of just going shopping weekly because that is our usual routine, I completely skipped the grocery store last week. Yes, we have had to be creative when some of our usual staples have run out, but we still have a lot of options for meals and snacks, using what is left.

Looking through a photo essay titled What The World Eats is truly eye-opening, especially by the time you get to the third picture. When we have the feeling that our food supply is getting low, we still have SO much more than the family in Chad. I am reminded of what I observed in the book What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets, which confirmed what I knew all along.

We are blessed for the provisions that we have. Our cast-off stale chips and slightly yellowed broccoli would be considered a wonderful find by some around the world.

I am inspired to keep my focus on being a better steward of what we have. I hope to continue to implement these small steps into our daily life and work harder to avoid being wasteful.

Do you have any tips to share with me and with the BFTB readers?  If so, please share them in the comments below!

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