NYT: Efficiency in the Kitchen to Reduce Food Waste

Thought this recent article in the New York Times would be relevant to our interests.



Starve a Landfill
Efficiency in the Kitchen to Reduce Food Waste


SEATTLE — The nation’s first citywide composting program based largely on shame began here in January.

City sanitation workers who find garbage cans filled with aging lettuce, leftover pizza or even the box it came in are slapping on bright red tags to inform the offending household (and, presumably, the whole neighborhood) that the city’s new composting law has been violated.

San Francisco may have been the first city to make its citizens compost food, but Seattle is the first to punish people with a fine if they don’t. In a country that loses about 31 percent of its food to waste, policies like Seattle’s are driven by environmental, social and economic pressure.

But mandated composting reflects a deeper shift in the mood of the nation’s cooks, one in which wasting food is unfashionable. Running an efficient kitchen — where bruised fruit is blended into smoothies, carrot tops are pulsed into pesto, and a juicy pork shoulder can move seamlessly from Sunday supper to Monday’s carnitas to a rich pot of broth for the freezer — is becoming as satisfying as the food itself.
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When I was pregnant with my youngest, I would shop at a more upscale grocery store after my doctor visits since it was on my way home. I loved that they would take the fruit that was aging and bruising, cut it up and make big fruit salads that they'd sell every day. It seemed to me to be a really efficient way to use aging produce and I wished my local grocery would do that too.
That does sound delightful. Around here, fruit salad tends to be pricier, with the implication that more work went into it. It's one of my more expensive indulgences from time to time. Always did like a fruit salad.

A handful of years ago, an old-fashioned fish monger nearby might have super fresh fish that didn't sell and would cook it up and turn those fillets into thick, succulent, and simple fish sandwiches (such as salmon teriyaki). AND they were cheap!

I can't get a grocery store to sell me ripe bananas. They used to reduce them and I got a huge bag for fifty cents; now I have to beg and argue with a manager to give me bananas destined for the garbage because they aren't green.They keep telling me they aren't allowed to sell those! I want a banana that's edible the day I buy it and I want to blend or bake with those that go squashy overnight, darn it.

Tell me about it! If there is a reason, even a dumb reason, why food is left to rot, instead of slightly overripe food being sold at a discount...I'd like to know. I mean, maybe it's a deal with the farm? Because when I see organics marked down, it's usually not even something my frugal and patient self will touch.

I buy organics all the time, but modestly, it's a shame when I see a pile of produce that needs to be eaten TODAY or yesterday; produce that could still be nice in other forms and I'd happily make use of, but I'm not paying top dollar for it.
How bizarre. I prefer to eat near-green bananas for the taste but dammit, you can't make banana bread with those! During my last grocery shop I did notice that all the bananas were super green, but I figured it was just stocking day. I'll have to see if any browning bananas are there next time.

Wegmans reduces its prepared meats when it's within a day or two of sell-by date. Unfortunately I'm so squeamish about bad meat (I had an experience) that I can't bring myself to buy them.
That's a very good reason to be squeemish.

I have a family member who can't stand spots on her banana, but I like a good freckling.
I will buy reduced-price meat if it's a roast or something else in a large chunk that will be cooked thoroughly. But not hamburger or "stew meat" which is heaven knows what...nope. The more cut surfaces it has, the less likely it is not to kill me. :D
I recommend cutting broccoli stems into thin cross-sections. They have interesting shapes and stir fry up nicely.
Broccoli stems are awesome, the day my mother introduced me to the fact that you can eat them...nary a one made it into any dish other than my mouth. I bet they would work well in a stir fry if I could ever resist them!
IMO, and from my dumpster diving experience, it isn't individual households who are to blame but large chain (and even small local 'health food' stores) who are the ones tossing TONS of food out. Aldi was the place we went to most often to dumpster dive for produce.

Edited at 2015-03-12 02:54 am (UTC)
How does Seattle deal with composting for apartment dwellers? I live on the second floor so it's not even like I could take over a corner of the landscaping for a compost.

Wasting less in the kitchen is just smart economics, said Dana Gunders, a project scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council whose book, “Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook,” comes out in May.

“So much home kitchen waste is from people shopping from a recipe,” she [not Gunders] said. “Someone will use that weird curry paste once and then won’t have the confidence to think: ‘Hey, this curry paste is really good. I’m going to make some fried rice with it or sauté some shrimp.’ ”


Damn, she beat me to it! I've always wanted to write (or buy!) a "whole food" cookbook - where you use ALL of whatever ingredient, or if not, you can save the other part for another recipe in the book. Most of the recipes I cook with are no-waste or have easily freeze-able portions for later.
In San Francisco we got to having compost bins and they are picked up along with the recyclable pin and the regular garbage. The scraps are given to the Napa Valley to make wine and some higher-ups get to take cushy trips there (unlike the Garbage Collectors who are up before the crack of dawn). However, at least it gets used.

Another alternative, someone else told me though I still haven't discovered if it's possible for myself, is to give the scraps to a community garden. I really love the Alice Waters idea of schools with gardens for example or at least the waste going back into the community to benefit us.

A third notion is that if you have a place to store your own garbage bin then you can make the compost for yourself. There are crops that will grow in a garbage pail (such as potatoes) and one can keep small gardens in window boxes, if you're feeling adventurous.

Edited at 2015-03-12 06:07 am (UTC)
Aha, thanks for the info. I wonder how long that will take to come to my mid-sized city. My town started municipal recycling in like 1991, so they're pretty progressive. It was a shock to go to college in Ohio years later and see people throw paper and cans in the garbage!

I know of at least one community garden downtown, I'll have to call and see if they compost and accept scraps.

I do have a balcony on which I attempt to container garden in the summer. I mostly do herbs but I've had limited success with cherry tomatoes. Would a container compost stink? My apartment is west facing and gets full sun from noon onwards. I did use my coffee grounds for a while.

Edited at 2015-03-12 06:14 am (UTC)
I honestly don't want to misrepresent the idea and only understand a cursory amount of knowledge. In short, I'm not sure, and would encourage you to do some fun research.

Here's one vid on youtube for example:

Back in the wacko 1970s, my elderly grandmother, whose house had no garbage disposal, had a tiny garbage bin on the countertop for wet/sludgy food scraps. It even had tiny plastic garbage bags--I think it was a Hefty product. Of course, this was the 1970s and that garbage got pitched, but it would seem to me that a small bin in an apartment would work if the city were collecting it.
In San Francisco, they did provide us with tiny buckets actually. I still have it. I choose to just use the bag which I keep in the fridge because that mess caused fruit fly infestations and another person clued me into that method or I probably would've given up.