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Limiting wasteful practices.

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the food waste in my house. My spouse is frequently overbuying/overpreparing/overserving, without thought to what's really required, or how long things last. I figure we throw out about 15% of our food.

As a small consolation, at least we compost, but that's no help to the package of chicken breasts that we threw out today - They were prematurely thawed, and then neglected until spoilage.

My spouse seems minimally concerned, and they appear to accept this as inevitable, but I generally see it as unnecessary, and avoidable with a bit of mindfulness. In general, they're living in the moment, and not planning meals ahead, or considering how much is needed, when.

There's two challenges here:

1) Getting them to acknowledge the problem, as well as getting their willingness to work towards a solution.

2) Determining what the solution is. A book is probably too much effort to ask... Something like an article, or a tip sheet, or a workshop may be more amenable to them.


Does anyone here have any suggestions?
post #2 of 31
Maybe he/she should be the one paying for all the food?

Is there any way you could actually measure how much food you're wasting and why? Maybe keep a journal of it for a few weeks, then look it over with your spouse and talk about it.
post #3 of 31
Hmmm. I would try to frame the issue in a way that your partner will respond to. If s/he likes to save money, you can say "How can we save more on food?" or "How can we reduce our grocery bill?" or "I just realized we threw out $x on food last week. Wow - that's a [insert item that costs about that]." You could also say that it means you or s/he worked x hours for the privilege of throwing it away. If s/he is environmentally focused, try approaching it from the angle of wasting food means you waste resources. The money angle is probably your best bet (because who couldn't stand to stop throwing away money??) but you'll have to think about what approach is going to speak to him/her the loudest.

You could also, simply, take over. If you have a plan for meals for the week and your partner sees that following it is important to you, s/he is more likely to support you and help you follow through. This means that you also have to stay strong and if you have thawed chicken, when temptation strikes and your partner wants to go to Taco Bell you have to say no, I'd rather have x. Even if a taco sounds really good.
post #4 of 31
I totally agree with the above poster - you need to frame it in a way that is important to your partner. It sounds like some meal planning would help with this problem. Personally, I found that planning meals, although it takes a little time and effort on the weekends, really pays off. In addition to the reasons above, there is the convenience of knowing what's for dinner ahead of time, and the reduced stress of not having to try and come up with something at the last minute or run to the store to get missing ingredients.

Also, I would think about how you can help. I noticed you used negative (even blaming) lanuage in your post such as "without thought" and "neglected". Perhaps your spouse is instead overwhelmed or unsure. It's a small shift in your way of thinking, but I think it makes a difference.
post #5 of 31
when we meal plan, almost nothing is wasted. when we don't, things go bad in the fridge. if i have a meal plan i know that on day 1 i soak the beans, day 2 i cook them and we have burritos, day 3 the leftovers are thrown into a pot for black bean soup and i start the soybeans cooking, day 4 i make tofu and we have that for dinner, day 5 we eat okara because i have a mountain of it from making tofu, day 6 we eat lentils... you get the idea. i try to dovetail meals so everything gets used and never eat a sandwich for lunch when there are leftovers in the fridge.
post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ola_ View Post
Also, I would think about how you can help. I noticed you used negative (even blaming) lanuage in your post such as "without thought" and "neglected". Perhaps your spouse is instead overwhelmed or unsure. It's a small shift in your way of thinking, but I think it makes a difference.
Spouse is overwhelmed and unsure, but acnknowledges neither that the problem exists, or that there could be a better way. To them, this just... "Happens".

As for blaming language.. I see how this can be improved upon, but am not sure how. The thinking is willing to shift, if you can show me the way...
post #7 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legless View Post
Spouse is overwhelmed and unsure, but acnknowledges neither that the problem exists, or that there could be a better way. To them, this just... "Happens".
Then you should take over food preparation.
post #8 of 31
I wanted to post something like this, too; only I AM the one who takes care of all our food. It actually WOULD help me to have more help from DH; but he buys "convenience" food and I just can't accept that.

My big problem is the farmers' market is only once per week and I try to buy everything for the week there. I will be looking into meal planning, too.

Today I threw out enough chicken and cooked spaghetti to have made a chicken casserole--all organic, too. We compost, too, but boy could we use to save on food! Dh's solution is to increase the food budget, but we don't have to! Waste would more than take care of it.

The first thing I did do a couple of weeks ago was do a "scrap meal" every week. I am a total gourmet-whole-foods cook, who does everything from scratch and spends hours poring over food magazines to "plan" our meals, so I didn't think I could bear to do this. But it worked and it's fun! I am taking first steps to deal with this. We are frugal in so many other ways.

The shame I've felt over this has been incredible. I KNOW how awful it is to waste food. I hope others chime in on this, too.
post #9 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wannabe View Post
Then you should take over food preparation.
Do you think this is helpful/clever/funny?
post #10 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by carfreemama View Post
I wanted to post something like this, too; only I AM the one who takes care of all our food. It actually WOULD help me to have more help from DH; but he buys "convenience" food and I just can't accept that.

My big problem is the farmers' market is only once per week and I try to buy everything for the week there. I will be looking into meal planning, too.

Today I threw out enough chicken and cooked spaghetti to have made a chicken casserole--all organic, too. We compost, too, but boy could we use to save on food! Dh's solution is to increase the food budget, but we don't have to! Waste would more than take care of it.

The first thing I did do a couple of weeks ago was do a "scrap meal" every week. I am a total gourmet-whole-foods cook, who does everything from scratch and spends hours poring over food magazines to "plan" our meals, so I didn't think I could bear to do this. But it worked and it's fun! I am taking first steps to deal with this. We are frugal in so many other ways.

The shame I've felt over this has been incredible. I KNOW how awful it is to waste food. I hope others chime in on this, too.
That really sucks - What I don't get is why food gets wasted if you have control over purchase/preparation/serving? Is it because your husband is pre-empting your meals by showing up with a pizza?

Don't be hard on yourself - It really sounds like you've pulled out the stops to minimize waste. It's unfortunate your husband isn't working with you on this.
post #11 of 31
I don't know if this is helpful or not, but just in case, here it is -

When I was growing up, we had a (frozen) pizza/leftovers night. Everyone was allowed to have one slice of pizza, but if you wanted a second slice of pizza, you first had to consume an approved amount of leftovers. Made leftovers a lot less of a drag. And if you really didn't like any of the available leftovers, you could just have your one slice and hope that it filled you enough.

Can you freeze the leftovers if you expect you won't use it soon enough? Can you plan on going through the fridge every other day and freezing whatever only has a day left in it's lifespan?

Aven
post #12 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by avendesora View Post
I don't know if this is helpful or not, but just in case, here it is -

When I was growing up, we had a (frozen) pizza/leftovers night. Everyone was allowed to have one slice of pizza, but if you wanted a second slice of pizza, you first had to consume an approved amount of leftovers. Made leftovers a lot less of a drag. And if you really didn't like any of the available leftovers, you could just have your one slice and hope that it filled you enough.

Can you freeze the leftovers if you expect you won't use it soon enough? Can you plan on going through the fridge every other day and freezing whatever only has a day left in it's lifespan?

Aven
Funny idea on the Pizza. For us, though, the problem isn't with people eating leftovers, it's that they never get served, and usually rot in the fridge while a newly-cooked meal is served.

Freezing doesn't help much, as leftovers in the freezer are generally ignored until we run out of room for newly purchased food, in which case we do a sweep, and throw a bunch out.

I think the largest challenge is the mindfulness of my SO - That being said, I'm still hoping someone can suggest a silver-bullet technique that can make it all clear and easy for them.

It''s a real bummer to go to work, earning my families food, and them come home and see so much of it needlessly thrown out.
post #13 of 31

I agree...

Quote:
Originally Posted by wannabe View Post
Then you should take over food preparation.
Show how you can improve upon it and see what happens.

Good luck.
post #14 of 31

Hmm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legless View Post
Funny idea on the Pizza. For us, though, the problem isn't with people eating leftovers, it's that they never get served, and usually rot in the fridge while a newly-cooked meal is served.

Freezing doesn't help much, as leftovers in the fridge are generally ignored until we run out of room for newly purchased food, in which case we do a sweep, and throw a bunch out.

I think the largest challenge is the mindfulness of my SO - That being said, I'm still hoping someone can suggest a silver-bullet technique that can make it all clear and easy for them.

It''s a real bummer to go to work, earning my families food, and them come home and see so much of it needlessly thrown out.
So, are you saying that you are not being appreciated?
post #15 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legless View Post
Funny idea on the Pizza. For us, though, the problem isn't with people eating leftovers, it's that they never get served, and usually rot in the fridge while a newly-cooked meal is served.

Freezing doesn't help much, as leftovers in the fridge are generally ignored until we run out of room for newly purchased food, in which case we do a sweep, and throw a bunch out.

I think the largest challenge is the mindfulness of my SO - That being said, I'm still hoping someone can suggest a silver-bullet technique that can make it all clear and easy for them.

It''s a real bummer to go to work, earning my families food, and them come home and see so much of it needlessly thrown out.
Story of our life. And we both hate it. Still happens. We just don't spend enough time at home to consistently eat it. Between work, school, relatives, hobbies, etc....if we're at home, we're either on the way out the door or we're sleeping.

I actually believe it would be cheaper to eat out all the time instead of shopping. But I'm scared to do that....it's too much junk food.
post #16 of 31
can you work together to meal plan for the week? We write a menu, I go grocery shopping and then we cook off the list. I write roast one night, leftovers next night. How about taking the leftovers for lunch? That's how we get rid of them in our house.
post #17 of 31
Take the leftovers to work for lunch. Problem solved. I wouldn't know what to eat for my lunch if I don't have any leftovers. I usually eat lunch at home alone and would like a balanced meal. But I definitely don't want to cook up a pot of stirfry or roast a chicken for my lunch, eh? An extra piece of chicken and some veggies from the night before would be so much easier.
post #18 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Legless View Post
Funny idea on the Pizza. For us, though, the problem isn't with people eating leftovers, it's that they never get served, and usually rot in the fridge while a newly-cooked meal is served.

Freezing doesn't help much, as leftovers in the freezer are generally ignored until we run out of room for newly purchased food, in which case we do a sweep, and throw a bunch out.

I think the largest challenge is the mindfulness of my SO - That being said, I'm still hoping someone can suggest a silver-bullet technique that can make it all clear and easy for them.

It''s a real bummer to go to work, earning my families food, and them come home and see so much of it needlessly thrown out.

First of all--unless you are in a group marriage, referring to your spouse in the plural to avoid saying "he" or "she" is just squirrely and weird.

Second--you're obviously going to be able to drum up more support and sympathy for your position that wasting food is a terrible thing on a frugality forum where quite a few people are commited to extreme frugality either out of choice or necessity, but you might also consider that your spouse also has a valid point of view--some degree of food waste is pretty typical of most households. Some of us on here may be living the Tightwad Gazette lifestyle and boiling every vegetable scrap and chicken bone into stock, but that's not typical and there's nothing to say that that's the only way to live or run a household. I just read something somewhere that said that most households end up wasting at least 25% of the food that they buy. Restaurants and businesses that deal in food assume that there is going to be a certain amount of food lost to preparation practices or spoilage or over or under estimating demand--it's hard to always be spot on about how much or something one needs to buy or prepare, and the nature of food is that it spoils. It does just happen. We can take steps to reduce that wastage, but it's hard to absolutely and completely eliminate it. Sometimes the leftovers migrate to the back of the fridge and don't get eaten, sometimes stuff comes up and we don't always manage to cook the defrosted chicken in time. Life happens, and people are in different places with regard to frugality and waste reduction. So if your spouse is shopping and preparing food and putting newly cooked fresh meals on the table every day and your food wastage is only 15%, maybe you should just count yourself as very fortunate and make sure you're taking those freezer leftovers to work every day and eating them.

Frankly, I don't like the tone you're using. You sound very harsh and critical. You're blaming your spouse and chalking the problem all squarely up to her/him in a way that seems very judgmental and superior. This isn't a loving, solution-oriented tone. If your spouse is putting in the effort to be cooking for you and the family on a frequent basis, seems to me that you should start out by showing some appreciation for the work that's already being done and helping more instead of criticizing. Why would it be "clever or funny" of a PP to suggest that maybe you should take over the task of food preparation? Is that so outrageous to expect that you might help out with that? Why--because you're earning the money for the household? News flash--that's exactly what single, working adult men and women do when they aren't lucky enough to have a partner at home who does that work (and it is a lot of work) for them and the household. Either that or they eat out all the time, which costs even more money. It sounds to me like what you're really after is to prove your point to your spouse and get to be right and control his/her behavior, rather than really correct the food wastage. You acknowledge that your spouse is overwhelmed, but you aren't displaying any real compassion for that. Even if you don't take over the job completely, you could help out with meal planning and shopping and preparation, checking the fridge or freezer for items that are going to go bad, and eating some of those freezer leftovers yourself instead of helping throw them out.

My DH would approach your situation this way: "Honey, I noticed that you took that package of chicken breasts out of the freezer yesterday but didn't get a chance to cook them yet. If you tell me what you were planning to do with them, if you want I can go ahead and cook them tonight while you [play with DD/give her a bath/get some time on the computer/go out for coffee] and then they won't spoil and we'll have dinner all ready for tomorrow."
post #19 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kavita View Post
First of all--unless you are in a group marriage, referring to your spouse in the plural to avoid saying "he" or "she" is just squirrely and weird.
Quote:
Is that so outrageous to expect that you might help out with that? Why--because you're earning the money for the household? News flash--that's exactly what single, working adult men and women do when they aren't lucky enough to have a partner at home who does that work (and it is a lot of work) for them and the household. Either that or they eat out all the time, which costs even more money. It sounds to me like what you're really after is to prove your point to your spouse and get to be right and control his/her behavior, rather than really correct the food wastage.
I find these comments inappropriate and unhelpful. "News Flash..." When I read, I hear out loud what it sounds like in my mind....and I've never heard a sentence that starts with "news flash..." to be said in a positive tone.




OP, I think the idea of taking leftovers for lunch is a great idea. Or maybe coming up with a meal plan together?
post #20 of 31
According to this link, http://www.spokesman.com/stories/200...waste-adds-up/ an average household waste 14% of their purchased food. You guys are exactly in the middle, then. Of course it's admirable to take the efforts to reduce that, but it's probably impossible to reduce it to 0.
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