My 2012 New Year Food Resolutions – How’d I Do?

by Bettina Elias Siegel on January 7, 2013

Happy 2013, TLT’ers!  Thanks for sticking with me while I took several weeks off from regularly writing this blog.

Before returning to our usual kid-and-food topics, I thought I’d go back and look at my 2012 food resolutions to assess my progress and help those with similar food goals for the year ahead.  As a reminder, here’s what I hoped to accomplish last year:

  1. Reducing Food Waste
  2. Making More Homemade Food
  3. Serving and Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
  4. Trying Out Vegetarianism

In the next few posts I’ll discuss each of these goals and grade my efforts.  Today’s topic . . .

Less Food Waste

I know this an issue that troubles a lot of us.  We do our best to clean out our crisper drawers and not let staples languish in the pantry but sometimes, despite our best intentions, we find ourselves throwing out spoiled food — and feeling terribly guilty about it.

I certainly didn’t eliminate my family’s food waste in 2012, but I did do a few things to reduce it.

Better Pantry Management

I really made a concerted effort this year to be better organized about my pantry.  Sometimes this involved simply checking out what staples I had on hand before grocery shopping.  And yes, I know this is what a rational person is supposed to do, but I’ll admit I didn’t always take the time before rushing out the door.  (This practice might explain my discovery one night that I had no less than five boxes of quinoa on hand — but no pasta of any kind.)  I also try to employ the “last in, first out” rule when using up my pantry items.  Again, this is just common sense, but I didn’t always do it.

Shopping My Pantry

In 2012 I also tried to “shop my pantry” as often as possible when planning and preparing meals.  For example, here’s a representative dinner I pulled together one night that came entirely from pantry staples and fridge items that were otherwise going to waste:

It’s wasn’t the most colorful meal and it was a little starch-heavy, but it was nourishing and tasty and I felt good knowing that I’d saved all of this good food from going to waste.

Along these lines, back in October, blogger Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition had a “Pantry Challenge” you’ll enjoy reading about, including a very funny post from her husband who didn’t always enjoy the experience.

Being a Realist When It Comes to Kids

As any parent knows, one big source of food waste is kids.  We can’t always know what they’ll eat and won’t eat, especially since their little “food whims” seem to change overnight.  I remain a firm believer in continuing to offer kids various foods even if they initially refuse them, but now that my children are older (10 and 12) I do think it’s OK to honor some of their individual preferences, in part to reduce waste.

So when my son recently said to me, “You know, I just won’t eat fruit at lunch, but I will eat it for [after-school] snack,” I didn’t reject that idea out of hand.  Now there are days when I don’t put any fruit at all in his lunch  – something I used to regard as a cardinal lunch-packing sin — or I’ll try more creative ways of working in fruit, like putting very thin banana slices in a peanut butter sandwich or including dried fruit as a sweet.  It’s not ideal, but it’s good to know that far fewer clementines, apple slices, strawberries and the rest are going directly into the cafeteria trash can.

Making My Own Bread Crumbs

Way back in 2010 we had a discussion on this blog about bread-buying, specifically how to find decent, healthy bread that doesn’t spoil quickly.  The upshot of that discussion was that I abandoned (for the most part) buying any bread at the supermarket, but the downside is that we don’t always use up a loaf of better-quality bread before it gets moldy – a real problem here in humid Houston.  I do freeze bread, of course, but I’ve also gotten in the regular habit of making my own toasted bread crumbs.  It doesn’t take long, it prevents waste and – the best part – using homemade bread crumbs instead of store-bought vastly improves the taste of your recipes.

Overall Grade on Reducing Food Waste

I’m pleased with what I’ve done to reduce food waste but we still have a long way to go.  There are still weeks when I buy food items that we wind up not using because something interferes with family dinner, and then I fail to repurpose or freeze the items before it’s too late.  And we could be composting our food scraps, something my husband and I talk about but still haven’t tried.  So, on this goal, I give myself a B-.

Do you have any tips or resources on preventing food waste?  Take a second to share them with the rest of us in a comment below.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sally Kuzemchak January 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

Thanks for including me in your post, Bettina! I also struggle with food waste–and, like you, don’t always remember to check my pantry and freezer before my weekly grocery trip. It’s interesting that your son says he won’t eat fruit at lunch but will eat it at home–my 8 year old does the same thing! I have experimented with putting different kinds/forms of fruits in his lunch–dried, canned, berries, applesauce, etc.–and though he’ll happily eat it all at home, it frequently comes back home in his lunchbox. I’ve accepted it for the most part, and though I do continue to put fruit in his lunch, I’ll save the “good stuff”–like the expensive organic strawberries–for a snack at home instead of wasting them in his lunchbox. I look forward to your posts about your other resolutions too!

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Bettina Elias Siegel January 7, 2013 at 11:40 am

Sally, that’s really interesting that your son shares this quirk! And your strategy of saving the “good stuff” for after school is a good one. It was really killing me to know that organic, more expensive fruit was not being eaten!

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Mom in NJ January 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I wonder if it is peer pressure? My kids have said to me that they are embarrassed to eat healthy foods (fruit, whole wheat bread, hard-boiled eggs) in school. Very disconcerting, as I do not want to embarrass them, but it’s FOOD for crying out loud, and IMO not even particularly embarrassing food like , say, liver, or sprouts or something.
Any suggestions?

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Bettina Elias Siegel January 7, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Mom in NJ: In my son’s case, he’s actually told me about the healthy lunches some of his friends bring, so I don’t think it’s peer pressure. It might be a time factor: i.e., they’re so busy talking that the least-desired item gets left untouched. But for your kids, I can relate. My mom used to pack me sandwiches on whole wheat bread at a time when this was far less common (1970s) and I do remember feeling embarrassed about it. But have you talked to your kids about why you’re offering healthy food in the first place, and why the processed stuff their friends are bringing (I’m inferring here, from your comment) is so much less “cool” for your body? Or are they just at that age – preteen and up — where differing from peers in any way is horribly embarrassing?

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n January 9, 2013 at 6:27 am

What is embarrassing about liver? I’m not saying that it is especially healthy or that everyone must like it, but it is a normal food and sometimes served also in schools (at least around here).

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Bettina Elias Siegel January 9, 2013 at 8:08 am

n: It’s true – there shouldn’t be anything inherently embarrassing about any food. But I can say from experience that What preteen will find “embarrassing” is totally unpredictable. One of my kids was upset a while back because I packed the “wrong” sort of water bottle!

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Sylvie January 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm

This is interesting. I’m going to honestly say that I don’t have much, if any, food waste. I’m going to think how I do this and post a comment if I have a minute later. But I think the short answer is I cook from scratch nearly every meal in quantities that can be eaten in one or two meals/days. Also I think my husband/child eat nearly everything I serve with few exceptions (for the child).

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mommm!!! January 8, 2013 at 7:59 am

I tend to organize my leftover items when I put them in the fridge. I also have an old beat up fridge in the laundry room, so this also helps. In my kitchen fridge, I’ll put leftover produce with the produce and leftover meat gets it’s own little area and anything that goes in reused jars gets it’s own area and so on and so forth. This way I know exactly what I have on hand and the leftovers stick out from unused items because I always use containers to store them rather than a plastic bag. I also use a sharpie to write the dates on containers before sending them to the fridge abyss. This system was a result of our attempt to use less plastic bags.

The back fridge comes in handy when I’ve made a one dish meal in a roasting pan or a pot or a casserole dish or the crockpot. Rather than move the leftovers to another container, they are simply stored in the vessel they were cooked in. Then all I have to do is reheat the entire dish in the oven. And this was a result of our effort to use less water (dish washing) and to stop relying on the microwave for reheating.

We’re currently trying to reduce our trash and composting is part of this. We’re moving to bulk when we can and I’m excited to get our compost up and running because it kills me to throw away produce scraps. Because I buy so little boxed or canned food items now, I rarely run into pantry waste anymore. I make and freeze my own pasta in used bread loaf bags, and my grains are generally bought in bulk rather than a package. So I guess for us, not wasting food has been a natural result of us trying not to waste in general…we avoid single use plastics, unnecessary packaging, and we try to conserve water.

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Bettina Elias Siegel January 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Yes, I’ve been buying more staples in bulk as well, and I love being able to get exactly what I need for a recipe and no more. Thanks for sharing your system with us!

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Amanda January 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I have to admit I actually usually let my kids have school lunch(which is a little more $ than homemade), and sometimes go eat with my kindergartner, because their school has a salad bar, which includes fruits (fresh oranges, apples, seasonal stuff), veggies, cottage cheese, along with salad, and they have to go through that and at least get a fruit and veggie before the lunch ladies will even give them the hot food item for the day, which is usually a lot better food than I had in school growing up…they do sandwhiches at least a couple days a week also. Not that its perfect, but most days they have better options than I could pack, and since my girls like fruits and veggies, they mostly fill up on those. I think it helps that the principal is also married to a farmer, and knows what healthy food is, they also have a garden at the school the kids get to help grow things in and last year brought home tomato plants they had started, which we planted once big enough and were really good tomatoes! I really hope more schools can implement some of these changes, especially for so many kids who’s only meal(s) sometimes is from school. breakfast on the other hand…needs some improvement, since its a free government program, the food isn’t the best way to start out the day, and I feed my kiddos at home before school!

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