Eat All the Food November: PART 1

Thursday, November 3, 2016

(I often use up egg whites in a lovely angel food cake.  If I don't have time to make angel food cake that week, I freeze the egg whites until I do have time!)

November (at least in the US), is a time to focus on gratitude.  To be thankful for the things we have, and recognize what we have been blessed with.  I think that every country should have a month where this is the focus (a few others already do).  Sadly, I think the focus in the US has been more on the turkey, pie, and football than gratitude.  However, I always make a conscious effort to be a little more grateful during the month of November, because I think Thanksgiving is such a neat holiday, and I really have been given so much.

A few weeks ago, I happened to see an article about food waste in the All-recipes magazine (you can see the entire article online here); I was fascinated and somewhat horrified by the statistics they shared.

(make meals where you can use a ton of random vegetables and top them with a good sauce)

According to All-Recipes:

1. 40% of the food in the US never gets eaten (from restaurants, supermarkets, and especially consumers).

2. An average family of four spends more than $120 every month on food that never gets eaten (they compared this to taking 2 out of every 5 grocery bags straight to the dumpster after purchasing them).

3. It costs Americans $1.5 billion dollars to dispose of food every year.

(make your own homemade vegetable stock)

In my mind, a big part of being grateful is being responsible with the resources we have.  That may differ somewhat from person to person, but everyone has to eat, and many of us are being downright wasteful with the food we have access to.

Since reading that article, I have come across a few other articles/television stories about this very thing.  France just banned supermarkets from throwing away food that is close to its expiration date, and is forcing them to donate it to food pantries instead (I think this is awesome!), Norway began buying up other countries waste a few years ago to burn as an energy source, John Oliver did a story about how big of a problem our wasteful ways are (his stories are really informative, but often contain language or suggestive humor), and Leonardo DiCaprio's foundation recently wrote an article about how much we waste and the problems that it causes to the planet.  And I wrote an entire article here a few months ago, related to this food waste topic, about how to save money at the grocery store, and how to use up the food you buy.  Needless to say, this has all been weighing heavily on my mind lately!

So, to honor the Thanksgiving holiday, during the month of November, I am going to make huge efforts to use up everything I buy from the grocery store.  I already try really hard to reduce my waste, but I know I can do better, and I need to hold myself to a higher standard.  Hopefully this will be a long-term change, but I want to give myself a time frame so that it feels more important.

I have often thought, "How much of a difference do I actually make?"  More than I realize.  Especially if I can encourage more people to take reducing waste seriously.  Any food that feeds my family instead of the fat raccoons at the dump makes a difference.  

(freeze fruits and vegetables to use later; keep in mind some need to be cooked before they are frozen)

Now how am I going to do this (and how can you do it too, should you decide to make a change like this?)?  All-Recipes had some great suggestions, and I have a few more to add.  

1.  Pay more attention to how your food looks and smells than what the expiration date on the package says.  Many foods will stay good long after their expiration date.  You can usually tell when something is about to go bad.  It will start growing stuff, get slimy, or smell bad.  If you don't see these symptoms, and it looks okay, go ahead and try it.

2.  Freeze stuff you aren't ready to use yet.  Not everything can be frozen.  For example, milk isn't a good item to freeze, because the texture changes when you freeze it, but there are loads of foods you can freeze.  Beans, cooked vegetables, cheese, butter, bread and many other food items can be frozen.  This will keep them good for much much longer than if you were to keep them in the fridge.  Next time you don't think you will be able to use something before it goes bad, think about freezing it.

I also like to turn fragile greens, like basil, mint or cilantro into a pesto that I can freeze and easily use later.

3.  Make a list when you go to the grocery store.  I can't even imagine going to the grocery store without a list.  I have no idea what I would make if I tried that.  I tend to make a detailed list, where almost every item has a very specific purpose for dinner during the week (I also check the fridge to see what needs to be used up so that last weeks extra veggies/cheese/fruit doesn't go to waste).  You don't have to be as detailed as I am, but making a list will cut down on random impulse buys and save you loads of money.

4.  Cook it.  Most foods that are on the verge of expiring will last longer if you cook them.  That could be using milk in a bread product, cooking a wilty set of greens into a soup, or whatever.  Cooking food can preserve its life, so it is totally worth doing when you can.

5.  Compost it.  I don't have a composter (we live in an apartment, and the idea of keeping worms and smelly compost on the balcony is almost more than I can handle), but if I did, I would take any food that went bad, or stuff that I was no longer willing to eat and compost it.  If you have the option, do it.  Some areas have composting programs available.  You might be able to donate your compost to a local farm.

6.  Save the ends.  All your vegetable ends and parmesan rinds can be turned into a delicious vegetable broth that can live again in your kitchen.  Save your ends in a gallon bag in the freezer and every few weeks, whip up a large bath of vegetable broth.

7. Only buy the things you will actually use.  If something is on sale, but you probably won't actually use it, don't buy it.  Or if you really feel like you need to buy it, do so, and then donate it to a shelter or food pantry.  Don't buy tons of greens or vegetables that you aren't going to eat.

(dry your own herbs)

That's all I have for now.  Are you amazing at using up little bits of stuff?  Let me know what you do.  Do you want to join in on the challenge (even a little effort is better than none at all)?  I would love to hear about it if you do!


  1. Frittatas are my go-to for using up whatever I have in the fridge! They work especially well for vegetables that I have left over but don't really love. Even if I'm unlikely to eat something by itself, if I throw it in a pan with eggs and cheese, it becomes a great dinner.

  2. These are wonderful suggestions. Thank you for sharing with us your journey of being a conscious consumer.

  3. I also live in a little city apartment and my husband and I have gone back and forth on the compost/worm bin issue. I finally found a solution that works for us: a service that collects our compost once a week and composts it offsite at a commercial composter, and gives us soil four times a year. It's $20/month, which I pay for with my latte mad money, but it is MORE than worth it to me to keep these compostable items out of the landfill and going back toward nourishing the earth. It makes me so happy!


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