Too much food – wasteful ways (part two)

In the last issue Sarah described in  disturbing detail the way we, by comparison to our parents’ generation,  waste food. In short: We think about food too much, buy too much, cook too much, eat too much and end up chucking out too much…

One of the main contrasts with today’s food behaviour is that, importantly, absolutely nothing was offered between meals; we had three meals a day and there was never quite enough, so us four kids fought over any leftovers with a strict hierarchy: my two brothers were allowed to bags* any leftover meat, my sister bagged the potatoes and I, the smallest of the bunch, was only allowed to bags the veg—usually cabbage or sprouts. [* “bags”: used when you claim the right to have or do something: e.g. “Bags I sit in the front seat!” ]

Eating only at mealtimes was a key factor in us never thinking about food in between meals. Add in the fact that meals were predictable too, and the result was that we saw food more as a fuel than an obsession or addiction: you could tell the day of the week by the menu.  Sundays were roasts, Mondays the leftover roast made into Shepherd’s pie, and Saturdays the corned beef or tinned salmon delight!  On weekdays we had cooked lunches at school (albeit inedible!), and so for tea we had cucumber or jam sandwiches and, on a good day, a boiled egg!

As I see all the waste food we rescue, and think about our childhood eating habits, I’m left with the overwhelming feeling that our Western society has developed gross habits around food. We think about food too much, buy too much, cook too much, eat too much and end up chucking out too much!

And we’re encouraged to do this through over-production, over-marketing and, especially, too much choice.  Then most of us (myself included!), end up overweight and needing to find new ways to lose weight, so we end up buying even more food-type products that are required by high-protein, whole-food, plant-based, paleo, bright-line eating , and other burgeoning new diet regimes that all promise they have the final solution to becoming slim and healthy.

So what to do about this? I must say I’m flummoxed; it would be hard to reverse the trend of over indulgence and go back to limited food amounts and especially limited choices.

We can plan our meals, write shopping lists, buy only what we need, cook the right portion sizes, use the leftovers for lunch the next day and freeze what we can’t eat before it goes off. The motives are saving money and staying trim, as well as doing the obvious  –  reducing waste. The LOVE FOOD, HATE WASTE website is a great source of recipes for leftovers, tips and stories about reducing food waste. Would love to hear your feedback!

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Sarah Langi is an opccasional contributor to Kiwiboomers. She has worked for Nelson Environment Centre for more than a decade now, delivering programmes in renewable energy, waste education, gardening and streamcare to schools and early childhood centres in Tasman and Nelson. Prior to that she worked as a technical editor for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in New Caledonia, and as a fisheries scientist in Tonga, where she raised her two children. Her early career was spent as a primary school teacher for 12 years, in NZ and overseas. She has a BSC in Zoology from Victoria University and a BA Hons in Classics from University College London.