Our family is on the home stretch of Zero Waste Week (based in the UK, but is spreading, hopefully), and I'm coming to realize that it's not that much different than how we typically live. WHEW! 'Cause I was stressin' just a bit when I signed the contract. The theme of this year's week-long event is "Use it up!" The focus is on eliminating food waste. Like all good rebels, I'm not following it exactly, but I'm coming close, and I'm learning a lot about how I can make changes to improve, which is valuable. We're in the research stage of composting, so that's out, for now, but I can say that we haven't wasted one bit of food in very many days. I'm more conscious of it this week, but it's not that hard. We're not food wasters...anymore. Ask me a couple of years ago, and it was downright shameful, the leftovers that went down the tubes. And I didn't even think it was shameful. But I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I am far from the best I can be, but I learn and work to do more every day! Anything that sticks is a long, slow, process, in my opinion.
Zero Waste Week is about truly having no waste. Don't you know there are children starving in Africa? Rachel is at the helm, and she's awesome, yet extreme. When she says zero, she means zero. Thank goodness she's, like, nine hours ahead, so it gives me time to catch up. Rachel means for us to cut the mold off of our bread and cheese, and possibly cure our expired meat or find use for that curdled milk. That is super admirable, and I'd like to say I'd be willing to do it, but, thanks to my two strapping, growing, piggish boys, nothing lasts that long. And since I'm borderline vegan, I don't have to worry about eating rotten meat. So I guess I'm getting off easy. What I am doing differently is paying attention to every scrap, however not moldy or rotten.
So what have I done this week to make extra sure we're not wasting? Check it out:
• I'm ultra-conscious of what our tortoise, Fluffy, can eat. If I asked him, he'd eat us out of house and home. But since I'm not asking him, he's getting the greens off the top of our strawberries and the stems from our lettuce, which he enjoys. I actually made Big dig a strawberry stem out of the sink that he flippantly tossed aside. Doin' my part.
• Using all of my "ingredients" for lunch. Rachel wants us to eliminate the word "leftovers" from our vocabulary and replace it with the "ingredients." Since I work from home, I almost always make myself something to eat for my mid-day meal. Only I don't have time to make a complicated feast, so preparation has to be simple. I enjoy salads, and they are great for using up small bits of
leftovers ingredients. I toss in beans, soyrizo from breakfast, roasted veggies, a scoop of quinoa or farro–whatever is around! I never have the same salad twice. This week I made extra sure to use every ingredient in the fridge. And when I ran out of lettuce and couldn't have a salad (boo!), I made pasta instead. I didn't have any sauce and didn't have time to make any, so I tossed in some Earth Balance (vegan butter substitute), some natural garlic salt, and some veggies. It was actually pretty good!
• I packed the kids "snackin' lunches." In a special effort to use up everything we had in the fridge before purchasing more, the kids got a couple of "snackin' lunches," which meant that instead of a main dish and some sides, they got a bunch of sides and small amounts of things. They found it to be a fun adventure and, though they have this lunch about once a week regularly, the haphazard, not-exactly-balanced odd combination of things that appeared in their bento boxes this week added an extra element of excitement and surprise. Pickles and sunflower seed butter go nicely together, don't they?
• I consumed "ingredients" left behind by the littles. We all know that the calories we consume by nibbling on the kid fare that is left behind don't count, so I took full advantage this week. It worked out okay. I like bread crusts and cracker crumbs...yeah. It only backfired on me once when I drank the nutrition shake they didn't like. I forgot that I put some dairy milk in it, and it didn't agree with me so well. Sigh. Live and learn. Nothing was wasted!
• I made croutons! I always keep our heels of bread in the fridge with the best intentions to make croutons. Sometimes I actually get around to it, but sometimes not. This week, I made them! I just cut the bread into squares, tossed them in olive oil and a seasoning blend that sounded good, and popped them in the oven until they turned golden and crunchy. Delish. I have enjoyed them in my salads, and the littles have taken them to school for snacks.
I was introduced to Zero Waste Week by Small Footprints when she spotted my post on the day I purged the fridge. My recipe was subsequently adored (goodie) and posted by Rachel on the Zero Waste Week recipe section of the Web site. In my quest to eliminate food waste in our home, I've accidentally discovered some real recipe gems...now if only I can remember them. The only disadvantage to using up all the bits of food is that when you make something worthy of being a featured special at The French Laundry, it's tough to re-create. First world problems.
Even if you missed this year's Zero Waste Week, you can still check out the Web site for some fantastic tips that will help you make lifestyle changes toward becoming less wasteful. And be sure to sign up for next year's Zero Waste Week!
In the meantime, I'd love to hear the tricks you employ to be less wasteful.