With ever growing fuel prices on the minds of many Americans we look for alternatives. Now even some of our alternatives are causing trouble with the food market (making biofuels made from waste veggie oil so much more important). Whatever the reason – high fuel costs, increased demand for food crops for fuel leading to lower supply, increased demand from economic development in previously poor nations, poor growing seasons – food costs are rising and much of the world has already reached crisis level. All of this cost and crisis draws attention to our own waste. We are cutting back on driving to save fuel, just as we should be more mindful about buying only what we will actually eat and taking good care of it to keep it from spoiling.
Many of us have the best of intentions. We don’t have money to throw away. You would not purchase food just to throw it away but that is exactly what happens to a lot of us, isn’t it? You load up your cart with delicious fresh looking fruits and veggies but by the end of the week you’ve only made it through half of them and the rest are already rotting. It is not just you and I, my dear reader! It is not even just our wasteful American culture. It is a problem across the globe.
This image is from a campaign in Brazil to raise awareness and decrease waste. Artist Mihail Aleksandrov designed this handout, please click on the image for a larger version.
So, we know there is a problem with keeping the produce we buy.. we know eating more fruits and veggies as opposed to meat and dairy is more environmentally friendly.. we know eating more fruits and veggies is better for our health… we know we are just wasting money and perfectly good food this way.. so what do we do? How do we save money on food and help it last longer? There are a couple of strategies here:
- Buy locally grown produce
- Start a garden
- Buy less more often
- Store your produce properly and strategically
1. Buy local: Buying locally grown produce will not only support your local economy and farmers, it will also save you money. With the huge cost of fuel transporting produce across continents is not practical and will be reflected in the price of the food. Buying local eliminates that cost and allows you to get fresher fruits and veg that will in turn last longer when properly stored. Also, by buying local you are saving the environment from all of that extra pollution that would have incurred during transport. Double whammy! Here are some local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) groups that will provide locally grown/organic produce as well as some farmer’s markets in the Phoenix area.
2. Start a Garden: I know you may think this is not practical for most of us and that nothing will grow in the desert but you are wrong. With the proper techniques you can grow all kinds of great stuff here. Even with limited space or poor soil you can make a great container garden. We will be doing some more posts here once we get our garden going. We do not have green thumbs by any means but it can and will be done! Now is not the best time to start a garden but you could start getting your soil in shape and at least start dreaming, take a class or two from the Urban Farm and get some organic seeds. Growing your own produce allows you to eat it when you feel like it, you can cut lettuce off as you need it for tonight’s salad and it will continue to grow. There is nothing better than a home grown organic tomato and you can just pick them at their peak. You can harvest a couple of onions, beets, turnips, etc as needed and they will be the freshest and most affordable you can get!
3. Buy less more often: We are all busy people but making time for an extra grocery trip during the week can mean the difference between wasting 1/3 of what you buy and making good use of it. Try making a menu for the week and plot out what you need on your grocery list. If you can break that into two or more trips (assuming you do not live a great distance from the grocer) and make your second trip once you have used up your first batch of goodies it just makes sense that you will have fresh produce more often and less chance for waste.
4. Store your produce properly and strategically: As plants decay they give off ethylene gas. Some more than others, and some are sensitive to it (which is why if you have an unripe avocado you can place it in a paper bag with an apple and it will quickly ripen). With that in mind you should only store certain fruit and veg together, some is better suited to the fridge while others are best left on the counter, some in a cool dry pantry while herbs and asparagus are best stored like fresh cut flowers, just snip the ends and put them in some water in a glass.