Thursday, April 28, 2016

W - Wastage

I have this fetish to not waste food. I try my best to eat everything in my plate and use up everything in my fridge. From time immemorial, this was the practice in my home. I remember my dad devouring everything that was left over from a meal. His huge stomach helped him with his passion to respect the annadata(provider) and anna(food) itself. It was not so important for me then, during my growing years, and I don't know what made it so important to me now.

I see people, my own friends during college and later, who would stuff their plates with huge quantities and varieties of food and eat only 40% of it. They don't even flinch while trashing that 60% . Yes, you did pay for that food, but what you have just trashed is resources other people could have used. That rice, that vegetable, that meat could have fed two other hungry children. At this granular level, it may not seem much, but if you look at statistics, the amount of food wasted globally each year is more than enough to feed 1 billion hungry people in the world. Organizations and people in the food industry have begun to realize this. Restaurants in some places like Hong Kong and China are charging a fine to diners for leaving left overs.
When you trash that food away, it is not just the food that you are wasting,. Its the money you spent to buy it, the other resources you used to make the dish, the time you spent to cook it, and others' efforts to produce it. And I am not saying stuff it all up when you cannot, or eat despite not liking it. But what we can do is make some conscious efforts to cut down on food waste.

People think I am crazy or too lazy to cook, but I use every bit of my capacity to use what I have. This is the only thing I can confidently say is my obsession.

- I try to leave a clean plate. Be it a restaurant or at home or a potluck dinner. What helps me here is knowing my taste and appetite. Understand how hungry you are and what you are ready to eat. If trying out a new dish, checking if we can have in smaller quantities helps.

- I manage the food in my plate. More curry in my plate than the rice? I start using up more of the curry and less rice. Less curry than the rice? I make sure I am leaving enough for the rest of the bites with each bite. That's because I don't want to be left with just plain rice and nothing to eat it with.

- I can eat any damn combination. Poha and dal. Or Upma and rasam. Or Oats, dal, and beans fry and eggplant fry. I can even drink plain sambar as a soup ( inherited from Baba the great :) )So I do not mind mixing and matching varieties that are even totally out of league. Try to be open minded here and you can save a ton.

- I manage my fridge. Quickly perishable vegetables and produce get a place in the first row of my fridge. The ones that live longer are stacked behind.

- I shop smart. I make a plan in my head as to how many times I will cook in this week, and what I want to make. That way, I make sure I don't over buy. Last week's dishes are not repeated, so I try to get different types of vegetables.

- I try to cook smart ( others think it is ridiculous :D). I try to use up the whole of a vegetable when making a dish. Like whole of eggplant or whole of bottle guard. If there are little bits of vegetables unused, I mix them all up in a dal or a mix-veg curry or fried rice. I do not always stick to the conventional way of making something. Like if I see 200gms of green beans in my fridge and a half bell pepper, I add it the dal. It doesn't change a thing for me. Once I even made a mixed veg egg burji. Carrots, green beans, capsicum and egg. Its just more nutrients in your stomach :)

- Eating left overs the next day. I do not mind eating 1-2 day old food. It may be of lesser quality than a fresh one, but it is still good for atleast a day. You can also repurpose them by adding a little more spice or making a fresh side to go with the left over. If you have a problem eating stale food, see if you can donate it somebody. In developing countries, like India,  there will be too many people who will be glad to have found their meal. Or better still, try to cook just enough. In these days, eating less is much better than eating more.

-Share. Cooked for five people instead of two ? No problem. Share it with your friends or neighbors. Give it to you bai or the watchman or find somebody who will appreciate this unexpected food in their plate.

- Having guests? Cook a simple meal. When it comes to me, having too many choices leaves me unsatisfied, because I wouldn't have enjoyed all of them like how I would have wanted to. And I will end up over eating. A starter, and two main course dishes and a dessert would be great enough. Just make sure they taste good ;) Times are changing, and less is good! I even read somewhere that some Japanese restaurants serve only 80% of usual capacity of a plate because being only 80% full is being healthy. If you just had a party and there is a lot of left over food, pack them for the guests. They will be too happy to take some home.

I just hope everyone starts doing their bit. More than the saving part, what pains me is the 'not-valuing' part. Food is a necessity, do not treat it like a luxury.



  1. We might be soul-sisters!:) Three years ago, I wrote a post about food waste and how we can stop it within our four walls at least. I agree with every point that you mentioned. I leave a clean plate after every meal. Sometimes food tastes bad, we are not perfect chefs, but it's still food- that's what my Mom taught me.

    1. Wow! Great to know! It really begins with us, at a smaller level, like you said within our four walls. I hope more and more people become aware and start practicing it.


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