A sinful recipe for disaster

Please do not try this at home.


3.5 lbs- cups of vegetable soup (vegggies/liquid included)

1.5 lbs- pasta with meat sauce

1.o lbs. dish of sauerkraut and smoked sausage

.5 lbs.-artichoke

.5 lbs.-carton cherry tomatoes

.25 lbs. - container of Brie

.5 lbs. opened bag of carrots

.75 lbs. large onion

1 quart of milk

3 lbs. Mashed sweet potatoes


Toss into trash or food disposer.

I shamed myself yesterday. I cleaned out the refrigerator. As I pulled out the various left overs, tidbits, and orts, a thought came to me. I decided to weigh most of the stuff going in the trash or disposer.

I was shocked. Thirteen pounds of food wasted. Most of that was cooked over the past three or four weeks. The Brie was an unopened gift that got a little too ripe, brown, and odorous when finally opened. The onion started to turn bad on the counter.

The milk was wasted in a futile effort to replicate a recipe a few times. I could have made a phone call and been in a chef's kitchen learning with her. But no, I tried various recipes all for naught, wasting milk.

I did some quick and dirty digging around.

The average American family wastes approximately 200-250 pounds of food per year. It comes to almost 36 million tons (2012). Our household food waste is up 16% over last year.

According the the United States Department of Agriculture, America wastes 40% of its food. The cost of all this wasted food totals $165 billion. This is inclusive from farm to fork; farms, transportation, distribution, retail stores, restaurants, and households.

Food production, distribution, sales, and preparation eats up 10% of our energy budget, 50% of our land usage, and 80% of our water. Wasted food in land fills causes almost 25% of methane gas emissions. (EPA/USDA)

The cost is roughly $500 per consumer in resources. Food waste is up over 50% since 1970.

Another study estimates the average American family wastes 14%-25% of household food and beverages each year, costing roughly $1,365 to $2,275 annually per family.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository provides these "Faces of Hunger" facts for Cook County:

  • 37% are children under 18
  • 9% are children under 5
  • 6% are homeless
  • 34% of households include at least one employed adult
  • 22% of households report their main source of income is from a job
  • 47% of households say they have to choose between paying for food and utilities
  • 44% report choosing between paying for food and rent or mortgage

797,000 people in Cook County are unsure when they will eat their next meal or where it will come from. From all the waste reported, rats in Chicago eat better than many people.

All these facts and figures shamed me even more.

I live alone. I cook and write about cooking and eating. Most of the time, if I prepare a large portion, like a roast or pot of something, I freeze what I do not eat. Other wise, what does not get eaten goes into the chill chest as left overs. Usually they are eaten during the course of a week

Sometimes I have to eat out. If I am photographing or working an event, I will eat out or catch a late night snack. Sometimes I just get tired of my own cooking or get a hankering for one of my favorite things to eat.

There is no excuse. Wasting that much food is careless and reckless. It is abhorrent. I was not raised to waste food. Every time my parents threw something away, even some tidbit or ort, they would say the same thing, "It's a sin". Maybe it was to constantly remind them of the poverty they witnessed during the Great Depression.

I am not the answer guy on social issues like food waste and hunger.

We, as a nation and city should be ashamed of all the food we waste when so many go hungry. Food prices are rising and food insecurity will escalate up the economic class chain. It will not only be the poor or working poor who wonder where their next solid meal comes from.

Grocery stores and restaurants try to control food waste as it damages the bottom line. However, there are things they cannot control, especially slumping sales. No matter how carefully store managers and chefs order goods, they have no control over the numbers of people who decide not to shop or eat out.

Households have control. It takes a little discipline. Shop for meals versus whatever looks good.. Plan to prepare meals before you shop. Buy only the perishable ingredients you need. Make sure you cook the meals.

If you buy large quantities of perishables at club stores, especially meats, portion them out when you get home, Freeze the portions. This way you are not thawing out a whole package for just one meal, leaving to chance the rest will spoil.

Never fear leftovers. Eat what you have. That is why the Great Comedian made microwave ovens. You do not have to order delivery or pick up carry out on the way home while food is in the fridge. Stop being lazy.

When I lived in Lincoln Park, a grocery store was across the alley from my building. From the back door of the building, it was fifteen steps to the entrance. I shopped almost every day for my meals. I only bought what I was going to cook that day or the next. I wasted very little, if any food.

All of us do not have that luxury. We live self imposed busy lives. Shopping is a time sensitive excursion. We want to get as much out of the time, travel, and toil as possible. We over buy. We waste.

Even with escalating prices, food is still cheap, abundant, and easily available in America compared to other places in the world. The cost of waste is included in those escalating prices. You and I are paying for it. Then we pay to waste more.

With so many people going hungry, it is heinous to waste so much food. I am outing and shaming myself as a wastrel. I should know better.

We may not be able to solve the hunger problem. We can solve the household food waste problem or reduce it drastically.

Like my folks said, "It's a sin".











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