At lunchtime the other day when I opened the refrigerator door, browsing for something to eat, my eyes fell on the dregs of some homemade guacamole.
After a week of being neglected in favor of other foods, it had turned an unappetizing gray-green-brown. I pulled it out and added it to the discard pile.
A film bag in the back of the fridge caught my interest next, but that interest quickly turned to disgust when I realized the bag held a jalapeño pepper now sporting a coat of furry mold.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, food is right behind paper and paperboard among contributors to our country’s solid waste stream.
Vegetables, the article said, comprise 25% of the avoidable waste in the average home, with fruits and juices contributing 16%.
On one hand this is not all that surprising, given the perishable nature of fresh produce.
Potatoes or cabbage, which rank fairly high on the longevity scale, won’t stay fresh as long as a bag of dried beans.
More delicate items such as lettuces or berries begin to deteriorate after a few days.
Also, some of that food waste is probably from peels, skins, stalks and rinds. I know a few people who eat their apples core, seeds and all, but most people don’t.
On the other hand, it’s disappointing to see all that food going in the trash, especially when many people struggle to make ends meet and some say fresh produce is just too expensive.
Multiple studies like one the U.S. Department of Agriculture published last year found it’s possible to eat your government-recommended fresh produce servings for a relatively small price per day ($2-2.50, according to the USDA study).
However, if consumers mistakenly buy more fruits and vegetables than their families will eat before the produce spoils, it’s essentially like throwing money in the garbage can.
Not knowing how to store produce correctly can also lead to food waste.
The April issue of Real Simple magazine had an article on how to properly store food of all kinds for safety and maximum freshness. I appreciated its advice on produce — store tomatoes on the counter but blackberries in the refrigerator, etc.
While I knew blackberries were quick to spoil, having a specific consume-by date helps me keep tabs on my to-eat list.
That’s why, during a more recent lunch, miniature sweet peppers, the tail end of a red onion, leftover tomato slices and strawberries that had seen better days ended up together in the saute pan as a topping for the baby spring mix I was trying to work my way through.
Sometimes you have to just grin and eat it.
But you know what? It tasted pretty good.