David Brooks of New York Times fame wrote an editorial earlier this month titled “The Great Seduction.” It lamented the corrupting influence of wealth and how wealth has destroyed the very frugal, industrious and ambitious values that are responsible for our affluence to begin with. Based on the imperatives laid out in a recent think tank study, “For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture,” Brooks sounded a call for the re-embracement of good old-fashioned frugality.
What’s this got to do with food? A lot. If we’re looking to revive the virtue of frugality (not a bad idea in today’s economically uncertain times), the kitchen is a good—and easy—place to start. Statistically, 14% of the food we buy goes to waste. In other words, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Brooks focused on the importance of frugality and debt management for the financial soundness of our entire economy. In the happy coincidence that comes from right thinking and acting, frugality’s benefits extend to many other areas, too: The positive impact on our individual pocketbooks is obvious. Over the course of a year, our average food waste adds up to $590 per year, in 2004 dollars. With food prices soaring, the potential savings are far greater today.
While money savings are unquestionably important, there’s another equally important side to kitchen waste. Maybe it’s my upbringing by Depression-era parents, maybe I took the “starving children in China” thing too seriously, but I get uncomfortable seeing all the food that gets tossed in our culture without a second thought. Food is just a little vital to our survival, which is why it gets my utmost respect, especially when there are so many people living on a few kernels of grain and whatever other morsels they are lucky enough to scrounge up.
I don’t exactly believe in karma, but I figure it can’t hurt to do my best to avoid waste. Even if there isn’t any future payback, maybe the frugal energy I send out will inspire the same in others, and with enough people showing care and respect for food, maybe a way will be found to siphon a little more to those in need.
The environment also benefits by a reduction of kitchen waste. When food is tossed, a lot more goes in the trash can than just the rotted cantaloupe or leftover lasagna that no one ate. Also wasted are the energy that went into growing, transporting, manufacturing, refrigerating and cooking it, the polluting pesticides and fertilizers that went into producing it, and the costs of transporting and landfilling it as trash. May not seem like much for one rotten cantaloupe or a measly corner of lasagna, but environmental degradation is a numbers game. There are thousands and millions of people, all wasting 14% of the food in their households. Things add up. . . .
So how do we prevent waste in the kitchen. There are lots of ways. Stay tuned. . . .
Filed under: Opinion and Editorial, Saving Money, Waste Not-Want Not | Tagged: David Brooks, environmental benefits of waste reduction, food waste, frugality, Institute for American Values, money saving at the grocery store, The Great Seduction |