An Embarrassment of Riches

Many of us are unaware of the ways we contribute to the $165 billion in food wasted in the U.S. each year. Forty percent of food produced in this country today goes uneaten, mostly ending up in landfills where it emits methane. This is an enormous environmental problem, but not insurmountable, as it has several common causes and many solutions.

At Food Works Group, we understand how food waste is most commonly generated in commercial settings. Wendy’s culinary training not only taught her how to prepare a gourmet meal, but also how to prepare a gourmet menu. “A good menu will be small and use a key ingredient three to five times, in multiple ways--without letting the repetition seem obvious” says Wendy. “This reduces waste because you can cycle through fresh product faster with less chance of spoilage.”

You can apply this principle on a smaller scale to your upcoming Thanksgiving feast or for a relaxing Sunday brunch. We are using it to design a new locally sourced menu for Potter’s House, a cafe and bookstore in D.C’s Adam’s Morgan neighborhood. Wendy adds:  “We are working together to reduce the size of the menu, as well as the number of varieties used a week of very perishable items like lettuce.”

Such solutions are not limited to commercial kitchens; there are many slight behavior changes we can all make to reduce food waste. For example, when buying produce, opt for that funny looking fruit or vegetable. It is often the less perfect cucumber or pear that is getting tossed. Another helpful trick is to practice the “first in, first out” method. When bringing your kale and oranges home this winter, place them in the back and bring the spinach and apples from earlier in the week to the front. This technique helps you remember to make a fish pot with that wild blue catfish you bought a day ago!

In order to reduce waste, it is necessary to purchase and eat food deliberately. But our take is that eating mindfully is much more rewarding and pleasurable.