I recently read an article which explained that up to 40% of food in the US is wasted.
This occurs for many reasons, particularly the antiquated “sell by” dating system which not only varies from State to State but also confuses consumers into thinking that once something has passed its “sell by” date that it is unsafe to eat. This is not only wrong, but it causes people to throw out perfectly edible and safe food. As the article explains the “sell by” system is put in place to allow grocery stores to rotate their food stocks, it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not something is still fit to eat.
It also got me thinking about how people treat food once they have eaten a portion of it. There are huge excesses of food cooked during the Holiday season and much of it will go to waste after the main meal because most people do not have the know-how to take care of the leftovers. To be sure there are many savvy cooks out there who know how to create tasty turkey sandwiches and soups out of a turkey, but I would guess that for every one of them there are five who have no clue what to do with a turkey the day after Christmas or Thanksgiving (there are even some who don’t know what to do with it the day of Christmas or Thanksgiving but that is another story) and simply throw it away, it is a shocking waste of food when you think about it.
DH and I had Rotisserie Chicken for Christmas day, with all the trimmings of course (a Turkey seemed a little excessive for just the two of us). The next day (Boxing Day for all us Brits) I dismantled the chicken and made cold chicken sandwiches. The day after that I dismantled the chicken again and used it to make a Chicken Pot Pie which I put in the fridge and we are having for dinner tonight (chicken three nights in a row seeming to be a little excessive). Had I been as dedicated as my Mother usually is, I would have then boiled the carcass to extract every last scrap of the meat and either turned it into soup or, more likely as my Mother would do, into curry, as it was I gave it to the possums outside.
The problem is that people are not taught to cook and are therefore ill equipped to handle leftovers, which I think is a tragedy. Personally I think cooking (not just Home Economics or whatever else it is they call it), should be mandatory in schools. Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmatic are essential of course but will not equip you with basic skills to keep you fed and alive. As we used to say about the “egg heads” “they can tell you the square-root of a can of beans but couldn’t open one”. It not only means that people spend far more on food than they need to (because they buy take-out or eat out at restaurants) but it means that people make poor food choices on a budget (for the price of a couple of PB&J you could make a decent family meal).
I have spoken on this blog many times about my Mother’s ability to take one pound of minced beef (ground beef) and turn it into a week of meals for us. It would begin with Mince and Tatties (ground beef in gravy with boiled potatoes and a vegetable), the next day the leftovers (the ground beef, potatoes and vegetables with some additions) would become a stew, the following day (the leftover stew) would become Cornish pasties with some leftovers to turn into a curry (just add some curry powder and make rice) the next day, the final day the curry leftovers would become a soup with perhaps just a few pieces of ground beef floating around in it.
Teach that in your schools. Not only would it go a long way to solving the poverty problem in this country but it would also go a long way to solving the childhood obesity problem. Filling your child up with rubbish to assuage hunger is not only bad for your child it is bad for your budget. Teach people how to cook. It is an essential life skill that should not be overlooked by any education system. Just my two cents.