Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food by Dana Gunders
Date read: 17 February – 01 March 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Paperback, 200 pages
Published 2015 by Chronicle Books
- Introduction: Making a Difference
- Part One: Strategies for Everyday Life
- Part Two: Recipes
- Part Three: Directory
- Foodborne Illness
“The author is a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and leads NRDC’s work on reducing the amount of food wasted across the country” (back cover).
The Introduction covers where food is wasted, what contributes to food waste in homes, what it takes to produce food, how wasting food saves money and resources, and how this is about “small, easy changes you can make in your daily food rhythm that will streamline your consumption” (21).
“My journey into becoming a food-waste warrior started at work, where I was researching how to improve farming. My aim was to help farmers use less water, fertilizers, and pesticides. But what I found startled me. After all the effort and resources that were being invested to get food to our plates, a huge amount of it was going uneaten! It occurred to me that no matter how organically or sustainably we grow our food, if it doesn’t get eaten, it doesn’t do anyone any good.
About 40 percent of all food in the United States does not get eaten.1 That’s crazy! It’s like buying five bags of groceries and then dropping two of the bags in the grocery store parking lot and not bothering to pick them up.
Collectively, consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores, or any other part of the food supply chain” (Introduction, 9).
You may have noticed the footnote in the above quote. The book contains a fair few (61 total) endnotes, many of which are to free and open sources. I have added the two citations used in quotes I am using near the bottom of this post.
Growing portion sizes come in for a bit of analysis in the Intro. “Portion sizes are now sometimes 2 to 8 tines larger than the standard serving sizes defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration7” (11). There is a chart on p. 12 showing the growth in portion sizes from 1982 to 2002 for nine food items. The smallest increase of 70% was for pepperoni pizza to 205% for soda and 400% for a chocolate chip cookie!
Part One covers Sage Shopping (tricks of the grocery trade, meal planning, shopping guidelines, and waste diagnostics), Smarter Storage (refrigerators, freezers, blanching, canning, pickling, drying, and root cellars; although these last four are simply overviews), The Crafty Kitchen (setting up your kitchen, tenets of mindful cooking, making the right amount, salvaging kitchen crises, leftovers, keeping food safe, and food waste management for parties), Can I Eat It? (what happens to food as it ages, expiration dates, and who should be particularly careful), Getting Scrappy (food scraps for and not for pets, things that can be (re)planted, household uses for scraps, and composting), and Go Forth and Go For It, which provides a short recap so far.
Part Two consists of 20 recipes ranging from infused vodkas through desserts and main dishes to side dishes by using food items that are nearing or just past prime.
Part Three covers Fruits; Vegetables; Meat, Poultry, and Seafood; Pantry Staples; Dairy and Eggs; Beans, Nuts, and Vegetarian Proteins; Oils, Condiments, and Spices. The Directory “… offers advice on how to store foods, how to freeze them, and how long they stay at their best quality. It also has helpful tidbits on ways to use parts that you might have thought were inedible, tips for reviving foods, and answers to questions like, “What are those brown spots?” (146)
It clearly cannot cover everything but it does have many, if not most, of the more normal fruits, vegetables, meats, etc.
Foodborne Illness addessses pathogens, toxins, Listeria, and pasteurization.
Recommended. A fairly quick read with lots of ideas, some more practical than others depending on your situation, which she does acknowledge. Early on the author comes across as a bit of a zealot but then this is a huge problem worldwide. See, for instance, Food Waste: The Facts by the United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office of North Africa.
The scale of food waste is truly terrifying and criminally unjust.
1 K. D. Hall, J. Guo, M. Dore, and C. C. Chow, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in American and its Environmental Impact,” PloS One 4 no. 11 (2009), e7940.
7 L. Young and M. Nestle, “Expanding Portion Sizes in the U.S. Marketplace: Implications for U.S. Counsleing,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 103, no. 2 (February 2003): portionteller.com/pdf/portsize.pdf [link verified 05 March 2016]
Actually the 12th nonfiction book for me this year but the review for number 11 is taking a while.