3 Creative Challenges to Waste Less Food and Save Money

BlogHer Original Post

Food If you're like most Americans, you send an impressive amount of your hard-earned cash down the garbage disposal -- in the form of food waste. Okay, some of you don't have garbage disposals, and some of you compost all food scraps (good for you!), but you get my point: Many of us waste a lot of food. In America, we throw away nearly half our food, as food waste expert Jonathan Bloom's documented in his fascinating book, American Wasteland.

The wasteful practice of course takes its toll on the environment -- but you don't have to be an environmentalist to care about this issue. Why do we think of our food as disposable when we don't think of the money we buy the food with as disposable?

Whether your interest in food waste is driven by a love for environmental conservation, a desire for smarter spending habits, or a simple distaste for waste, here are some inspiring food waste challenges women bloggers have launched to motivate themselves -- and others -- to waste less and enjoy more:

Zero Food Waste Challenge. For creative cooks, this is the challenge to try. Penny of Penniless Parenting started this challenge last November as a way to reduce food waste while keeping things yummy. The fun aspect of this challenge is Penny's Thursday updates, which showcase a new tasty recipe created using leftovers.

Breaded noodles, for example, help use up stale bread -- and Banana Peel Chutney turns what's usually considered trash into a meal! If you like the idea of reducing food waste but hate the thought of eating the same dish of leftovers for days in a row, try some of Penny's recipes.

Food Stamp Challenge. This challenge is just one of a string of food waste-related challenges initiated by Katy Wolk-Stanley of The Non-Consumer Advocate. It all started back in May 2008, when Katy kicked off the Waste No Food Challenge after noticing a strange irony:

"I’m so good about being the queen of frugal with my grocery purchases, but it doesn’t take Allen Greenspan to see that it’s not exactly good money management to allow your leftovers to rot way in the refrigerator."

So she decided to take action, setting herself a goal "to not throw away any formerly edible food" -- and asking her readers to join in. The challenge went well for Katy -- until a few months later, a visit from her sister and her kids left Katy's fridge stuffed full of food -- and drove Katy to start another, more hardcore challenge: The Buy No Food Challenge. With a caveat that allowed her to buy milk, Katy decided "to see how long my family can go before we have to grocery shop again." The result: "We all ate well, and nobody got food poisoning."

Then for June 2010, she issued yet another challenge -- the Food Stamp Challenge. The goal: To eat smart on a food stamp budget. That challenge seemed to have struck a special chord with readers, dozens of whom signed up for the frugal-meets-savvy anti-waste challenge. And Katy successfully met her goal -- though the high-aiming blogger seemed to feel she should have spent even less on food!

Though the Food Stamp Challenge is officially over, there's no reason you can't try your own during a month of your choice. And Katy's loose, No Food Waste Challenge continues on. Follow her blog (or just the food waste tag) to learn from her frugal ways.

The No Refrigerator Challenge. Want to get serious about reducing food waste while always eating really fresh food? Then this challenge thrown out by Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens will appeal to you. The simple living blogger's got plans to live in a tiny home -- which will not have a refrigerator!

So Tammy's decided to start de-fridging in preparation -- and threw out the challenge to her readers last week. Already, Tammy has a lot of tips to share, from planning ahead to using an icebox. Yes, going fridge-free may seem drastic to many -- but for those up to the challenge, a fridge-free life can mean more fresh and healthy eats, less food waste, and lower electricity bills. Honestly, I'm not ready to go fridge-free yet -- but having recently downsized from a full fridge to a mini fridge, I can tell you that a smaller fridge has meant less food waste and lower utility bills for me. Unplug the fridge by signing up for the challenge at Rowdy Kittens.

Many other bloggers have issued food-waste reduction challenges, from the Eating Down the Fridge challenge to the Food Waste Reduction Challenge. In fact, even the U.S. EPA has a Food Recovery Challenge going for organizations -- with prizes! Have you ever started or joined a blogging challenge to reduce food waste? If so, how did the efforts pay off?


BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs at greenLAgirl.com.

Photo by Melissa Goodman.

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