Three weeks into the Trim the Fat Challenge and I am still nipping and tucking. Last week, I gave my shower some plastic-removal surgery and this week I'm focusing on the kitchen.
Did you know that, of the food that makes it into U.S. homes, 50 million tons of it is thrown out? Holy cow! (pun intended). Not wanting to be one of those statistics, I've spent the month clearing out the frozen depths of our garage freezer (oh!! that's why our electricity usage is high!) and the pantry. Yes, the freezer is stocked full of locally grown winter squash that I carted home from the farmers' market, split open, baked, and pureed - slow food. There are also vestiges of our former food-selves: last year's frozen Trader Joe's stir fry, frozen organic peas and such. While not so tasty after all this time or compared to a meal cooked from fresh, seasonal ingredients, we're eating it up anyway. Better than tossing it, I thought, even while craving a local winter salad.
The Better Meal
Currently, 40% of the American food budget goes to food eaten outside the home. A year ago, that was easily our budget for take out and restaurant fare. We cut back over the last year - mostly because I couldn't stomach a garbage can full of Styrofoam containers and plastic clamshells. We now eat out once or twice a week - a burrito or breakfast at a locally owned restaurant. This week, however, we skipped all meals out.
You see, there is a certain wholesomeness, comfort and joy in home cooked food. Homemade pasta sauce, carefully simmered and stocked away in September, carries with it summer's memories, flavor found only from tomatoes ripe to bursting and identifiable ingredients. Home baked bread - even when it doesn't rise properly - provides nourishment rather than just something to put in one's mouth. Celebrating family night with home cooked pizza teaches the kids to cook, gathers the troops for the all important oft-ignored family dinner and tastes ten times better than anything delivered in a box while the pizza boy's car idles in the driveway.
It is this taste of home and of family, rather than guilt over garbage or promises to trim the fat, that kept us out of restaurants this week. It's hard to turn your back on a pumpkin and caramelized onion tart, fresh cooked corn tortillas or even pizza with half the cheese picked off.
Just as I ousted plastic from my shower, so too am I kicking it out of my kitchen. I am reusing plastic containers from food previously purchased but am trying to keep most new plastic out. I now make our own bread (from bulk ingredients), butter (from heavy cream in a reusable bottle) and buy our locally baked bagels packed in my own reusable ziplock bag. I bought a large wheel of local cheese wrapped in wax rather than shrink wrap and am following these simple instructions to keep it from going bad.
In addition, the "environmentally friendly sponge" has been an issue for me. A while back, I bought a six (or was it a twelve) pack of compressed cellulose sponges from Trader Joe's. I've used those up and need to decide how to restock. Compressed sponges have the advantage of being packed in less packaging (1 plastic wrap for 6 or 12 sponges), taking up less space when shipped, being recyclable or biodegradable and made from recycled materials. Beth at Fake Plastic Fish posted this link for similar sponges available without the plastic packaging. I also found these sponges but, ultimately, I think I'll check the local Trader Joe's first.
The End Result
One of my stated goals for the Trim the Fat challenge was to lean up. How is that going after three weeks of indulging in home cooked meals and pantry leftovers? It would be better if I hadn't lost the battle with some homemade rice pudding! But, still, it's not too bad. I'm down almost two pounds. I wish I could say that I've gone all Chile on you and pledged to give up dessert during the week or some such thing. The truth, though, is that the "better meal" is just better for you and your waistline. Let's just hope the scale keeps moving in the same direction.