Friday, August 28, 2015

Mama said there'd be days like this

We didn't have a refrigerator at home when we were kids.  In the near-equatorial conditions, and in a vegetarian household, that meant buying vegetables practically every other day.  Because potatoes were more tolerant than most other vegetables, they were stored in a dark corner and were often the option if a guest showed up un-announced--after all, those were also the days before emails and telephones.

For whatever reason, I liked involving myself in the kitchen affairs.  Not that I cooked back then.  But, I think I had far more interest than the typical boy did in how the food preparation happened. Perhaps my mother has forgotten me asking her questions like why we needed half-a-kilo of the vegetable and not more.  I, like my grandmother, was always impressed with how my mother seemed to cook the exact quantity for a meal; rare was a day when we ended up with more food.

In that kind of an old lifestyle, only the needed fruits and vegetables and milk were purchased, and they were all consumed.  Food was never wasted.

I wonder if my interested involvement with those household affairs is also why I continue with some of those old practices.  Even in my life on the other side of the planet from the old country, I seem to do grocery shopping every other day.  Sometimes the purchases do not even add up to a double-digit expense.  I could, of course, shop once in four or five days.  But, buying huge quantities seem bizarre.  Buying only what I know I will realistically consume over two days seems more prudent.  And I find that I, too, rarely have any food to waste.  Further, I shop at a relatively small-sized grocery store--which is also why I have all those "checkout relationships" with the people who work there.

Thus, naturally, I was drawn to this report:
Two studies published this year suggest a link between how often people go shopping and the healthiness of the food they buy.
If my life experience means anything in this context, it appears that buying small quantities might be the healthy approach.  Guess what?  According to the studies:
There are many potential ways in which big supermarkets might be bad for our health. Here are a few:
• When we shop less often, we may be less likely to buy fresh food because it spoils quicker.
• We tend to buy more in bulk, bringing home more food than we need.
• Our cupboards and pantries become full of food, encouraging us to eat when we are not hungry.
• We use cars to get to large shops and to transport the food back, meaning less physical activity than if we had walked, cycled or used public transport.
• We’re overwhelmed by choice in large stores, potentially making us more susceptible to marketing tactics and displays that encourage impulse purchasing decisions.
If you re-read those bullet-points, you will agree with me that it is all common sense.  People buy a dozen apples because it is cheaper by the dozen, but then end up dumping three or four apples into the trash.  Having all kinds of foods at our disposal is nothing but a way for the devil to tempt us into eating the wrong things at the wrong time.  My grandmothers could have easily provided that advice for free! ;)

If we were smart about that, then we can easily avoid the food waste too. How much do we waste here in the US?  It is about one-third of the food supply.



Back in the old country, for more than three decades now, mother has had a refrigerator at home.  But, she still buys vegetables every other day.  And there is no food waste either.  One of those instances when being a mama's boy is a good thing, eh! ;)


3 comments:

Anne in Salem said...

Food waste should be a crime. There is no reason for it. I would occasionally have lunch with my kids at the elementary school. The students were required to take a piece of fruit, whether they wanted it or not. My aversion to wasted food became known enough that the kids would give me their fruit rather than throw it away so that I didn't give them the stink eye. The kids settled one problem on their own. They were required to take milk, but not everyone wanted to drink it. They started leaving the cartons on a table rather than throwing them away, and students who wanted the milk would drink it.

I will debate the pounds wasted per person statistic. I have seen similar statistics before, and the totals usually include inedible parts of the food, such as the bones for the chicken and the core of the apple. It is misleading, intended to generate headlines and conversations.

Some of us plan for leftovers. My dinners on nights I do not have the kids frequently are leftovers from nights I do have the kids. I haven't the patience to go to the store more than once a week. I plan meals, buy what is on the list and use or freeze it all. I can't afford the waste, and with four kids, there is little opportunity for waste.

Ramesh said...

There is almost nobody who would argue that wasting food is OK, and yet we all do it. One big reason is what you have posted here - buying on impulse at super markets. Its not so much the frequency of shopping, but the impulse buying that retailers encourage through all the marketing tricks in the world. Its almost an axiom that you land up buying more than you need. Waste is an inevitable result.

Its also interesting that there is really no excess food collection mechanism as well. In a country like India, where door delivery of groceries is common, it is a surprise that there is no reverse collection system of excess food. With so many going hungry, that would have been an option - clearly there are diseconomies of doing it which I am not aware of.

Sriram Khé said...

Will you be shocked if I told you that there is nothing that I can add to your remarks?
Shocked you shall remain ;)

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