At the beginning of the year, I decided on a whim that I was going to try to log every piece of food I wasted for at least a month.

Sam Taylor Wood - Still Life

To keep this manageable, I kept the scope for my food waste log pretty narrow: I tracked only food that I had been responsible for bringing into the home (which includes most of our household's shared groceries and home-prepped meals) and tossed out myself. This means that food I wasted outside the house (at restaurants, for example) didn't count, nor did any food waste that my roommates were mostly responsible for.

3 months later, I'm surprised to find that tracking food waste has come to feel like a reflex rather than a chore. I'm sure my logs aren't perfect, but the simple act keeps me a little more mindful about my consumption habits. I'm lucky enough to have a backyard compost bin, so most of this food waste has eventually been recycled into soil nutrients that will feed a new wave of garden vegetables, if everything goes right. Even so, it feels respectful, Marie Kondo-style, to honor the fallen. The following is almost every piece of food and produce I wasted since the start of the year, roughly clustered into themes.


Breads

We have a very high fail rate when it comes to eating an entire loaf of bread before it goes bad, which was compounded by the fact that we had signed up for a (not very good) biweekly bread share through our CSA. Solutions: unsubscribe from the bread share and only buy delicious bread (done); slice + freeze half of each loaf immediately.

  • Entire 😱 loaf of bread; moldy (4/6)
  • Half a loaf of soda bread; moldy (3/20)
  • Four slices of rye bread; moldy (3/8)
  • Delivery garlic naan; rock hard (1/29)
  • Half a loaf of sliced multigrain bread; moldy (1/2)

Leftover salad

Another thing we have a nearly 100% fail rate with is leftover salads, which go bad very fast (and which I don't particularly acknowledge as food). Solutions: make less salad for each sitting.

  • Leftover salad from two weeks ago; goopy and moldy (4/6)
  • Leftover salad from a week and a half ago; goopy (3/5)
  • Leftover salad (1/29)

Meat and Dairy

These are the things I can't compost in my backyard bin, so I'm glad that I did a relatively good job on this front. Still, we are going to cut down even more on even the possibility of wasting meat by getting rid of the meat portion of our farmshare.

  • About 1/4 cup of raw chorizo; sour (3/2)
  • Last bit of chipped beef from CSA; sour (2/10)
  • Feta that's been in the fridge since the summer; sour af (2/10)
  • Leftover chicken broth; sour (1/20)
  • Yogurt; moldy (1/20)
  • Unopened smoked salmon; 6 months expired and sour (1/12)

Basic Negligence

The bulk of the food waste is the result of improperly stored leftovers, poor meal planning, or because I straight up forgot about it. Solutions: I'm going to rearrange our fridge to make hiding produce and leftovers easier to spot. Also, do a better job of putting away our food immediately after eating.

  • One cup of applesauce; sour (pretty impressive tbh because I made a LOT of applesauce) (3/20)
  • Leftover stir fried carrots; prematurely funky because they were left in an open cup in the fridge (2/15)
  • Leftover hot and sour soup and rice at Orbital; forgotten & funky (2/8)
  • Leftover bean sprouts from pho night; slimy within 2 days (1/13)
  • Handful of grated parmesan left uncovered; fridge burnt (1/12)
  • Store-bought tomato/olive tapenade I forgot about; moldy (1/11)
  • Half-cup of leftover stir-fried celery I forgot to put away; slimy (1/7)
  • Lime quarter & lemon half; hard after being forgotten in the fridge (1/7)
  • Fries left in the downstairs fridge and forgotten about; gross (1/5)

Counter Foods

These things live outside the fridge, but the CSA versions of them don't last as long as their supermarket counterparts. Also, mold spores are real—many of the mid-Feb losses are as a result of unwittingly exposing a bunch of our counter vegetables to mold by leaving a gross, uncleaned humidifier nearby. Lesson disgustingly learned.

  • Part of a head of garlic; moldy (3/5)
  • Couple of tiny beets hiding in the back of the fridge; moldy (3/2)
  • Three CSA apples; went soft before the applesaucing could occur (2/22)
  • Part of an onion; moldy (2/15)
  • Onion; moldy (2/12)
  • Leftover potatoes; moldy (2/12)

Cooking Fails + Regrettable Purchases

I pride myself on rarely fucking up on either cooking or produce shopping too badly, but it does happen occasionally.

  • 3 strawberry Melona impulse purchased from a bodega; confusingly disgusting given how delicious their melon-flavored counterparts are (4/6)
  • 3 homemade pancakes; overly alkaline because I added too much baking powder. I ate 2 before giving up. (3/8)
  • Big jar of "beet juice" made by chucking beets into the Vitamix. Not how juice works. (3/2)
  • Most of a bag of gross sandy bodega basil; so fucking sandy whyyy (1/12)
  • A quart of dry quinoa purchased last year; gave me weird stomach issues every single time I tried to cook with it (1/5)

The Saddest Losses

Nothing makes me sadder than wasted food that represents a whole lot of effort and love—or when it's just delicious, and it's gone bad because I'm a ding-dong.

  • Four cups of leftover (delicious!) squash/lentil stew; moldy 😢 (2/6)
  • 1/4 cup of zakkokumai; spilled on the floor because I tried to shake the container to mix it without closing the lid 🤦🏻‍♀️ (1/11)
  • Last salted duck egg made by my parents + their ducks; moldy 😭 (1/5)
  • A bowl of cherry tomatoes from last fall's garden; moldy 😢(1/2)