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The High Cost of Food Waste
by Karen Gridley
Based on an article in the March/April 2012 issue of the Ukiah Co-op News



Where does food waste come from? All along the supply chain from "farm to fork": at the farm, during transport and storage, at stores and restaurants and finally from the consumer.

How much is wasted? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, approximately 40% of all edible foods (not including bones, peels and other inedible parts). Most is thrown out by consumers, primarily fresh foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that a typical American throws out 40% of their fresh fish, 23% of eggs and 20% of milk. Citrus fruits and cherries top the list for fruits thrown away, and sweet potatoes, onions and greens are the most commonly wasted vegetables. Two thirds of this waste comes from not being used in time. The rest comes from cooking or serving too much, i.e., plate waste.

What does all this waste cost us? Plenty! Consider these estimates:

  • 25% of all fresh water used in the U.S. is used on wasted food
  • 4% of total U.S. oil consumption is wasted due to food waste
  • $90 billion per year in food costs – 40% from households
  • $750 million per year to dispose of food
  • 34 million tons of landfill waste .

These estimates are just for the U.S.

Mining Your Refrigerator

Often the greatest waste occurs in the refrigerator. Burrow deep and assess what's hidden in crisper drawers and the "nether" regions of your fridge. Prevent spoilage by learning which veggies do well stored in plastic bags and which do better in paper or cloth bags. Prioritize the produce to be eaten first. Remember you can freeze or dry certain items in order to rescue them.

Gather together what needs to be used, and concoct a delectable dish with these ingredients. If you need help, refer to a cookbook for your main ingredient and get ideas from that for combinations. Here's a recipe to get you started!

Japanese-Style Broth with Millet “Dumplings”
By Rachel Britten

Leftover millet gets a refreshing update in this Japanese-inspired broth.

Leftovers don’t have to mean lukewarm patties featuring all of the refrigerator’s contents covered in cheese. Instead, they can be a great way to cut down on mealtime labor, and you can still enjoy something tasty, fresh, and new!


6 c. water or vegetable broth (I make mine out of leek tops, parsley stems, winter squash peelings and seeds, a handful of garlic cloves and veggie trimmings. I always add some thyme and bay leaf as well.)
1/2 c dried shitake mushrooms
1/4 oz dried kombu (seaweed)
1/4 c white miso
3/4 c thinly sliced leeks or green onions
salt and pepper to taste

Millet “dumplings”

1 1/2 c cooked millet (try any other leftover cooked grain you have on hand!)
1/2 c leek, onion, or green onion, finely chopped
1/2 c mixed fresh herbs (parsley, some tarragon if available)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste


Place all of the ingredients for the broth together (the white miso will not dissolve immediately) in a stockpot over low heat, and heat to just below boiling. Hold it around this temperature for at least 20 minutes or as long as 2 hours.

Meanwhile, knead together all of the “dumpling” ingredients. If the cooked millet is not moist enough to stick together, add some stock, hazelnut milk or nut butter of your choice (we use sunflower butter with no salt or sugar added). Using your hands, form the mixture like a cookie, in 3/4-inch balls, and lay them on a plate or cookie sheet.

Just before serving, place the millet balls in a 350 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes, until center is heated through. Place 3 or 4 millet balls straight into bowls, and ladle hot broth over them, avoiding large seaweed pieces. If you want, you can strain the broth before you serve it. Enjoy!


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