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It’s that time of year again.

People jot down their “New Years Resolutions,” usually along the lines of lose weight, get organized, exercise more- and so on and so forth.

These things are great resolutions to have, but how often do we not just focus on them for a few weeks or months and then eventually stop trying for whatever reason?

This year, I wanted my New Years Resolutions to be a little different. I’ve already been working on losing weight and being healthier since last year, and trying to get organized is an ongoing struggle, I don’t really need a New Years Resolution in those respects to give me the “inspiration” to do better in those areas.

I have several resolutions I’d like to share with you, but I’ll only elaborate on one.

In 2012 I want to…

  • Waste less
  • Save more
  • Create more
  • Learn more

I’d like to elaborate a bit on the first on my little list of things I want to accomplish in 2012.

World War I poster. "Waste not, want not. Prepare for winter. Save perishable foods by preserving now." Courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Yngve and I are already quite good about not wasting food, but there is always room for improvement.

This year, I’d like to generate as little food waste as possible.

Food waste at the post-process level (that is, after a particular food product, be it fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, etc has been picked, processed, gathered, etc) is an all too common problem in developed nations. Each year we waste billions of tons of food, much of it by us the consumer.

According to nofima.no, about 335000 tons or 25 % of all food being produced in Norway ends as food waste.  According to nextgenerationfood.com, 40 % (sheesh!!!) of food produced in America goes to waste.

Even with Norway being significantly lower than the US (I’d guess that’s due to higher food cost in Norway) even 25% waste is quite bad, but 40% waste is downright sickening.

If you look at the infographic linked to on the next generation food website, they show a breakdown of what else is lost when food is wasted. Not only do we lose the food itself, but American food waste alone counts for 300 million barrels of oil a year, gone. Fruits, vegetables and bakery products produce lots of methane gas when decomposing, and methane gas is 25% stronger as a greenhouse gas than C02! Ack.

How often haven’t you gone to the grocery store, piled lots of things in your cart with good intentions to eat it all, and several weeks later have thrown out moldy bread or bagels never eaten, fruits or vegetables that have gotten shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten about and are now harboring some sort of mold infestation… or have you cooked too much for dinner and put it into a plastic container, forgotten it and months later opened it up to discover you were growing a science experiment in your fridge? I know I have, and I’m sure you have to.

As I said before, Yngve and I have been really good about not wasting, but we can always improve.

The first year I moved here I had NO CLUE that my habits were wasteful, and it took me a little time and practice to get the hang of wasting less.

First of all, I cooked way too much. This was a force of habit I learned from my mom who always cooked huge meals growing up, and despite there being just Yngve and I at home, for a long time I cooked meals big enough for probably 6. We obviously couldn’t eat them all at one time, so they went into the fridge as leftovers. Sometimes they would get eaten, sometimes they’d get forgotten.

Also, for the longest time I just went to the grocery store with no clue as to what I was cooking for dinner. I’d think of something along the way, or I’d wait for something to inspire me when I got there. This made for lots of things getting piled into the basket without thought, much of which ended up getting wasted when they were quickly (and easily) forgotten, lost in the depths of the fridge or forgotten in a cabinet. It’s easy to forget exactly what you have when you have too much of it.

The things I have been doing the past couple years to cut down on our food waste has been simple. Make a weekly menu. Write a list according to said menu, shop according to the list, cook what you have, learning to cook less.

So far, this has really helped us with food waste, but as I said, there is so much we can do to improve.

Places I need improvement are in not wasting vegetables like lettuce and celery. I seem to buy a lot of lettuce and intend on making a salad for lunch one day, but then I don’t and I find a bunch of brown and wilted leaves in my fridge a couple weeks later. Same with celery. I buy it for a soup or some particular dish, then I don’t use it all and it ends up going bad before I need it again.

I’d also like to be better about saving the ends of carrots and onions (and celery) and other veg that are usually the waste part of cooking dinner and making them into vegetable or chicken stocks. I do that already, but not as often as I should.

I have completely cleaned out the fridge yesterday so I have a fresh start. I’ll be participating in “food waste Friday” over at TheFrugalGirl.com which is intended to give people incentive to waste less by vowing to (embarrassingly) show off their food waste. I’m sure more things will come to light that I am terrible about wasting as I participate.

I must admit, though, that saving the environment is only a secondary reason for why I want to make a point to practice cutting food waste this year.

Saving money is the main reason I want to be even better at not wasting food. Each bit of molded bread, every wilted, brown piece of lettuce, every single portion of fuzzy leftovers that gets tossed into the garbage costs my husband and I money. I wouldn’t just toss real money into the trash, but when we waste food, that is what we may as well be doing.

Since my second resolution is to save more money, this ties together perfectly. I can save money by wasting less. I can save money by doing more things myself instead of buying them ready made. I can save money by doing without, and that is what I plan on doing this year.

I would love it if I could take this even further by having a big fabulous vegetable garden, composting, and raising a few of my own animals, but unfortunately, I live in a very small apartment, in a city, in a country where the growing season is quite short which makes what I can and cannot grow or do a very short list indeed. Eventually I will be able to do that, but for now, I will have to try saving money and resources the best way I can.

So there’s  my resolutions for the year. I think they’ll help me grow into a better person, with the added bonus of being pretty nice for the environment and the world as well.

What were your New Years Resolutions??