Jungle Care


Background:  Worldwide, “Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from land use change, the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 billion tons.” [1] Of total waste in North America 35% is wasted in production, with food left on the field to rot. 40% of waste is at the consumer level. [2] Food waste is the number one producer of the toxic greenhouse gas, methane, from landfills.

The focus here is on healthy food combinations. Organic food is recommended as it has no chemical residues and organic farming methods produce no toxic runoff into waterways. Healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy products. When shopping, be realistic about how much perishable food and dairy products will actually be used. Don’t get carried away and over-buy beautiful seasonal produce. Take inventory of the fridge before shopping, and plan "catch-up," use-it-up meals. Make sure kids are not throwing out milk when done with their cereal. For meat or fish, cook fresh, or freeze what won’t be used in 3-5 days.

With food, presentation is everything. Visibility is key in avoiding waste. Re-used clear deli containers offer good visibility; opaque containers can be labeled with a Sharpie. They stack, come in different heights, and have a small footprint in the cupboard.  Visible produce in containers should be attractive to grab and pull out. Downsize containers as food is used up and keep single servings in front.

Be creative. Remember, a recipe is merely a suggestion…
Go ahead, finish that last serving.

Storing produce in plastic bags in the back of the refrigerator is a death knell. Cut or slice vegetables when fresh, and keep cut pieces in clear containers in the front of the refrigerator. Middle shelf is best seen, or lower for “littles.” Excess fresh produce can be frozen in containers, and used later in cooking, or blended. Perk up veggies by soaking root area in water or herbs upright in a glass.

Berries, grapes, and other fruits like to be dry. Pre-wash and store in plastic fruit colanders from the grocery. Cut grape branches to form clusters, and store with loose grapes and smaller clusters on top. Freeze excess berries, then thaw and mash (with a pinch of sugar) for a fruit topping, home-made fruit yogurt, or smoothies. Note: commercial fruited yogurt contains as much sugar as many desserts. Chopped soft apples or other crisp fruits can be added to cereal, salads or cooked food.

Frozen produce is a good alternative to fresh. It is quick-frozen and packaged within hours of harvest, so retains more vitamins and nutrients than transported food. It is unsalted, and handy to use. Fresh produce loses nutrients as it goes through 6 handling steps to get to market; but that is no reason to not use them. [3]  Canned produce used to be quickly processed close to its origin, but many cans now say “Product of China.”
Use bag clips or eco-friendly office spring clips to close and store frozen produce. To avoid bags getting lost in the back of the freezer when contents get low, store partly used bags together in an easy-to-pull-out Gallon zip-lock.

For homes with a yard, consider a counter-top composter to collect food waste and coffee grounds. Buried compost is an exceptional fertilizer, and improves soil porosity.

Any vegetable or fruit can be added to frozen or packaged prepared meals. For diets that include a lot of processed food, these suggestions improve the nutritional value by increasing daily fruit and veggie servings, expanding the number of portions, and diluting out salt, fat, sugar, and calories. Bright contrast colors, for instance, shredded carrots, julienned radishes, or chopped herbs create an appetizing appearance. If not accustomed to healthful ingredients, incorporate them into the diet gradually, as you feel comfortable. Select products with fewer ingredients.
  NOTES:  1)  When microwaved, 95% of plastic trays or wrappers release trace chemicals. To avoid this, transfer packaged food to non-plastic dishware to heat.

2)  Artificial flavors are chemicals exclusively customized for each product. They are mixed in giant vats, and purposefully designed to be addictive, to maximize consumption. [4]

When dry foods such as cereal or crackers get low, remove from boxes, trim excess wrapper, then clip and store visibly in front. Breads remain fresher if stored frozen. As loaves are used, store in a Gallon-zip with other breads so they don't get lost. If baked goods get a little dry, a small piece of crisp fruit added to the container overnight will soften them.

(2)  (p.11)