The madmomma wrote a very thoughtful and useful post on avoiding food wastage and how we could each do our bit to fight the food crisis. Readers of her blog know how difficult it is to add something to her posts as she has this habit of considering issues from every angle conceivable; and yet, she asks me to add my two cents worth and let me try.

When we go out to eat as a gang, I see some friends order a dish , have a few spoonfuls and then leave it saying they are full. If you were not hungry to start with, why order a whole dish for yourself? It is always possible to share when one is in a gang. Order enough while making sure that nothing gets wasted.

I have heard it said by my friends who are conscious of their weight that "It is better to let food go to waste rather than to your waist." I'd rather not waste it and work it out.
There are several reasons why I feel strongly about wasting food:
While growing up, we were not allowed to waste food. There were a few years when we faced shortage of supply and food rationing by the government. This was probably during the Chinese war. I remember standing in queues in the ration shop to get sugar and wheat and kerosene. So there is a memory of a time when there was a possibility of having to go without certain items of food. You realise the value of a thing only when you face the possibility of being without it.
I come from a family where they believe that food is goddess Lakshmi and we were taught to be respectful of Annalakshmi. I respect it because I look around and see those who do not have enough of it and what a misery it can be. So I appreciate what I have and show my appreciation by not wasting it.

It is easier for me to avoid wastage in my house because there are no children with unpredictable appetites and cravings. I cook a full meal in the night and use the leftovers for lunch for me and the maid just cooking what is needed to supplement. This reduces time and energy spent in cooking too.
I shop several times during the week for vegetables and fruits as there are several shops within walking distance. I usually pick up stuff for not more than 2 days. This not only ensures freshness but also reduces the possibility of their going bad and getting wasted.
If there is leftover food from the previous meal, I try to work around them by making a vegetable that can go with it rather than plan a totally new menu for the next meal. And of course there are plenty of innovative and tasty combinations that you can try with left overs.
It is better to cook a little less of everything and supplement the meal with fruits,salads,lassi etc which is also healthier.
It is always a good idea to take a look at the shelves and the fridge for an inventory before going shopping.
"best before" is not the same as 'expiry date". In any case, it is a good idea to look at both before buying.If you are not sure that you can consume something before its expiry, do not buy it.
I have noticed that many of the supermarkets do not stock many of the items like pulses in smaller quantities. They come in 1kg and 2 kg packets claiming to offer a reduced price. But it is no point buying them unless you can use those quantities within a reasonable time. It might be better to pay the normal price and buy lesser quantities so that they get consumed rather than being wasted.

Wastage is not only a matter of affordability ; it is also an environmental issue. Cooked food that is thrown as garbage ends up emitting methane which is a green house gas. So if you cannot eat it, do not cook it.

And finally if you need any further incentive to avoid wastage please have this photograph implanted in your memory. This is a picture of a Somalian mother holding her baby who died of starvation. There are people, babies, dying without access to food. We have it ( at least for now), let us not waste it. It is a shame, it is a sin.
20 Responses
  1. Unknown Says:

    The concept of rationing with which we grew up, Usha , in our historical context is an issue which subsequent generations may not know. Therefore , it is imperative that we reinforce such issues .

  2. awesome Usha... thanks so much for joining in. you've got so many readers who will spread the word.

  3. B o o Says:

    Wasting food is considered "mahaa paavam" in our family and having grown up with such strong feelings towards wasting, I cant bring myself to do that. And Im also the person who buys that small bottle of jam even though the big bottle is on sale and less than the price of the small bottle.
    I ve started hating kids parties because of all the wastage. Why give a huge piece of cake to a 2 year old and then throw half of it in the trash? I let Ashu eat first and then eat the remaining cake from her plate. My 2 bit to save the wastage.
    Btw, your post reminded me of this post of mine I wrote long time back -

  4. Anonymous Says:

    The idea of not wasting food should be implanted in the childhood itself. I remember my uncle (maasi's husband) telling me that if you leave food on your plate, you are making Lord Ganesha very angry, and that He would not give you food to eat in your later years/ next birth. And then he used to ask my maasi to delay the next meal a little so that we understand what hunger is. For a 10 year old, this was a very strong impression, and needless to say, it has stayed with me ever since.
    In my initial days of marriage, I didn't have much idea about the right quantity of food to be cooked, and with no fridge at home, most if it used to go waste, causing me a lot of distress. But with time that has changed, and yes I do use a lot of the suggestions you made in your post. That certainly helps.
    Guilt is also required at times. So pictures like the one you posted do make us feel guilty of the wastage that we cause, and they might actually help in rake the conscience.

  5. Sunita Says:

    I have heavy guilt trips when throwing food, especially rice. I do not most of the time. I also believe its ok to eat a little less instead of cooking and filling tummies and then wasting the rest. I am a farmer's granddaughter and the daughter keeps talking about how inspite of having a cellar full of rice and being the ones who sold rice to the government, nobody was allowed to waste food so we who actually pay for it should be all the more careful.

  6. Mama - Mia Says:

    i am indeed guilty of waste sometimes, though Hubby balances it out by being very careful. we also try and eat leftovers withing a day or two by making just fresh chapatis.

    bacha hua chapatis are used for breakfast or snack by either giving it a yummy tadka or frying them and adding some toppings.

    your post has made me more concious for sure.


  7. Unknown Says:

    Nice work ..Usha .Totally agree with
    you that wasting food in social functions and parties is a sin.
    If you have a function/party at your home in India and food gets wasted, don't hesitate to call 1098 (IN INDIA ONLY) - child help line. They will come and collect the food. This way no food will be wasted and you can help feed many children Please circulate this message.
    ''Helping hands are better than Praying Lips''

    Do make it a point to help.

  8. Praveen Says:

    Ashamed to say that I have been guilty of wasting food several times as a child.

    This also reminds me of a story I heard as a kid about Thiruvalluvar, who had this habit of keeping a small pot of water and a needle beside his food plate. Whenever his wife Vasuki spilt grains of rice while serving his plate, he would use to the needle to collect the spilt rice outside his plate dip them in the pot of water and eat them. Wondering if one can be so cautious about wastage of food.

    BTW nice templete Usha, perfect for ur blog.

  9. dipali Says:

    Well said, Usha. If we order too much when we eat out, I get the leftovers packed and enjoy them later at home.

    Yes, our generation grew up with sugar rationing and the Indo-Pak wars and Shastriji's Miss A Meal on Monday.

  10. Mahadevan Says:

    Totally agree with you. After looking at the Photograph of the unfortunate Ethiopean mother, would anybody dare waste food?
    " Wastage is not only a matter of affordability, it is also an environmental issue " - you have summed up excellently.
    Today the overall production of food articles is much less than the International Community's requirements and hence the exhorbitant increase in price. Looking at the context, your post is timely.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Wasting food is considered bad manners in my family so I am very much used to slurping up everything from my plate. But whenever I go out with my friends, food gets wasted even if we try our best to avoid it. This happens when you are trying out new places regularly and have no idea about the quantity which would be served. In such scenario, it would be appropriate to get the food packed and take it home so that it can be gulped down in the breakfast. :)
    And I too believe that children should be made aware of this in very early stages.
    Nice post.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    I think the example set by Lal Bahadur Sastri in the late sixties where he asked us to give up the Monday evening meal every week is a great way to save food. Imagine how much food we could save if the Indian middle class (30% of one billion?) gave up one meal a week voluntarily.

    I am sure the ekadashi vratas, etc, of old also would have had similar benefits :-)

  13. Sumana Says:

    Very true and every body should follow it. Wasting food and water is really not affordable for the world we are in right now.

  14. Very true..
    I think in every middle class family that AnnaLakshmi concept is taught..wonder whether we forget that totally while we grow older.

    Specially during ceremonies, huge amount of food get wasted. I have got some emails that such food can be given to people by calling 1098.
    Also we even can think of distributing it to some hostel or orphanages..
    That picture skips a heart beat.Sigh!

  15. Hi ma'am,

    I've been following ur blog for quite sometime now, its fortunate or unfortunate that its the first time i am leaving a comment.... trust me this is truely one of the touching posts... a little correction here is that its not a shame but it is crime to waste food....
    yet another wonderful post ma'am

  16. Swati Says:

    Its our responsibility to let the kids know that wasting food is sin..its sad to see how ppl waste food in office :(

    BTW are tagged

  17. i hate food wasters. do hop in and rad my post too on this topic!

  18. Usha Says:

    eve'slungs: Agree.

    The madmomma: :)

    B O O: I guess that is the standard in most Indain middle class families - wasting food is mahapaavam. All this is pretty new to our culture - kiddies parties, weight watching et al.
    will check your post right away.

    Puja:I suppose people who don't think about wastage are the ones suffering from a problem of plenty.
    I get an ache in the pit of my stomach when I see children suffering from hunger.

    Sunita: yes, I know what your mother means. we also got rice from our fields but we were never allowed to waste even a morsel of it.

    mama-mia: I get a great satisfaction on days when everything has been consumed and there are no left overs. and sometimes I love the new concoctions from left over food like idli upma or bread upma.

    ayesha: Will remember that and pass on to all my friends. Thank you.

    S.Praveen:Nice story and thanks I like it too.

    Dipali:I still have memories of standing in those queues at odd hours.
    Ya I also get leftovers packed. In fact I even pack things like a muffin or a cookie from my plate served in a flight if I have not been able to eat it. I give it to any child on the road asking for money. Food is always better than money.

    Mahadevan: What we read in the papers is quite scary no. I really hope the situation isn't so bad.

    Mashedmusings: I agree. You can't pack leftover from your plate. Perhaps in such cases it is a good idea to have a small serving initially. What is untouched in the serving bowl can always be packed and given to someone hungry.

    Usha2: That makes me want to try it. Perhaps I will try missing one course in the beginning and then a whole meal.


    Veena: Especially in today's context a lot of people are so conscious of what they eat and so much gets wasted in these functions. That is a great idea.

    Suresh: Thank you for your words of encouragement. :)

    Swati: It has become a great fashion to order a whole dish and then take a few spoonfuls and waste the rest. And I have seen that it is the girls who are usually guilty of this behaviour.

    ITW: I did too and that was indeed a very comprehensive post. :)

  19. Savani Says:

    Waste not, want not. I am totally for that. We should all reduce waste. Period. Most startvations in the world are caused by war and political problems, not because of dearth of food. I am sure all rich countries give aid - food or money to somalia adn similar countries but it never reaches the poor. I implore all mothers and fathers out there to stop telling their children that eat - because there is a child in Ethiopia dying of starvation. My mother used to tell me that and I called her bluff when I was about 12, when my dad showed me an article about political famines.

  20. Usha Says:

    dot: A picture such as this or a armemory of severe food rationing certainly prevents us from taking availability of food for granted.
    We may not be responsible for a child dying in Somalia but it is good to appreciate the value of something we are fortunate to have.