LocalHarvest Newsletter, June 20, 2014

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

At the beginning of each month I sit down with a calendar and write out dinner menus for the whole month. I have been doing this since 2009. I have said that this chore changed my life. It's true. The worst part of any weekday used to be coming home from work and having no idea what to make for dinner. It turns out that 5:30 p.m. is not my most creative hour. I know I am not alone. Having a plan completely eliminates this form of stress, which alone is reason enough to take up the practice. But there's more. Menu planning allows for a balanced, thoughtful plan across each week, which for us means a variety of vegetables and proteins, not too much pasta, bigger meals every couple of days to allow for leftovers for our lunches. It also reduces trips to the grocery store and it allows me to plan easy meals for the nights I know will be busy.

Lately I have become aware of another advantage of meal planning, and that is the opportunity to reduce food waste. When I buy a head of lettuce, for example, I put salad on the menu a couple times that week. If I roast a chicken, I make a plan for using the leftovers in a pasta. About the only food that gets thrown out at our house is the occasional half-bunch of parsley that I didn't find a use for before it got old. Thinking ahead about how to use the food we buy has significantly reduced the amount of food we waste.

If menu planning caught on it could have a huge impact on the food system. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), members of the average U.S. household waste about one-quarter of the food and beverages they purchase. That is an incredible statistic! Buy four grocery bags full of food and one of them is destined for the trash. If you include the food wasted in the fields, in restaurants, etc., the amount of wasted food rises to 40 percent of all that is produced. What a sad and sorry use of fresh water, pesticides, fossil fuels, nutrients, labor and money.

The bad news/good news here is that the problem has gotten much worse than it used to be. The NRDC reports that food waste was fully 50 percent lower in the 1970s. As their report states, and this is the good news, “This means there was once a time when we wasted far less, and we can get back there again.” Indeed we can.

Menu planning is just one way to do so. Taking steps to store food properly at home to reduce spoilage is another. Composting is a third; though it does not reduce food waste directly, it does keep uneaten food out of the landfills. Food rotting in the oxygen-deprived environment of a landfill creates methane gas, a major contributor to climate change. On the other hand, food decomposing in a compost pile turns into a rich resource for the garden, landscaping, or houseplants. Sustainable America has a great info-graphic on how urban dwellers can compost, among others.

Reducing food waste makes good sense, and is something that all of us can help with, whether we do so through composting, improved storage, or menu planning. Menu-planning is a great place to start, since it helps cooks reduce stress at the end of the day. If you need a little inspiration to get your menu planning off to a good start, check out our cookbook giveaway below.

If you plan your menus a week or month at a time, or have other tips for reducing food waste, we would love to hear from you.

Until next time, take good care and eat well,

Erin Barnett

From the LH Catalog

June is the traditional time to make the Italian liquor, nocino which features green walnuts. If you like a little culinary adventure, you can get the main ingredient for your 2014 nocino here. Order soon to get in on the next shipment date: June 30.

Planning a summer wedding? Many people are choosing fragrant dried lavender as wedding toss. We have some available here! Going to a summer wedding? A LocalHarvest gift certificate makes the perfect gift!

Many people enjoy a little meat aside their vegetables, especially when in grilling weather. If you're looking for high quality meat direct from a family farmer, look no further.

CSAware: Make This Season a Good One

Been thinking that you have to get some technology to help you run your CSA? Get in touch and we'll be happy to give you a tour of CSAware!

Fresh from the Farm: Cookbook Giveaway and A Great Summer Dessert

Taunton Press has a great new cookbook out just in time for summer. Fresh from the Farm by Susie Middleton is full of farmer's market-friendly recipes, great stories, and photos pretty enough to inspire you to try something new. Taunton is providing three copies of the book for a LocalHarvest cookbook giveaway. If you'd like to enter, be sure to do so by midnight on Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Winners will be notified by email on Thursday, June 26.