At Large

The Struggle to Sustain a Salubrious Scullery with Zero Food Waste

By Published On: June 27th, 2024

For readers who may remember my article from last July’s issue that like this one centered around food and drink, this is a follow-up to the challenges I face as a foodie trying to buy fresh, local, and primarily organic ingredients I can whip into Michelin-star-worthy meals that miraculously remain healthy. I’ve been trying to cook cleanly – and gratifyingly – for my partner, Jason, our dog, Bailey (also my sous chef who barters for samples), and myself in the year since writing that article. It hasn’t always been an easy task.

My goal is to prepare gastronomical delights for lunch and dinner that are nutritious and delicious. Today’s hectic world makes that tough. J and I have a-million-and-one things to do before noon every day, so getting into the kitchen to create culinary masterpieces twice daily is difficult. Despite our best intentions, by the time Jason’s in-office workday ends, I’m typically beginning mine. If lucky, I’ll have showered, quickly tidied up, and started sorting through my deluge of emails and morning calls.

By then it’s lunchtime. Like clock-work, Jason will walk through our door with a smile and a kiss. While thrilled to have him home I’m rarely prepared, hence our frequent lunches out. Grabbing lunch on the go may be timely and tasty, but it’s bad for our wallets and our waistlines.

Beware the restaurant circuit?

Don’t minimize that impact on your figure – or your health – as regularly hitting the restaurant circuit is a sure- fire way to pack on the pounds. Dr. Ann Kulze, MD, a now-retired physi- cian, best-selling author, motivational speaker, and Clemson University valedictorian who graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina, explains the dangers on her website, “Each additional meal or snack consumed outside of the home comes with an average of 134 extra calories vs. the same meals or snacks prepared at home. Keep in mind that if you did this just once a day with no increase in physical activity, over the course of one year you could gain an additional 15 pounds,” she says.

Whereas dining out was once reserved for special occasions, today it’s common fare, added Kulze, who  said the average American spends 50 percent of his or her food budget – up from 25 percent in 1970 – and consumes up to 40 percent of his or her calories “from meals prepared by the hands and machines of others.” According to the good doctor, “the average American consumes three burgers and four orders of fries a week from outside the home.” Yikes!

“Tragically, it comes at a huge price,” stated Kulze. “Coincident with this epic shift in dining out vs. dining at home, rates of diet-related chronic diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and metabolic syndrome, have skyrocketed. Record numbers of Americans have lost their health, and healthcare spending has reached unimaginable levels that threaten our continued existence as a strong and prosperous nation.

“I firmly believe that the biggest culprit is our reliance on others to provide our meals and the notoriously poor choices we tend to make in this context. In fact, there is widespread scientific consensus that dining out increases the risk of eating excess, un- healthy calories, and well-conducted studies confirm it.”

Plan, shop, cook, repeat.

When putting one’s physical health up against one’s quality of life, it can become difficult to prioritize. Jason and I often go out to lunch knowing the struggle to sustain a salubrious scullery with zero food waste we may go exploring afterward. For us, that’s super important: We’re both in our 50s and want to enjoy as much time together as possible. If it’s a nice afternoon, we may go to a local park or preserve; if it’s foul weather, we may run errands or do something fun indoors.

While lovely, our outings mean we may not return home – and back into the kitchen – for hours. Such delays can cause us to repeat our dining out pattern then they keep us from shopping…

Tough life, right? I’m certainly not complaining. I’m simply stressing it’s not the healthiest – or the cheapest – habit. That’s why I’m desperately trying to reinstate my routine of cooking healthily. My goal: plan, shop, cook, repeat.

Firstly, I must plan; then I must shop. I like to compose a grocery list, which can be tough as I typically cook off the cuff. Sometimes I base my creations on either classic recipes or favorite dishes from childhood; other times I’m inspired by cookbooks or recipes found online.

Jason likes to cull recipes from cookbooks and online; sometimes he’ll even whip up dinner himself, and quite brilliantly. He leaves most dietary decisions to me and is among my biggest fans in the kitchen (though he’s likely just appreciative of having a partner who not only cooks, but loves to cook!).

Once I settle upon a recipe, I must decide where to market. Added to my timeline is that I read nearly every single label at the store – I can’t help myself! I want to know what’s going into my body and the bodies of those I love. Are there genetically modified organisms? Are the ingredients organic? Is there red dye #40? Is there high fructose corn syrup? Are the ingredients carcinogenic? These things matter to me, and being an informed consumer is a priority. After all, “we are what we eat,” which is why I think it makes sense to read what I’m eating. However, J doesn’t quite have the patience to wait for me to read all those labels, so he prefers for me to shop solo. It doesn’t usually work out that way, as we’re so often together and usually wind up at the supermarket hand-in-hand “just to grab a few things” (famous last words uttered at least 45 minutes before hitting any checkout line).

Shop strategically

To shop strategically, assess what’s in the fridge first. This is critical, as food waste is a huge pet peeve of mine. It’s also a major global crisis that trickles down to most local communities. Think about every person in the world who suffers from hunger. According to, it’s estimated that “almost 800 million people in the world [won’t] have enough food to eat” in 2024. That’s staggering – and hunger is on the rise. The website,, stated “in 2022 nearly 258 million people across 58 countries experienced crisis-level food insecurity or worse, according to the World Food Programme [WFP]. Crisis levels and above indicate that affected people have so little food that their lives or livelihoods are in immediate danger.” In 2022, that number was at a record high, representing “the fourth consecutive year of increasing acute food insecurity globally.” Yet those figures have grown, with another 540 million people experiencing hunger in the two years since.

Food waste is staggering

Adding insult to injury is the reality of how much of the food gets wasted in our country – vastly more than anywhere else. According to, the website for Recycle Track Systems, a company that helps businesses and communities manage waste more responsibly with locations throughout the US including in New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Dallas; Americans toss out nearly 60 million tons – 120 billions pounds – of food every year. That’s more than any other country; the world-at-large throws away roughly 2.5 billion tons of food a year, according to RTS. To put it in perspective, the US wastes about 40 percent of its entire food supply each year, amounting to roughly 325 pounds of waste per person.

“That’s like every person in America throwing 975 average-sized apples right into the garbage – or rather right into landfills, as most discarded food ends up there. In fact, food is the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills, making up 22 percent of municipal solid waste. All told, the amount of food wasted in America has an approximate value of nearly $218 billion – the equivalent of 130 billion meals,” according to RTS. When one speaks with a person who has previously gone hungry or who is currently experiencing hunger, the above facts and figures are cringeworthy. It seems criminal that so much of our nation’s food supply is tossed into dumpsters and landfills when it could be directed toward food banks, shelters, and other programs in desperate need of nourishment.

Individual households can do their part to trim food waste. RTS cited statistics from the nonprofit organization, Feeding America, that “the average American family of four throws out $1,600 a year in produce… with Americans wasting more than $408 billion each year on food.” Some tips to help eliminate food waste? For one, don’t be spooked by those “sell-by dates” on your labels. They’re for the stores to keep fresh items on their shelves, not for consumers to throw items out at home. Most food goods are still viable well-past the sell-by date, as there’s a more important date posted on packages: the best-by date. Many are trying to improve the situation. According to RTS, “The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and Harvard University have combined efforts to streamline expiration labels about the quality and safety of food. Two phrases simplify how you can tell what’s still good to consume: BEST IF USED BY describes quality ‘where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to consume’; USE BY applies to ‘the few products that are highly perishable and/or have food safety concern over time.’”

Something else consumers can do to help curtail food waste: Compost. Doing so will keep food scraps out of landfills and cut down on greenhouse gases. Food waste has been blamed for an 11 percent spike of greenhouse gasses globally. One more helpful hint: Freeze leftovers or share what you can’t consume, whether with friends and neighbors or with food pantries and shelters. Remember, too, that imperfect food like produce with blemishes or damaged boxes of dry goods are still edible and worth buying. Otherwise, it shall be destined for a landfill. Planning meals and shopping with intention can also minimize over-buying at the market – vital to avoiding food waste. So, too, is not overindulging when cooking or ordering out – as the restaurant industry often serves unnecessarily large portions. Once brought home, leftovers often get chucked days later, causing both food waste and extra trash – both of which could be avoided with wise and conservative ordering.

The last thing I’d like to mention is where to find some mouth-watering recipes that are both heavenly and hardy. Want to make noodles? There are oodles of culinary resources online accessible in seconds; ditto if you have a hankering for a hanger steak or a craving for crawdaddies. Need to know cooking times or heating temperatures? That information can be found on the world wide web also. Some favorite websites that often inspire my cooking while allow- ing me to eating relatively healthily include:,,,,,, and

We all eat to live, but my fellow gourmands will understand that as a foodie I also live to eat, and I derive great pleasure from cooking beautiful, delicious meals for those I love. So, my gastronomic journey shall continue, as I simmer and sauté my way toward finding that perfect balance of preparing meals that are delicious, healthful, and soul-satisfying.