Recycle, Reuse, Refuse

I don’t know about you, but on grocery shopping day, I usually purge out my pantry and fridge of used containers. I can fill a 13 gallon trash bag full of empty cardboard boxes, tin cans, Styrofoam trays, plastic jugs, glass bottles and plastic bags. Just think how much packaging we bring into the house that is then thrown away once empty? I’m really not sure where all that refuse goes once it’s picked up at my curb. It probably goes to a landfill within 15 miles of my house, but I’m not going to focus on that today.

Instead, I ask myself, how can I cut down on the amount of waste I put out for my twice a week garbage pickup?

First, I can participate in my area’s recycling program.

Next, I can reuse containers around the house, for example, glass jars for storage.

And lastly, I can make wiser purchasing choices by asking the following questions:

What needs to be bought in bulk and what needs to be purchased in smaller quantities? Do I really need to buy as many prepackaged meal kits or can I stock up on more versatile staples?

Let us ponder for a moment about those boxed foods at the grocery store. Do I really need to be eating a cookie that has a six month expiration date? Or serving my family a loaf of bread that has a 2 week shelf life? I admit, providing my family with a prepackaged loaf of bread is so much easier than preparing it from scratch. I actually prefer to stay oblivious to how many foods I consume that contain preservatives. But I have committed myself to this audit, so here we go.

Any of numerous chemical additives used to prevent or slow food spoilage caused by chemical changes (e.g., oxidation, mold growth) and maintain a fresh appearance and consistency. Antimycotics (e.g., sodium and calcium propionate, sorbic acid) inhibit mold growth; antioxidants (e.g., butylated hydroxytoluene or BHT) delay rancidity in foods containing fats and oils; antibiotics (e.g., tetracyclines) prevent bacterial growth; humectants retain moisture in products like shredded coconut; and antistaling agents (e.g., glyceryl monostearate) maintain moisture and softness in baked goods. Some preservatives also improve the appearance of the product (e.g., sodium nitrate and nitrite in meats).

Doesn’t that sound yummy? And when I open my pantry door I see many boxes with these chemicals listed right on the side. No wonder I’m over weight. A preservative stops the breaking down of food. And if it’s not breaking down, I’m carrying it around! Do I really want to carry around that box of Mac n cheese? I don’t even like prepackaged Mac n Cheese, but I eat it because it’s fast and easy and it’ll get the job done for dinner.

In my next post, I’ll share my pantry audit. I’ll be evaluating pantry items on their redundancy and essence. I’ll also be sharing a list of staples I feel are the “must haves” of a well stocked pantry.  

Feel free to share here how you manage, in your household, the packaging waste from shopping.

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