Is it still edible?

Found a nice resource from Eat By Date that answers that question for many of the foods we buy.

In our house, “Best Before” and “Eat by” dates are taken with a grain of salt. For foods we are less familiar with, they provide guidelines, but they are not hard and fast rules. But, we rarely base on judgements on anything scientific, preferring to tempt fate by relying on our senses of smell and taste.

Others live by these dates, thinking that science has already answered that question for them. The end result: a lot of good food ends up in the bin. This online resource attempts to save Jean-Francois and me from ourselves and a great deal of food from the bin at the same time.

Eat By Date’s mission is to answer one question: How long does food really last. And with what they have learnt, they have created a useful resource that goes beyond the date. Along the way, they give us more insight into common foods and help us be smarter consumers.

Take their entry on Lettuce, for example. Not only do they provide a table showing the leafy veg’s shelf life in the fridge, but they also share tips for longer storage (like rinsing and drying lettuce before it even goes in the refrigerator) and give insight on how lettuce fairs in a prepared dish (like that take-away Chinese you ordered three days ago).

Screenshot from website showing shelf life of lettuce

Screenshot from website showing shelf life of lettuce

The site is clean, easy to use, and informative. If more people refer to this resource or others, I am sure less food would make it into the bin.

How Long Does Food Last? Shelf Life & Expiration Date Guide.

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A pig with a problem

The video below is the tale of a wee, sad pig with a nasty addiction, along with some of his reflections on life and food waste … the product of me spending way too much time on long flights and alone in hotel rooms, I suspect.

Warning: in addition to being a gripping yarn, the video is plug for the 222 million tons blog & our iPad meal planning app … though, after this entry, we’ll return to our regular programming: things to do with stone soup broth & veg that is on it’s way out, vermicompost updates, etc.

222 million tons: the App

The idea behind 222 million tons has always been to spark conversation and change – and to do that by sharing tips, tools, and resources that help people waste less food and eat well. So far, that’s only been through this blog, but as of last week, we have an iPad App in iTunes.

The App is a publishing platform for weekly menus and shopping lists. The recipes all work for a single person (though through the miracle of technology, they can be scaled), and use up all the fresh ingredients on the shopping lists.

The idea was Bonnie Lee’s, and emerged out of her frustration over the amount of food she was wasting when she first moved from Tokyo to Los Angeles. She was overwhelmed by the quantities that food was sold in, and had no idea how a single person could use it all before it spoiled. In Japan, there are home economics magazines that help people save money by providing weekly shopping lists and recipes, but she couldn’t find anything like that in L.A. – and all the recipes she could find served 6 to 12 people. Bonnie Lee doesn’t like leftovers … so she issued me a challenge, which led to this App, built by our friends & partners at bluejava: Glenn & Makiko.

The first collection of recipes is called Bright & Bold, and was written by me (more on that another day), but my hope is that the 222 millions tons App will become a platform on which a large community of home cooks shares recipes – and if anyone reading this is interested in becoming part of that community, let me know via the comments below, or through any of the community platforms listed on my Gravatar profile.

The key to reducing food waste at home is planning – and as I wrote Bright & Bold, I came to appreciate the challenge of planning whole weeks for a single person with both variety and zero waste. So, if you don’t have time to plan meals, but hate waste and like to eat well … well, now there’s an App that can help.

Good for the sole

No all food is created equal, and some purchases make us complicit in waste on a massive scale. In the world of fisheries, there’s even a word for one aspect of that waste: bycatch.

Fish in Tsukiji market

One of many fish in Tsukiji market

My handy desktop dictionary defines bycatch as, “the unwanted fish and other marine creatures caught during commercial fishing for a different species” – and, as well as fish, it can include such creatures as sea birds, turtles, and dolphins. Often, bycatch is killed in the act of being caught or is thrown back into the sea injured, with diminished chances for survival.

Pure, unadulterated waste.

The scale of bycatch can be huge. In some shrimp fisheries, there are about six pounds of bycatch for every pound of shrimp caught. Fortunately, that isn’t true of all fishing, or even of all shrimp fishing. Unfortunately, you need practically encyclopedic knowledge of ocean species, their habitats, and fishing and farming practices just to buy a piece of fish responsibly.

Seafood Watch screen shot

That’s why I was happy to discover Seafood Watch last year. This Monterey Bay Aquarium initiative has developed several free tools that let anyone quickly look up any fish, and see if it is abundant, well-managed and sourced in an environmentally friendly way – and that provide alternatives to consider if it isn’t. The information is available on-line, as well as through free applications for both the Android and iPhone platforms. The mobile versions have a social dimension, and allow you to find & share the names of local businesses that have environmentally friendly options.

If you don’t have a smart phone, you can print the Seafood Watch pocket guide from their site, and carry that with you when you go shopping, or out for sushi.