The Four Pounds of Cheese Project: What A Week It Was

What started out to be a fun little project to help me be mindful of the food that we waste turned out to be much more.  For one thing, lots of folks decided to participate. And that is amazing. For another thing, I was surprised by how mindful I was about our waste knowing that I was going to have to photograph my Unmentionables.

But here's the thing.  Depending on the statistics you check, Americans waste between 14-20% of the food that we buy.  So, I decided that my Unmentionables had to become Mentionable.  If nobody sees food waste--if it's all wrapped up in garbage bags and gets carried off to the landfill in the wee hours of the morning--nobody really understands the problem.

And the very Tip of the iceberg that is This Problem is that Americans throw away 1.2+ billion pounds of cheese a year.

First, feast your eyes on a week's worth of food waste.  All of it went into the compost bin, so technically it wasn't thrown away, but all of it was food that we ended up not eating.

Monday, 8/1

food waste day 1 002Some flax meal leftover in the grinder, a bit of browned avocado and just a bit of
omelet that didn't make it out of the pan.

Tuesday, 8/2

waste 002Two molded grapes, some molded cheese rinds, one hard blueberry and a bit of flax meal.

Wednesday, 8/3

waste 004A forgotten and way overripe Fuerte avocado, 5 mushroom stems, onion ends and skins,
some broken ramen and the scary flavor packs that
come in them and some squash peelings

Thursday, 8/4

waste 005Most of this is just peel and pits, but I did have to cut a couple of bruised pieces off the peaches.

Friday, 8/5

waste 012waste 010A wee dram of leftover coffee, about a cup of squishy grapes, some limp spinach
leaves and what
was left of a bunch of parsley. Yes, I could've told myself
I was going to use the stems in stock, but I wanted to be truthful--with
you and myself. So into the compost bin it went.

Saturday, 8/6

Nothing to see today. Move along.

Sunday, 8/7--The Great Fridge Clean Out Finale (inspired by Gwyn Ridenhour)

waste 013
waste 015
waste 0171/2 cup hard or squishy blueberries, a few wilted spinach leaves, 1 molded&dried home-grown Roma tomato
about 1/2 cup of oldno-longer-white coconut milk and, the saddest: 1 whole overripe cantaloupe. The chickens
enjoyed this bounty. But we should have.

Seeing all of this waste in one place turned out to be worse than I thought.  While none of this ended up in the landfill, we didn't purchase this food with the thought of just tossing it into the composter.

Did anything happen in our lives to maybe derail our best intentions.  They are excuses, but yes. On Tuesday, we buried our beautiful cat Woods.  On Friday I had to go to Pinehurst and I also found out that one of my best friend's little girls was just diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and instead of being able to quietly digest all of this on Friday evening, The Beloved's father and girlfriend ended up staying overnight with us at the last minute. We ordered pizza, so that pushed back our veggie eating. As well, on Wednesday I just wanted comforting noodles.  No veggies that evening either.  But like I said, these are just excuses.

What I've learned is that we must be much better at estimating how much of any given thing that we can eat either before it goes bad or before we get sick of it.  I need to remember that roasting makes everything taste better, that cleaning my plate isn't mandatory as long as we eat the leftovers before we have to toss them, and that we are among the very fortunate who never go to bed hungry. And that is something that I have too frequently taken for granted. No more.

I can foresee future Four Pounds-esque projects, but for now I have learned a lot about myself, my attitudes towards food and waste and that there are many other people out there who are also trying to raise awareness.

To all who read this, I hope it has given you inspiration.  To all who participated in the project, I thank you and am looking forward to reading all of your posts and reflections on the event.  Over the next couple of days, I will be compiling everyone's posts over on the flickr page for The Four Pounds badge, so keep checking back.  And if you haven't posted on the event page (which will be up through the end of August), you can always shoot me your link in an email to onlinepastrychef at yahoo dot com.

Thank you again, and I hope you have a lovely day.


  1. says

    Now I feel like I was cheating by not including “inedibles” like cheese rinds and onion ends. Great job organizing such a thought-provoking event!

    • says

      Thanks, Camille. The reason I photographed even the inedibles was just to make an impact, and to help me remember that the compost bin should be the Bin of Last Resort, not just an easy out if we get lazy. 🙂

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