this is a story on dealing with leftovers and finding ways to merge values, preferences, nutrition, environmentalism, and reality. As we finish up Earth Month, I contemplate on my own relationship with leftovers and the environment.
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There we were, dumping freshly made, delicious blueberry pies into the garbage. Just like everything else we tossed, I watched in horror, through my newly aware wannabe environmentalist soul. And she didn’t bat an eye. Just over a year ago, as I was working with a food photographer that I admired, that I still do, and consider a friend. I watched my friend treat food, treat expensive Whole Foods purchases as props, to be used then to be discarded. I didn’t understand it. But this story isn’t about her, it’s about myself navigating this world of food.
Now I understand it. Back then, I was photographing recipes I’d create for my blog. Just 4-5 each month, with just a few portions, and foods I liked. Why would anyone cook food, make it look pretty, to then just throw it out? I couldn’t wrap my new photographer mind around it-the expense, the time, the waste. I just didn’t get it.
Here I sit, not having eaten anything that I didn’t make for a photography project except for yogurt with granola, and a few meals that I got out or at social occasions for weeks. As much as I LOVE my job, the experience, the growing cooking skills, the creativity, the flexibility, and that I’m starting to be able to live off my income from photography projects, I’m trying to figure out how to eat intuitively with fewer perceived options, transform that big chunk of pork into a couple different meals, and how to eat the foods I like… all while trying to reduce waste. It’s been a challenging project that I never saw coming. Again, now I totally understand why she dumped that food. It makes sense, it’s easier, it’s less complicated, and it doesn’t leave you worrying about how you’ll fit one more container in your fridge or how you’ll eat that pizza that just came out weird.
But that’s just not me. If you wonder how you can implement eating intuitively in your actual life, if you wonder how you can reduce food waste, if you wonder just what you can do to merge intuitive eating, recipe testing, and sustainability without letting either of the latter two take over your life, well I wonder the same thing. Even if you’re not cooking 5-10 recipes/week and trying to figure out how to eat and give that food away, you’re probably trying to figure out how to feed yourself in a way that’s manageable, simple, and exciting for you. I feel ya, I’m trying to figure that out too. I wanted to share a couple lessons I’ve learned while navigating this new world.
- Acknowledge your values. When it comes to food and eating, I value good food, I value reducing food waste, I value eating in a way that enhances my life not takes away from it. Now that I’ve acknowledged my current values, I’ve been able to find ways to enjoy good food and reducing waste in a way that enhances my life. I don’t have much control of the food I make, but I’ve accepted the fact that I can control what I eat. Not in a way of restriction or anything, but I can decide that something I made isn’t good to me. It doesn’t align with my preferences. As hard as it still is, I’m working on throwing it away. It’s hard because that doesn’t align with my value of reducing food waste. Physically getting rid of food, as I saw my mentor do, doesn’t always preserve it.
- Don’t expect perfection. Sometimes I make recipes with ingredients that spoiled, just for the photo, sometimes I make recipes that I pawn off on friends, sometimes I burn food or turn it inedible, and it has to go to the garbage. And that’s ok. I don’t ever expect my clients or anyone else to be perfect in aligning their eating with their values or following any sort of program 100%, why should I do that to myself? Sure I can’t always eat in a way that enhances my life, but I can make small decisions that will make it easier most of the time, and that’s worth it.
- Give yourself permission. For me, it’s easy to equally want to finish off what I have in the fridge and stop at that delicious restaurant on the way home from the grocery store. I find myself arguing with myself on whether or not to stop and grab food. I’ve found that sometimes I just want something different, but cannot decide on any food that actually sounds exciting. That’s the cue that it’s easier to just eat leftovers or cereal if I don’t have anything prepared at home. If I’m craving something in particular, even when I have food at home, I’ll often start by telling myself that I can stop and have that food. It usually happens long before I’ll actually stop to get said food, but I make that decision. I’m not one to follow external rules, so I give myself permission to eat that food I’m craving. When it’s go time, I’ve accepted the fact that I can and will stop for that food, and if I still want it, I do, and if I don’t I know, acknowledging that it was my decision has helped me feel so much less guilt about my decision either way. I then know that I decided to eat out because i really wanted it, and I usually am satisfied with my decision because I made it, and the food was good. Or, I feel less guilt about not getting food out, because I decided that the best, and just as easy a decision was to eat at home. It has helped ease my mind a lot. And that’s worth a lot. This goes for eating any particular food too. Give yourself permission to eat foods you once may have been afraid of eating or avoided like the plague. it’s empowering and healthy.
While your life may not look like mine, feelings of guilt and shame are around us everywhere, these 3 lessons have helped me feel less guilty about my eating decisions, and I hope they can help you feel a little less guilt about your eating choices too.
- How do you deal with leftovers?