Life in the Kitchen

6 Ways My Family Follows the Spirit of France's New Law

Image Credit: Bethany Nauert

I can't stand waste. I am my mother's daughter. She kept scraps of vegetables in a container in the freezer until she had enough for soup, and sent leftovers in our school lunches, even though it wasn't cool. (But it was delicious, which taught me that not worrying about what was cool often resulted in ... a pretty great lunch.) She cut the brown bits off fruit and made it into salad rather than throw it away because we kids thought it was rotten. She composted and recycled before it was cool to do so in our suburban neighborhood.

My mother would have loved the new legislation in France targeting food waste. She would have also said, "Well, that's just common sense."

Though the food waste provision made headlines, the law also includes goals of lowering gas emissions and reducing the country's dependence on nuclear power. It bans plastic bags, giving shoppers and stores until January 1, 2016 to comply, and it will compel private homeowners to make energy-saving home improvements if they consume more than a certain amount of energy.

It legislates the heck out of bad environmental practices. My mother would say, "That's common sense. People should do it already. Why do they have to make a law?" She was a Republican, with a strong social conscience.

6 Ways We Reduce Food Waste at Home

In my family, we're conscious of waste, possibly because I nag everyone about it constantly. I've always hated knowing that restaurants and grocery stores threw out perfectly good food at the end of the day, sometimes pouring bleach over the waste to prevent it from being eaten by those who wouldn't or couldn't pay. Freegans, beware: Some grocery stores would rather poison perfectly good food than give it away. We rarely toss food, and I never turn down free food. Here's how we reduce waste.

Today is the first day the kids are out of school. For lunch we'll be having peanut butter chicken and rice. The chicken came from my aunt Wendi. She was going to toss it, so I asked if I could take it home. (My family's pretty relaxed, so — believe it or not — this wasn't the least bit awkward.) The peanut sauce? Originally served with chicken skewers at a party we hosted. I froze the excess sauce. (I've found that caterers almost always make too much sauce.) The rice is cooked and frozen, too, left over from a meal a few weeks ago. I may add half a tomato to the sauce.

As a cook, I love how using all the food available to us expands what I do in the kitchen. It makes me more creative, as I find ways to use the food at hand, even when it's unfamiliar. Also? I derive a great deal of satisfaction from seeing a light load of garbage at the end of the week. I grin at a near-empty curbside can. Normal? Maybe not, but it sure is easy to make me happy.

How do you make the best use of food at home? I'd love to hear how you use what's in the fridge to make something new.