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Quit wasting food by using your cellphone

So I’m listening to B96 the other morning and the talk turns to refrigerators.

(Yes, I know some may think I am way too old to be listening to B96 (96.3-FM), Chicago’s pop music station. I know I am not their demographic. But I like the music and love the morning team, so I tune in regularly.)

Anyway, people were calling in and describing  the oldest (and most disgusting) things in their refrigerators. So many different version of ickiness! The callers as well as the on-air personalities — J Niice, Showbiz Shelly and Producer Gabe — all admitted they were too busy and yep, lazy, when it came to keeping their refrigerator free of way-past food. Old broccoli (ooh, the smell), butter past its prime (that’ll make you sick; trust me, I know), mac ’n cheese that’s seen better days all were mentioned. (Sound familiar?)

And why does this happen?  Well, often because they didn’t want to wash out the container. Been there, done that!

But J Niice hit it on the head as to why this happens so often to the B96 crowd: they buy too much food. When you’re starting out and live alone, or maybe with only one other person in the household, those warehouse stores really aren’t for you. Here’s the only way they work for smaller households: if you team up with a friend or two, shop together and split purchases. Otherwise, you will end up with way more than you need and then later, a lot of waste. That’s not good for your wallets or the environment. A good 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted and ends up in landfills, the largest source of methane emissions, according to World Food Day statistics. (BTW, mark your calendar; World Food Day is Oct. 16 this year.)

So many of us grow up with the idea we need a full refrigerator to make sure we have enough to eat. I’m here to argue the opposite: I have found that the leaner I keep my refrigerator, the more likely I am to eat what is there and waste less. Right now it includes one lone chicken breast. That, and some celery that needs to be eaten quickly will be incorporated into a salad come lunchtime today. Often those solo items are overlooked when there are many foods and containers around it.

For the B96 callers, I’m going to suggest putting the cellphone to use to cut down on frig waste. Until your own frig gets emptier, take a photo — make it a selfie! — every day of what’s in your refrigerator so that when you stop at the grocery store you don’t buy duplicates. This also will serve as a reminder of what has to be eaten sooner rather than later. Then figure out how you are going to use them.

And this may sound out there, but how about taking photos of what you are throwing out? It’s likely you’ll see a pattern. If kale keeps showing up, then stop buying it. It doesn’t matter how nutritious it is if you aren’t eating it.

Use that cellphone to keep an electronic grocery list. Then when you shop you’ll have it with you and know exactly what you need.

I’ve suggested this before, but I’ll do it again: don’t use your produce drawers to separate fruits from vegetables. Instead, have one hold your oldest produce so you can keep an eye on things that needs to be used quickly. Check on these daily.

Once you’ve mastered the refrigerator, it’s on to the kitchen cabinets!