My relationship with food has been . . . well let's just say tumultuous. I struggled with an eating disorder for years and it's not something I like to talk about. For me it's an embarrassing part of my life to discuss, particularly when I think about all the food I wasted. But it's part of my story. And as Dr. Brene Brown says, "Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it." And I know I'm not alone here.
Americans have a very odd relationship with food. Actually, the relationship goes beyond "odd," to psychotic. Locally produced food can be very expensive, most of the food we find in grocery stores is heavily processed, and millions of women and men struggle with eating disorders.
On top of that, the average American throws away about 197 pounds of food every year. And according to Jonathan Bloom "when you count what's put down the disposal, 25 percent of what enters your home isn't eaten."
We need a new story when it comes to food. And for me that's where the no-refrigerator challenge comes into play.
As you know, we are building a little house this summer and I'm incredibly excited about the project. However, living in such a small space is going to be a huge lifestyle shift. Especially, when it comes to food because we've decided not to have a refrigerator in the little house. Why? Well . . .
- Right now we don't have a lot of food that needs refrigeration.
- We'll be using solar panels for electricity and the refrigerator will be a huge energy suck.
- We want to cut down on food waste.
Now this little experiment isn't going to work for everyone and my guess is most of you will think this is a little crazy. However, I'd encourage you to take a look at what's in your refrigerator and examine what you eat on a regular basis.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Conduct a food inventory.
Pull the food out of your refrigerator and take an inventory. This exercise will tell you a lot about the types of food you eat. Take note of what you find. For example, do you have 20 bottles of condiments and salad dressing? Are there left-over's that haven't been eaten?
As you go through your refrigerator, think about how many fresh foods you eat. Is most of your food fresh or processed?
Without a refrigerator, we'll be shopping more. But that's okay because we'll be eating more fruits and vegetables. We'll be using an icepack in an insulated chest to keep our butter, half and half, and cheese cool. For things like carrots and lettuce we'll be filling up a small bowl of water and placing the vegetables inside. This is something we do now and it's a great way to keep produce fresh and crisp.
For more on this topic check out Beth's post: How To Store Produce Without Plastic.
2. Plan your meals.
The challenge is going to force us to start planning our meals again. We planned our meals regularly when we lived in Sacramento, but once we moved to Portland we got out of the habit. So I'll be visiting the Stone Soup blog to find fun recipes.
3. Start composting.
In 2008, we began an indoor vermiculture composting project. It's easy to get started and a great way to cut down on food waste. For more read this post: Indoor Composting Project.
Last word . . .
For me, the No-Refrigerator Challenge goes beyond preparing to live in a little house and wasted food. It's about deeply examining my own issues with food. In essence, it's about getting real with privilege.
"Sometimes, the most direct route to appreciation is through the darkness - even if it's merely imagined. Facts, faced: even in our struggles, most of us are privileged." ~Danielle LaPorte