Monday, July 28, 2008

Clean Your Plate

I grew up in the era where you ate everything off your plate, without complaint, before you were excused from the dinner table. While I wish I could have carried over the "without complaint" part, I made a decision early on in parenting not to force my children to eat. I wanted them to learn to listen to their own bodies rather than eat food simply because it was there. We do have rules-they need to try everything (3 bites) and eat something from every food group. I also give them a small helping and encourage them to finish that before having seconds on what they love. And, even though I said I would never do it, we do bribe them with desert.

I assume our household is not unique in that we have a lot of food that goes to waste. I recently heard that the national average is 40%. Scary! I am pretty sure that we come in below that number. I wrap up half-eaten sandwiches for another lunch and reserve the same helping a few times rather than throwing it away (don't tell my kids). A friend of mine has a diet plan where she just eats what her kids have left over (she always lost her pregnancy fat quickly!). I tended to do the opposite and eat my meal PLUS the rejected bread crusts. At some point I stopped doing this deciding that I was worth more than PB&J bread crusts.

Of course those crusts don't just go in the garbage! In our house food gets recycled too. Here are our top recycling systems

1. Dog and cat. I honestly don't know how anyone could have a toddler without a pet. I'd be spending all day cleaning the floor. I remember one of the first times we ate out at a restaurant and I was horrified to see how much food ended up on the floor. With a dog, I never knew. The downside....fat pets.

2. Chickens. Our girls get many savory morsels. They especially love those over-rip strawberries that are rejected by everyone but still free of mold

3. Worms. Yep, we've got a bin of red worms in our basement that eat some of our fruit and veggie scraps. Vermicomposting is a fun educational project and it is amazing how these worms turn food into good fertilizer for the garden. They are so easy that they we have been unable to kill them despite months of neglect. The little ones love picking out (saving) the worms from the finished compost come springtime. Another bonus-good fishing worms!

4. Outdoor compost. This is a must-have for families. I now see all the waste as a RESOURCE! I don't encourage waste, obviously, but I also don't stress about it either. Todays tossed banana peel is tomorrow's garden loam. My kids know that I am a compost freak and just love seeing how this food and weeds get transformed into dark rich soil every season. It is another perfect educational opportunity to learn all about micro-organisms, soil life and bugs and worms. Another bonus-taking out the compost bucket is a easy do-able chore for almost any age child.

Instead of "clean your plate", my kids will have memories of me calling out "scrape your plate"

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