If you and your scale are feeling the effects of the annual
Thanksgiving day gluttony, take heart; there are worse things to feel guilty about.
One of them is not being a glutton -- or at least, not wasting that feast purchased with your hard-earned dollars.
Americans throw out the equivalent of $165 billion worth of food each year, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council last month called "Wasted: How America is Losing up to 40 percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill."
A lot of it is edible food -- a head of lettuce that's a little brown on the outside, food that's just past its expiration date, or perfectly nutritious vegetables that are left in the field because they're misshapen or discolored.
That doesn't count the huge amount of food thrown away by schools and institutions like hospitals because of health and safety rules.
The waste should be of special concern to us in Southwest Nebraska because more than 80 percent of the water we consume in the United States goes into growing our production of food. If you throw away half a hamburger, Dana Gunders, author of the report, told NPR on Friday, it wastes the equivalent water of taking a shower for an hour.
While there isn't much we can do to change institutional rules, there are things we can do on an individual basis.
For starters, saving food starts before you ever head to the grocery store. Plan meals, and only buy quantities you know you will use.
Eat before you go to the store, and stick to your list when you get there.
"If in doubt, throw it out," is good advice, but a vegetable that is a little wilty can be a great ingredient for tomorrow's homemade soup or crock pot meal, and fruit that is starting to go soft can actually be sweeter when used as an ingredient in smoothies.
And, food doesn't become poisonous just because its passed its expiration date; that's simply a suggestion for peak flavor. Most of it will remain healthy long after the date on the label.
Make sure your refrigerator has good seals and is in good working order to keep food between 33 to 41 degrees fahrenheit to keep food fresh for the longest time possible.
Rotate your food to bring the older items to the front of the fridge and cupboard.
Serve small amounts with the understanding that seconds are allowed, especially for children who aren't good at estimating how much they can eat at once.
Stay away from prepacked fruits and vegetables and buy meats and cheese from the deli so you only get what you want. Bulk "bargains" aren't really bargains if much of the food is wasted.
Freeze extra bread to keep it from getting moldy, and cook extra meals for the freezer for those nights when you might be tempted to hit the fast-food drive through.
All is not lost even if fruits and vegetables are past redemption. Set up a compost bin to help create rich soil for house plants and next spring's garden.
And when that garden produces an overabundance of one crop or another, plan to preserve it for the following winter or see to it that it gets to someone who really needs it.