Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review: Waste Free Kitchen Handbook by Dana Gunders

Note: this is not a sponsored review.  I just read the book and really enjoyed it so I thought I'd talk about it. None of the links are affiliate links. They are only provided in case you want more information about the book. I encourage you to use your local library or ask for an inter-library loan if your library system doesn't have it!

Last week I read Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food, written by Dana Gunders (ISBN 978-1-4521-3354-6) and I really enjoyed it.

Let's back up a little. Last summer, I became aware of this book that was due to be published in September 2015.  I can't remember how I heard about it, probably through another blogger.  I requested that my library purchase it, but since they don't notify you of the status of your requests, I completely forgot about it.

Fast forward to this month: I went to request they purchase another book and noticed this past request. I checked the catalog and lo and behold they had bought it!  So I put it on hold.

This was a quick read for me (I read it in one hour while taking a bath), but that doesn't mean that it's not worthy of a longer read, quite the contrary.  I already practice many (if not all) of the tactiques that Dana Gunders describes, which is why I was able to peruse the book rather than study it.  But I highly recommend it to someone who is just starting to wonder just how much food they waste and what to do about it.

First, let's look at the book itself:  I think the publishers did a wonderful job.  It's a soft cover book, with pleasingly rounded corners.

The spine is color-coded, which is wonderful for visually oriented person such as myself.

The colors correspond to parts of the book, which is cleverly laid out.

  • Yellow is the introduction (history of portion size, what it takes to produce food, what contributes to food waste in homes)
  • Blue is part 1 (the meaty part of the book!) and deals with Strategies for Everyday Life (Sage Shopping, Smarter Storage, etc.)
  • Orange is part 2, which are recipes
  • Green is the directory, where you learn how to properly store various fruit, vegetables, meats, pantry staples, dairy, and more, so as to avoid food waste
  • and the Yellow section at the end is a short section on food borne illnesses, her footnotes, and the index

The pages are well laid out as well, with just the right balance of text and white space. You can take notes if you own your own copy because there is plenty of space, but I like that the publisher didn't take the route of making it look like it was crammed with ideas, thus cramming the pages.  I retain information better when I'm not faced with a wall of text!

Some pages feature infographics...



and all are very useful and illustrate her points very well.  I love the infographic entitled "The Refrigerator Demystified" and the chart on How to Blanch.

Dana Gunders is a scientist and it shows. She is meticulous and analytical in her approach to explaining why and how we are wasting food, why it's not a good idea, and how to avoid it, including citing all the sources of her research. All the while, she is not judgmental and recognizes that we all make mistakes. She is gently encouraging while clearly demonstrating the impact of wasted food on the environment and our wallets.

If you are new to frugality in the kitchen, she offers forms that you can copy or reproduce to help you plan meals and record what you have wasted and the reasons why.

I liked the infographics that helpfully illustrated the points she made and offered visual reminders that could be copied and posted somewhere useful... like your kitchen!

The recipe section is short but it gives you an idea of what to make with some items that you might have thrown away as each recipe comes with a "uses up" section.  I do that when I plan my weekly menus.

The Directory is useful as a reference on how to store various foods.She tells you whether it is recommended to freeze something and how to freeze it, for instance or how to use it up/revive it (among other suggestions).  I thought it was very good and I might buy the book just for that!

So even if you're an old hand at this, I highly encourage you to borrow the book from the library and read it for yourself. I'm sure you'll learn something, as I did myself.


  1. Thank you for the book review. I cleaned out the fridge, yesterday, and had some food waste, unfortunately. Small bits of leftovers that neither daughter nor I wished to eat, which, after over a week were probably no longer good to eat! Better to toss than risk food poisoning!

    1. My middle son had a case of food poisoning last night (he didn't eat here though, he got it from the restaurant where he had dinner) so I completely understand the caution you're taking, especially with your health challenges at the moment!

  2. I'm going to give it a go Nathalie. I'm sure there are plenty of ways we can save on food waste that we don't already do. Also I love the idea of the recipe section for thing you might otherwise bin. Great idea. Thanks for the review. Very thoughtful comments xx

    1. Cool! See if your library has it or if they'll be willing to purchase it! The information in it is common sense, really, and a lot of it is what I already talk about it on the blog but it's in a much more succinct format and I just love the way it's presented. Be forewarned, the recipe section is actually quite tiny, I think less than 20 recipes? So it's most to get you started on thinking along the lines of "I need to think of ways to use up the stuff that I might otherwise throw away" than to really give you a really helpful section. If you read it, let me know what you thought!

  3. Going to look it up at the library right now :) Thanks for the tip!!!

  4. Woo Hoo!! Hold placed and there was only one on the list so I should get it soon!!! YEAH!! Now I just have to read really quickly to get through all the books I already have so that I can read it when it comes in :)

    1. Yay! I think it'll be a really quick read for you, as it was for me. Still, I found it very interesting even though I already knew a lot of what she was sharing. But the details and the research she bases herself on was fascinating, I think. I put it in my Amazon wishlist and next time I get Rewards (which should be soon, I should get the Discover Rewards right about now and then the Amazon Visa Rewards on the 22nd), I think I'll order my own copy to keep as a reference just for the info on how to best store all the various foods.


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