Hodge Podge Lodge

It all started with a simple question: 

“What’s for dinner tonight?” 

“Wish I knew.”

“Don’t you always have something planned?”

“Well, tonight it’s hodge podge.”

The dictionary definition of this wonderfully rhythmic noun is “a confused mixture of things.” And, that was exactly what I alluded to when my dear husband asked the inevitable question about dinner. If your household runs anything like mine, you have a designated day – or, you designate a day each week based on your ever-changing calendar – to do the weekly shopping. You know, the one that is mostly based on the meals you plan to make in the six days ahead. But invariably, something happens. It’s called life. Who knew you’d have to make two trips to the emergency vet, be called in to sub for a MIA co-worker or feed three extra teens after a game!

Some sobering statistics: 

  • The average U.S. household wastes nearly one-third of the food it acquires.
  • More than two-thirds of households waste between 20% and 50% of the food they acquire.
  • The estimated annual dollar equivalent of wasted food is a staggering $240 billion.
  • The average waste per household is about $1,866 annually.

There is a lot we can’t change about the political, economic and yes, cultural reasons why this is the case, but in your own household, you can work toward curtailing food waste by challenging its inevitability and doing a few things differently. 

For starters:

Start by making food waste a family conversation.

You know your crew best. Maybe you open up by sharing your own feelings about the food waste you personally generate. Or perhaps you tie the conversation in with managing the family finances to make a vacation down the road more doable. It could also start with a general concern about food waste. Be careful not to point fingers or assign blame. 

Buy what you are most likely to use and use up.

Now, back to “hodge-podge.” In our household, by Wednesday, whatever ends up on the table may be a bit of a crap shoot – a solitary cooked or uncooked chicken breast, some leftover arugula, a few withering grapes and such. It’s discouraging, but then I am reminded of the pantry, that haven of boxes, cans and bottles is a treasure trove of possibility.

“Hodge Podge” has endeared itself as “Hodge Podge Lodge” for us because we’ve taken on minimizing food waste as a challenge. We’ve also proven to ourselves that we can think – and cook – outside of the box. 

After opening up the conversation and pursuing mindful food shopping: 

Engage the ideas of everyone in your household.

Remember that when adults and kids contribute to ideas generation, they develop a sense of ownership for what happens next. 

Lean into making it fun, even a little competitive.

My niece has two busy teenagers. Each has one night a month where they come up with a meal for the family that consists only of what is already on hand. Is it always great? No, of course not! But neither is everything that you whip up, right? It’s amazing how creative they have become. Not to mention the life skills they’re acquiring – accountability, resourcefulness, creativity, experiencing the fruits of one’s own labor and being able to listen and accept feedback from others.   

As for the actual “hodge-podge creation”:

Take inventory of what you have on hand.

Scan what you have to work with before you get started.

Ask Google for help.

You’ll be amazed to see what you can do with leftover ham! The more you ask, the more adept you’ll become at arriving at new concoctions. One of our faves turned out to be brown rice mixed with sundried tomatoes, rotisserie chicken and roasted broccoli – all leftovers from previous meals.

Bon Appetit and Cha Ching!


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