Ending Food Waste Starts in Your Kitchen
Food waste. It’s a trending conversation around the world as supermarkets provide aisles and piles of perfectly uniform produce. But what happens to all those two-legged carrots, heart-shaped eggplants and extra curvy tomatoes? Sadly, around 33% of all food produced around the world goes to waste due to perceived consumer demand for perfect produce.
There’s not much you can do about food waste before the food gets to you, although there are efforts in place to encourage farmers, processors, and vendors to give ugly produce some love and save it from the trash heap.
Here are a few things YOU can do to decrease food waste in your own kitchen.
- Less is more. While that two-for-one deal may be enticing (I’ll save 35 cents!), think hard about whether you’ll be able to use the extra food or not. Pantry staples, non-perishable items, and things you use all the time are better bets when considering when to take advantage of a deal.
- Go green. Make sure all leafy green produce (including herbs) are bagged with a paper towel—the bag prevents the greens from drying out and wilting, and the paper towel absorbs any extra moisture, which keeps the greens from spoiling prematurely.
- Plan accordingly. Keep a dry erase board on your fridge with an inventory of what’s inside, and jot down any ingredients that need to be used soon in red ink. Then, search your favorite food blogs for ways to use up your leftovers.
- Label and date your leftovers. The easiest way to do this is to keep a roll of masking tape and a permanent marker in the kitchen. There’s no reason to stand in front of the fridge trying to guess when you made that tempeh fried rice when a few seconds is all it takes to label it.
- Root to stalk. Don’t throw out the green tops of beets, carrots, and celery. Beet greens are great sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Carrot tops make a mean pesto (see recipe below). Celery tops are perfect for adding a little crunch and complexity to cooked grains, soups, or sandwiches.
- Take stock. Keep a large bag in the freezer for any veggie scraps that would taste good in stock. Onion trimmings, carrot and potato peels, celery ends, bits of fennel (fronds or bulb), herb stems, leek tops, mushroom stems, and cabbage cores are all perfect for adding to your stock bag. When the bag gets full, simply throw everything into a pot, cover with water, and simmer for half an hour for homemade veggie stock. The stock can be used within a week or frozen in zip-top freezer bags to use whenever you need it. The nicest thing about a stock bag is that it changes with the seasons. In the summer, you might add corn cobs and tomato peelings. In the fall, celery root trimmings and parsnip cores will find their way in. This technique ensures that you’ll have vegetable stock year-round, and at no extra cost.
- Day-old bread is delicious. Give stale bread a new life by making bread crumbs or croutons for salad. Use it in panzanella (bread and tomato salad), or throw some into soups that will be pureed—the bread will result in a thicker, richer soup. In fact, in Spain and Italy, a delicious peasant soup is made from nothing but olive oil, lots of garlic, vegetable stock, and stale bread. As the bread softens in the soup, it adds body and richness. Talk about cheap eats!
The more you become aware of food that you might otherwise have wasted, the easier it is to decrease food waste. In fact, you may find yourself enjoying experimenting with new ways to use food, and cooking will become a fun challenge rather than a chore.
Want to dig in deeper? Here’s our recommended food waste reading list:
- Report Says Food Waste Is Becoming Serious Economic and Environmental Issue
- Getting Ugly Produce Onto Tables So It Stays Out of Trash
- Why Americans Lead the World In Food Waste
- How “Ugly” Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger
- Olympic Level Soup Kitchen
- Artisanal Food Waste: Can You Turn Scraps Into Premium Products?