Moldy strawberries. Soggy herbs. Yellowing greens. Soured milk. Mushy cucumbers.
This is my nightmare, exposed big-time during this pandemic.
Is it just me, or are you dealing with a lot more food waste lately?
Unless you have a flawless system of food storage and meal planning (or make multiple trips to the store each week), I’m going to assume that your fridge currently looks like mine: cluttered (because I’m buying too much) and overwhelming (because I can’t get thru it quick enough!).
Look, no one wants to waste food. It just happens.
But not only is it like throwing your paycheck in the trash; food waste is also terrible for the environment, contributing to a large portion of greenhouse emissions globally.
Here are some stats that rile me up:
“In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30–40 percent of the food supply…[approx.] 31% food loss at the retail and consumer levels.” That’s almost HALF of what the US produces. Think of how much water, energy and labor went into growing and transporting that food!
“42 million Americans face food insecurity—and less than one-third of the food we throw out would be enough to feed this population completely.”
Consider this analogy: “If the United States went grocery shopping, we would leave the store with five bags and drop two in the parking lot. And leave them there.”
“500 homes in the Vancouver area found that 53 percent of food waste at home was avoidable.”
“If food wastage were a country, it would be the third largest [greenhouse gas] emitting country in the world.” THIRD LARGEST!
Can we agree this is not sustainable – morally, environmentally or economically?
Turns out, food waste isn’t great for optimal health either (hint: much of what we regularly throw out is good for us)!
But did you know you can cut your food waste in half, just by making simple tweaks to your daily food prep?
Check out these 5 simple tips to get started.
#1. Put down your peeler.
Seriously, you don’t need to peel everything (especially if you’re buying organic). The peels contain plenty of fiber and nutrients, so for the love of laziness, please stop. Buy yourself a veggie scrubber instead.
Veggies you should stop peeling immediately: Organic potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms (who knew this was a thing?!), carrots, turnips, parsnips, radishes, cucumbers, asparagus, zucchini, winter squash (last I checked, the peel was edible) and ginger.
If you must peel, I have three words: veggie peel chips. You’re welcome.
#2. Use the whole plant.
Eating “root to leaf” is not only smart from an economic, environmental and nutritional perspective, but also adds variety, texture and excitement to your meals.
Please don’t toss:
- Stalks and stems: The stalks of dark leafy greens (including kale, chard, mustard and collard greens) and stems and leaves of broccoli and cauliflower are not only edible, but also full of fiber, nutrients and crunch. Instead of wasting them, chop them finely and saute them first before you cook the leaves or florets.
- Leek greens: Chop finely and saute or add to tray bakes for added flavor and depth.
- Fennel fronds: These make a delicious garnish on salads and soups, or can be blended into a smoothie. Or you can saute them in butter for a simple yet tasty side dish.
- Radish, turnip or beet greens: These leaves contain more nutrients than the root themselves, specifically potassium and dietary nitrates that are required for healthy blood vessels. I saute them with a bit of garlic, salt and a squeeze of lemon.
- Carrot tops: Make a pesto or chimichurri., or use instead of parsley in any recipe.
#3. Save your scraps!
There will be scraps. Here’s a few hacks to get the most out of them:
- Citrus peels – Use them as DIY cleaners or infusing olive oil. I now chop them finely and add them to tray-bakes, stews and pilafs for the element of surprise (shh, don’t tell my husband). Throw them in your smoothies with the rest of the orange (peel, pith, seeds and all) for added vitamin C and bioflavonoids (antioxidants). Or brew up a lovely orange peel tea with rosemary or other herbs.
- Egg shells – Use as fertilizer. We’ve been throwing them into our makeshift compost (cough cough garden) along with coffee grounds and other scraps. Fingers-crossed, they will turn to compost eventually. If not, they’ll add nutrients to the soil.
- Leftover cheese: In her book Simplicious Flow, Sarah Wilson recommends taking your odds and ends of cheese, chucking them into a food processor with garlic, olive oil and leftover white wine, and blending it all up for a quick dip. Sounds delicious huh?
- Teabags: Reuse as many times as you can – then add them to your garden (roses love tea apparently).
- Banana peels: Believe it or not, banana peels are edible, and eaten in different parts of the world. Apparently you can use them to make bacon, smoothies (high powered blender only), stir-fries, curries, and banana bread. I will try it and report back.
- Miscellaneous: Add all your scraps (including onion peels, woody stems and wilted herbs) to a freezer bag, and once full, make a broth or stock. Sarah Wilson has a fabulous recipe for stock that involves blitzing 6-8 cups of scraps in your food processor along with 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp ACV, 1/3 cup sea salt + mushrooms, onion, garlic and herbs – which she then freezes in a jar and uses for stock.
#4. Regrow your greens!
Go beyond the current obsession of regrowing your scallions. Did you know you could do the same with lettuce, bok choy, fennel fronds, celery and leeks? What’s more, you can grow sweet potatoes out of their sprouted nubs – simply put them in water, let them grow roots, and replant them in soil). Check out all the other plants you can regrow from veggie nubs.
Who knew you could get that much mileage out of one grocery shop?
#5. Upcycle your leftovers.
Turn last night’s dinner into today’s star meal. I’m a big fan of throwing an egg on anything and calling it breakfast.
But if this ain’t your thing, here are other ways to use your leftovers:
- A frittata – all you need are leftovers (anything from salad to pasta) and 6 eggs. Get creative.
- Grain “Buddha” bowls – a bit of grain, leftover protein, greens and a bright herby dressing on top.
- Soup – perfect for using up chopped veggies, wilted greens or herbs, extra stock or even grains.
- Shepard’s pie – use any roasted root veg for the top layer of mash, leftover grains, lentils or even curries in your base.
- Burritos – chuck yesterday’s curry, rice, avocado, cherry tomatoes, a dollop of yogurt, a handful of spinach and hot sauce into a wrap and call it a quick and dirty dinner.
Want more leftover ideas? Check out this list from The Every Girl.
What tips and tricks do you use to cut your home’s food waste? Let me know in the comments below!