Food For Thought: Reducing Waste

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How’s this for an astonishing statistic: 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted. At first glance, it’s easy to interpret this to mean that we’re talking about food that consumers and restaurants throw away. Upon further investigation, though, I found that the number represents all food produced in the U.S. that is wasted somewhere between farm and table. That’s billions of dollars of food never consumed, not to mention 40 trillion liters of water used in food processing that goes down the drain, according to a SIWI study. Let’s not forget the methane created when perishables just sit in landfills, either. In order to figure out if you’re part of the problem, think about your own practices.

Here’s how to not only reduce waste, but save thousands of household dollars each year.

1. Plan Proactively.

Before going to the grocery store, make your shopping list by doing a quick inventory of what you have. Note expiration dates and perishables that are beginning to overstay their welcome and then build your next meal around that forgotten eggplant or head of broccoli. Use those as fodder to pen in additional ingredients on your list. Practice the same process but think longer shelf life for pantry items bought in bulk.

2. Remember To Rotate.

When unpacking groceries, be sure to use the FIFO Method (First In First Out) in the cooler and the cupboards alike. Slip new items into the back of your fridge and finish the last of the OJ before you open that new container. Remember to rotate canned goods, too. When combining loose products like topping off your old cereal container with the new box, remember to pour the old on top of the new so that it’ll be used first.

3. Save Spare Ingredients For Additional Meals.

Plan to use the whole quart of buttermilk (or sour cream or heavy cream) you buy when you need just one cup for the biscuits you’re making. You can double the recipe and freeze half the biscuits and then make pancakes with the rest. Fry up the bologna or low-sodium turkey to serve with eggs after you’ve made a couple of sandwiches and you’re going away for the weekend. Remember to keep your eye on your eggs’ expiration date. Coming close? Make a quiche and pop it in the freezer. Portion bread when you buy a fresh loaf, wrap in foil, and freeze. And remember to collect bits and pieces of vegetables to make stock.

4. Get It To Go.

Although restaurants can legally donate qualifying excess food to organizations like City Harvest and Feeding American, you own the food you order and it isn’t going anywhere. Since many restaurants serve enough for two on each plate, don’t be shy about ordering a second appetizer instead of an entrée, sharing an entrée with your dining partner, or taking half of your food home to make a second meal. The one exception to this rule is if you’re at a business meal…doggie bags and business don’t mix.

A Great Meal To Use Up Spare Ingredients: Broccoli, White Bean, And Tomato Pasta.

This meal works great if you’ve been meaning to use up spare pantry items like that box of pasta and cans of items like beans or tomatoes. Plus, I too often find myself with a partial head of garlic or extra Parmesan in the fridge (it doesn’t last forever, after all), so this is a great way to throw those in, too. Serves 6.

1 box whole wheat penne
1 head broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets & stalk “coins”
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz. peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can white beans, well rinsed
Salt & pepper
2 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Bring a 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Drop in broccoli coins and florets, and let simmer until al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon.

Bring water back to a boil and put in pasta. Cook according to taste and directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium flame. Add garlic. Add tomatoes and simmer, breaking them up. Add broccoli and mix well. Add white beans then strained pasta. If you need more liquid, add some of the pasta water. Top with Parmesan at service.

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