The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: How You Can Save $2,000 on Food Each Year

The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: How You Can Save $2,000 on Food Each Year

Waste Not cookbookForty percent.

That's how much food goes uneaten in the United States every year—which breaks down to about 20 pounds per person, per month.

It's these kinds of head-shaking statistics that inspired veteran food writer Cinda Chavich to write The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: Save Food, Save Money, and Save the Planet.”

The premise is simple: Rather than toss all of that perfectly good food, make the most of every ingredient you purchase by whipping up creative recipes specifically designed to reduce waste—delicious dishes like panang chicken curry and roasted carrot sesame hummus.

Curious to hear more, we caught up with Chavich to discuss the realities of global food waste, the truth about best-before dates, and how "the weekly feast" way of cooking can help save your budget—and the planet.

LearnVest: Why are you so passionate about this topic?

Cinda Chavich: "The numbers are incredible. Each American family of four throws away over $2,000 worth of food every year.

This isn't just a massive problem because people who need food are going without it—it's also an environmental problem, because we're wasting the resources used to produce the food that we’re chucking. The amount of water wasted alone is about 45 trillion gallons a year.

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So what can the average family do to cut down on food waste?

For starters, don’t buy excessive amounts of food by making a list before you go shopping. Look in your fridge and pantry to make sure you actually need something before it goes on the list.

Another big issue for me is best-before dates. There’s actually no federal regulation to have one on anything except baby formula, [although 20 states have requirements for certain types of foods.] The only reason companies use these dates is to indicate “peak freshness.” It’s a problem because supermarkets are throwing away perfectly edible food.

So let your grocers know that you want them to discount products that have passed their best-before dates, instead of just getting rid of them. In your own home, don’t toss things before they’ve gone bad, just because they’ve hit their best-before date.

How do you try to reduce food waste in your own home?

I have a middle shelf in the fridge where I put the “must use right now” food. Every time I open the refrigerator, I’ll look at that bin—and it makes me come up with something creative for dinner.

I also like to plan my meals for the week ahead of time, so that I can do [most of my] cooking on the weekends.

In fact, a section of my book is called “The Weekly Feast,” and the whole point is to prepare something big and then recycle it into different recipes [throughout the week], so you’re not just eating the same meal the same way every day.

What's one really versatile recipe in the book?

Caponata, which is a Sicilian eggplant dish made with some combination of tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, garlic and olives. It's a quick recipe—and it freezes well.

You can eat it cold, like an antipasto. You can toss it with pasta. And you can serve it as a sauce over a piece of grilled fish. I’m thinking about making it tonight."

RELATED: 8 Simple Ways to Spring-Clean Your Grocery Buying Habits

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