Get Creative to Reduce Food Waste
In the United States, we waste an astounding 30-40% of our food supply each year. Worldwide food waste accounts for a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, coming in just third to GHG emissions in China (#1) and the US (#2). With a growing trend to reduce red meat consumption or choose more sustainable sources as an effort to reduce GHG emissions, why aren’t we talking about the benefits of reducing food waste on the environment?
While a majority of food waste occurs in large scale food operations (hospitals, schools, etc.), reducing your food waste at home can still have an impact.
By looking ahead at your schedule and planning meals according to when you will be home and able to prepare and eat a meal can help prevent ingredients going to waste from meals that were never made. Consider evening plans you may have, or lunch meetings that may not require you to bring your own lunch. Get inspired by weekly themes like “Meatless Monday”, “Taco Tuesday”, or Slow Cooker Sunday”. Make a grocery list based on that plan and stick to it. Try to avoid buying ingredients unless you have a plan for them.
Many foods can easily be frozen either unprepared or prepared. For example, bananas and avocados can be peeled, cut into large chunks, and frozen for smoothies. Tomato paste can be frozen by the tablespoonful for those recipes that only call for 1-2 tablespoons. Leftover cooking wine, coconut milk, and broth/stock can be frozen in ice cube trays or silicon muffin baking cups for that time when you need just a small amount. Additionally, prepare a meal you had planned before leaving town but just didn’t make, and freeze it for a meal that can quickly be reheated upon getting back into town.
Plan to eat foods with the shortest shelf life earlier in the week, and more hearty longer shelf life foods later in the week. For example, use up your tomatoes and leafy green vegetables before your butternut squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Same goes with meat. Prepare fresh salmon before a hermetically sealed package of ground meat. Plan your meals with this in mind.
Make “Fridge Clean Out” Meals
At the end of the week plan to make a “fridge clean out” meal that can really be flexible based on what you have leftover from the week. Think something along the lines of a frittata, a stir fry, or fried rice. First, soften any aromatics (e.g. garlic, onion, ginger, peppers) you have in oil, then add more firm vegetables (e.g. eggplant, mushrooms, potatoes) and cook until just soft. Finish by saving any quick cooking vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, spinach) or ingredients that just need to be reheated for the end.
In addition to planning a “Meatless Monday” meal, plan at least one week out of the month where you will waste absolutely no food that you purchase for the week…going out to eat doesn’t count. Challenge yourself to get creative.
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO),
“Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources summary report,”
http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3347e/i3347e.pdf, accessed April 5, 2016.