“Just toss it” has (sadly) become a motto in North America. In the land of abundance we often don’t worry too much if food gets thrown away instead of eaten. Unfortunately a third of the world’s food supply goes uneaten. Food and Agriculture Organizations of United Nations. (2017). SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction. Accessed on 3/2/17 from: http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/. The average North American throws out 250 pounds of food waste.Food and Agriculture Organizations of United Nations. (2017). SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction. Accessed on 3/2/17 from: http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/[/annotation] Staggering, right? As food prices rise that wasted food isn’t making our wallets look too good either. Making small changes to reduce your food waste will stop you from throwing money down the garbage disposal. This April, Vegatopians will be taking part in a Zero Waste Challenge focusing on reducing their waste in the kitchen, in the bathroom and with their weekly shopping habits. Here are eight easy ways that you can join in to help reduce food waste in your home and in the community in which you live:
1. Be a Smart Shopper
Wandering aimlessly through the grocery store is a recipe for a higher grocery bill, less nutrient-dense options and ultimately more food waste. Planning your meals in advance, writing up a shopping list, and knowing exactly how much food you need can help to solve all three problems. Don’t go into the grocery store unprepared. Invest in reusable produce bags and avoid unnecessary plastics.
2. Go for Bulk
Shop out of bulk bins and buy only the quantity of food you need. Don’t need an industrial sized container of nutmeg? Look for bulk herbs and spices. Know you love oatmeal each and every day? Stock up on bulk grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and keep them in reusable glass containers so you don’t have to continually recycle or toss smaller containers. Many zero waste stores have now found ways to operate with safe, tailored services.
3. Keep the Skin
Find that you’re tossing out all the ends and skins of fresh vegetables? As much as possible try to keep the skin on them — you’ll keep nutrients that would have just ended up in your garbage disposal. Or use the recipe below to take saved tops and skins of carrots, celery, onions, and any other root vegetable in your freezer and make your own veggie stock.
Make your own vegetable stock:
- Skins and tops of carrots, celery, beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc.
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Basil, thyme and oregano to taste
1. Place all ingredients into a large pot and cover with 8 cups of water
2. Bring to a boil with lid on
3. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour
4. Strain out the vegetables
5. Use the broth in any type of soup. You can freeze the broth or keep it in the fridge for future use.
4. Don’t Let It Go Bad
That bag of lettuce is looking pretty moldy tucked into the back of your fridge. Who hasn’t lost a piece of produce or leftovers once they’ve been hidden in the far back crevasses of your refrigerator? When you stock up your pantry, freezer and fridge after a shopping trip, bring what’s already in them to the front. By keeping older foods front and center you’ll avoid unrecognizable science experiments — and you won’t waste anything to long-overdue expiration dates being sufficiently overdue.
When in doubt, pop it in the freezer. Browned bananas? Freeze them without the skins to make a deliciously smooth smoothie in a couple weeks. Produce wilting? Blanch it and then store it in the freezer. Mark the date you put it in the freezer so you can reference that in the future (make permanent marker and masking tape new kitchen drawer staples).
6. Fridge Clean Out Time
Designate a meal a week to use up those products that are near their expiration date. Yes, you may have to get a little creative. Use a whole grain pasta or rice blend as a base and stir fry whatever protein and vegetables you have in your fridge. Also take note of what’s in your freezer. Notice some freezer burn starting to accumulate? Toss it in the mix!
7. Show Your Love for Leftovers
Leftovers are about to become your new best friend. Whether it’s eating out or at home, save what’s left over. Your wallet, your stomach, and the Earth will thank you.
Really don’t feel like using that onion skin? Start composting! Some cities will take your compost at the same time they remove the recycling. Or donate it to a community garden so other peoples’ plants can flourish. Don’t worry — composting doesn’t have to stink up your entire house! Invest in a quality compost disposal and you’ll never even notice it’s there.
By reducing food waste at home we’ll all be one step closer to making the Earth a greener place. Happy Earth day!
How do you reduce food waste in your home?