No one intends to waste food, but unfortunately we all do it! Whether we buy more than we need, or things go out of date annually, each family in America throws out almost $2,000 worth of food every year. Wasting money is bad enough, but we often fail to consider the impact on the environment! The energy, labor, and water used to produce our food is totally wasted because of a lack of awareness. Let’s find out how each of us can cut down on our food waste by forming better habits in the kitchen!
First, try making a food plan for the week and refer to it when shopping. Studies show that individuals who attempt to adopt a healthier lifestyle are often the ones discarding the most food. Why? Purchasing too much fresh food, without the knowledge of how to keep it from going bad quickly, leads to a lot of waste (and disappointment)! Planning meals around Farmer’s Market finds or sales in the grocery store can help to cut down on this waste because you won’t overbuy! Then, finding out how to store your fresh food is just a quick google search away. Tomatoes can be frozen, whole or in sauce. Other vegetables like beans freeze well with a quick blanch. Bread and bakery items also freeze well. I personally buy a two-pound loaf of rye bread at my local Polish Market. Since it contains no preservatives, I freeze it in freezer bags of 4 slices. It only takes a few minutes to thaw, and the bread is just as delicious!
Second, find new ways to use your leftovers and marked down food. Make soup or pot pies with leftover chicken and vegetables. Ground meat on sale? Make chili and freeze it in portion sized containers! Overripe fruit can be made into smoothies or sauce for ice cream. Old bananas are great in banana bread. Look online for ways to repurpose food and use items we commonly toss aside, like cheese rinds!
Third, consider composting your food waste. You can purchase a compost bin for as little as $20. Fresh vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and eggshells can all be composted, which is much better than sending to the landfill (the environment thanks you). Getting started is easier than you think, and now you’ll have a beautiful nutrient rich compost in your garden!
There is tons more you can do to improve your food waste; you can even go through your own pantry to find items that are close to the expiration date and donate them (peanut butter, canned soup and vegetables are welcome at most pantries). Next week, we’ll discuss creative ways to use perfectly good food that may seem past its prime!
Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago