Reusing things cuts down on the amount of waste we generate and the number of things we throw in our recycling bins. This week, while researching the variety of ways we can reuse bottles, jars, bags, egg cartons, and all kinds of other things, I stumbled across a website devoted to reducing food waste, partly by using the parts we deem undesirable and usually throw away. Owned by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Save the Food, is filled with planning advice, recipes, food storage tips, and more.
Did you know that 30 to 40 percent of all food in the United States is wasted, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration? “Wasted food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills and represents nourishment that could have helped feed families in need. Additionally, water, energy, and labor used to produce wasted food could have been employed for other purposes. Effectively reducing food waste will require cooperation among federal, state, tribal and local governments, faith-based institutions, environmental organizations, communities, and the entire supply chain,” says the document “Food Loss and Waste” provided by the USFDA.
GUEST-IMATE HOW MUCH FOOD YOU NEED
Think about the stuff in your refrigerator, cupboards, and freezer. How often have you had milk that has gone sour, yogurt or sauce that grew a bit of mold, or fruits and veggies that turned limp or brown? More often than not, we throw these things away. Instead of being in that situation, we could calculate just how much food we need for the week to reduce waste. Save the Food offers a “Guest-imator” that allows you to calculate what you need to buy and prepare if you are hosting a dinner party. First, you choose if you have invited small eaters, average eaters, or big eaters (and assign each category a number). Then you answer the question of “how many leftover meals you want”. Then you create a menu and the Guest-imator calculates how many ounces of everything you’ll need to feed your guests and have the meal leftovers you want. It’s really that simple.
UNDERSTAND HOW TO STORE FOOD PROPERLY
Save the Food also offers a similar solution for planning meals and your weekly shopping list. Plus they have a bunch of food storage tips, including the best way to store every fruit, veggie, dairy, and protein you’d want. For example, stone fruits (like peaches and pears and cherries), the website says to store at room temperature out of sunlight if they are unripe and then move to the refrigerator once they ripen, where they will last 3 to 7 days. You can freeze them to make the last longer; either freeze them whole, in halves, or in slices and raw or you can blanch them and remove the skins then dip in lemon juice before freezing. And if you don’t get the to stone fruit before they start to brown, you can juice them and use in smoothies, as toppings on ice cream, or make into simple syrups for drinks.
One thing you may have never heard before is that “inside the pits, there is a kernel that looks like an almond. This “noyau,” as it’s called by the French, contains the dangerous chemical hydrogen cyanide, but can be roasted and then used to impart a bitter almond (marzipan) flavor. It is used in Europe in small amounts to flavor marzipan and amaretto dishes and also to make crème de noyaux liqueur,” according to Save the Food. I know that’s a part I’d usually throw away because I had no idea it could be used for anything.
LEARN WAYS TO USE “WASTE”
Megan, who on Instagram goes by zerowastenerd has a range of tips on reusing or reducing what we use every day. Some of her tips cover food, like all parts of a carrot can be used. The green leafy tops, which have six times the Vitamin C than the roots, can be turned into pesto, added to soups, chopped into salads, sauteed in stir fry, or even added to smoothies. And if we scrub the carrot well, we don’t have to peel them since carrot skin also has concentrated amounts of Vitamin C.
RECIPE TO USE ONE TYPE OF FOOD “WASTE”
One other thing you can do with strips of carrot skins, if you feel like you need to peel them for some reason, is to turn them into “chips”. I use the same method for broccoli and cauliflower stems, and you can do something similar with potato peels and squashes. For broccoli or cauliflower stem chips, peel or cut the really hard outer layer and compost it. Then slice the stem into flat, narrow “rounds”. Toss them with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and parmesan or paprika if you’d like more flavor. Spread them on some parchment paper on a cookie sheet and place them in a preheated to 450 degree F oven. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn but when they start to brown, pull them from the oven. Leave them sit and cool, and you’ll have a great plant-based healthy snack.