Have you ever stopped to think about how your diet makes an impact on the earth? The food we choose (or don’t choose) to eat is one of the most influential decisions we can make for our planet, yet we squander it every day. In fact, the food we waste boasts a negative environmental impact that can significantly change the course of our planet if we don’t do our part to stop it.
Over the last 40 years, food waste has drastically increased by 50% , and more than 40% of the food produced for human consumption in the U.S. will never be eaten. While these are frightening statistics, what does it actually mean for our environment? The food we mindlessly throw away fills up landfills, and produces methane gas (a high global warming potential) as it decomposes, which is why we need to take this issue seriously.
In the United States alone, 63 million tons of food is wasted every year. Food waste accounts for 21% of landfill volume. While these statistics are sobering, there are steps that we can take. If you’re interested in more personal, governmental and agricultural solutions visit the Washington Post and Save the Food. Get started with these great tips and recipes from some of our RD friends.
4 Ways to Reduce and Utilize Food Waste
1. Turn Leftovers into Brand New Meals
Repurpose Leftovers into New and Exciting Meals
Julie Harrington, RDN, usually plans 2-3 meals for the week and by the end of the week there are odds and ends of leftovers from previous meals. She loves to get creative to create a brand new dish just from leftovers and whatever else is in her kitchen. This Butternut Squash & Kale Pizza was solely made from leftovers.
2. Shop Your Kitchen First
Make Recipes with Household Ingredients
Our Colorful Quinoa and Pecan Salad is a great example of a delicious and healthy recipe that can be customized to what you have in the house. This recipe requires minimum ingredients and minimum cooking time. Plus, you can add whatever veggies you need to use up for even more delicious and nutritious flavor.
Have vs. Want
It can be easy to just run to the store for a recipe ingredient, but maybe you already have it in your refrigerator. Judy Barbe, RDN, uses this tip to ask herself what she has rather than what she wants. Her Fromage Fort recipe is ideal because it’s such a great way to repurpose all the odds and ends of cheeses.
Clean Out Your Refrigerator Regularly
If there is one tip that Sharon Palmer, RDN, can give you on food waste, it’s to plan one night a week to clean out your fridge. Use up the leftovers, and create a fun, smorgasbord type meal. You can also use up those odds and ends to make a wonderful soup on that night. Try out Borscht with Beets and Beet Greens from her book, Plant-Powered for Life.
3. Repurpose Scraps & “Trash”
Waste Not, Want Not
Erica Julson, RDN, takes this message to heart and loves using the “scraps” of food that people usually throw away. She especially enjoys re-purposing carrot tops! They make a delicious pesto when blended with pepitas, parmesan, garlic, lemon, and olive oil. Get inspired with her Carrot Top and Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta recipe!
Don’t Throw Out That Can of Beans
Chrissy Carroll, RDN, loves to save the liquid from beans and refrigerate or freeze it for later use. This liquid, called aquafaba, works wonderfully as an egg replacer in many vegan baked goods, and can also be used to make dressings and faux-mayo when blended with oil and seasonings. She loves using the liquid from white beans or chickpeas to make the aioli that tops her sweet potato and corn fritters!
Don’t be Scared to Repurpose Those Vegetables
While this tip can be intimidating, it can lead to some amazing kitchen creations! Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, RDN, always recommends to save leftover vegetable scraps and throw them in a quick bread or soup! It adds incredible texture and nutrition! Check out Katie’s Spiced Zucchini Banana Bread for inspiration on how to use leftover vegetable scraps.
Bones are Good
Everyone loves a hearty soup, so save those bones to make the best broth ever! Kaleigh McMordie, RDN, likes to keep all of her veggie scraps, bones, and cheese rinds for broth. She also makes sure to take inventory of her fridge for what needs to be used when planning her meals–if she can’t use something before it goes bad, she freezes it! Try out her Slow Cooker Bone Broth for some soup inspiration.
Broccoli stems can be tricky to re-purpose, as most people tend to discard them, we love adding these leftover pieces to our Creamy Broccoli and Avocado Soup. Using broccoli stems in place of florets gives a mild broccoli flavor, but they are also rich in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, selenium, and fiber.
4. Buy Only What You Need
It can be easy to just run to the food store and aimlessly estimate what you need. However, we can overestimate the amount of an ingredient that we actually need. Overbuying can lead to certain foods going bad and having to be thrown away. Instead, when making a recipe, buy only the ingredients that you need for that recipe. If you have extra of an ingredient, make sure you repurpose it and not let it go bad in the fridge or pantry. If your fruits or veggies are getting too soft, cut them as needed and freeze for a later time. Our Freekeh Skyr Parfait is a great example of this. This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of blackberries and 1/2 cup strawberries. Since you would need to buy an entire package, freeze the rest so it doesn’t go bad too quick!