Food waste is a hot topic these days, especially during a time when eﬀorts to eliminate world hunger are happening simultaneously with billions of dollars of food winding up in the trash annually. In fact, Americans alone waste upwards of $70 billion in food each year. (For more staggering statistics, check out last week’s food waste blog here.)
There is no single right way to decrease food waste. Luckily, there are many ways we can all eat more and waste less (like our veggie frittata recipe, pictured above). To get your own ideas churning about ways to use up all those veggie scraps and leftover goodies, we called on our friends in the business — the food and nutrition business, that is — to share their most creative tips for wasting less food. Thanks to all our experts for the inspiring ideas!
Ask the Experts: Waste Not, Want Not
Downsize Recipes. I cook a lot, and I ﬁnd that most recipes make serving sizes that are overly generous so I always have leftovers that we never seem to get to. I have learned to essentially cut back on the recipes by about ⅓ to ½. If a recipe calls for two chicken breasts, I’ll make it with one large one. I always take a quick inventory of what I have in my pantry and refrigerator before I grocery shop, so I don’t buy duplicates.
– Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., CSSD, Appetite for Health, co-author of 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions, appforhealth.com
Top to Bottom. Use vegetable tops like carrots, radishes, and beets. These are very nutrient-rich and can be used in salads, greens, pesto, and really any time you would use a leafy green like spinach. Compost your scraps for fertilizer so they stay out of the landﬁlls and create a healthy soil amendment at the same time. Do an inventory of your refrigerator — use the most perishable produce ﬁrst, things like lettuce, greens, asparagus, broccoli, and berries; use the hardier ones later, things like carrots, turnips, apples, oranges.
– Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of Plant-Powered for Life, sharonpalmer.com
Wasted Food = Wasted Cash. Create your menus and shopping lists based on the foods you have on hand. When you ﬁnd wilted greens in the crisper, visualize throwing actual money into the garbage. Boil stalks and stems (like those from cauliﬂower and broccoli) in vegetable or chicken stock until soft. Add garlic, onions, and your favorite herbs and spices. Puree it in a blender and enjoy a savory and nutritious soup — and freeze what you don’t eat. My Summer Quinoa Salad (recipe here, photo below) is another great way to use up summer produce.
– Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, contributing editor for Food & Nutrition Magazine, marisamoore.com
Check Yourself. I write shopping lists with exact measurements so I know exactly what I have to purchase — and buy my meats and ﬁsh at the counter to get the exact portion I need. I also do not purchase something I already have.
– Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com, tobyamidornutrition.com
Be Flexible. I play it fast and loose with meal planning…but only at the end of the week. If we have more leftovers or unused veggies than anticipated, that gives me a chance to use them up. If we’ve actually been on top of things, then we’ll make a quick grocery store pit stop for some ﬁsh or poultry to grill and some veggies for a salad.
– Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, CD, nutrition therapist at Menu for Change, nutrition columnist for Seattle Times, nutritionbycarrie.com
No One’s Perfect. Embrace — and eat — imperfection. Don’t toss summer produce like slightly bruised peaches or past-their-peak berries, freeze them for winter or make this fabulous, cool no-cook summer berry pudding (recipe here, photo below). For more food saving tips, check out savethefood.com.
– Ellen Kanner, Soulful Vegan writer & recipe developer, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner & e-book Beans: A Handful of Magic, Huﬃngton Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, soulfulvegan.com
Roasting Time. We all seem to have one or two pieces of random fruit or vegetables that did not get used during the week’s meals. To avoid these items getting pushed to the back of the crisper and tossed in the trash – I roast them, even the fruit! Heat oven to 400° and cut-up all your leftover produce into bite size pieces – roast for 30 – 40 minutes or until tender and add to salads, omelets, yogurt, whole grains or sandwiches.
– Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, CDN, Triad to Wellness, nutrition communication consultant, triadtowellness.com
Take Stock. I have become an expert in creating dishes that use up leftover food. When I don’t use it up, I either freeze it, use it in a smoothie, or compost it back to the earth. Before planning meals, assess perishable foods and be creative. My latest clean-out-the-fridge was a nacho dish using leftover steak, baked beans smashed with plain Greek yogurt, and adobe peppers along with cheese and salsa – it was delicious.
– Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, director of nutrition for WebMD, webmd.com/kathleen-m-zelman
Recycle. Just as you recycle your plastic bottles and cans, you need to recycle your leftovers for another meal. Don’t throw out the last spoonful of salad and veggies at dinner. Rather, recycle them into lunch or even dinner for the next day. I recently made an avocado and tomato salsa salad for dinner guests. Rather than toss the leftovers, I combined them with a quick-cook whole grain brown rice and quinoa mix and created a quick lunch that was divine the next day (equation below). One person’s trash is another person’s lunch.
– Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDN, LDN, clinical associate professor for Boston University, salge-blake.blogspot.com
Comment below to share your own tricks for decreasing food waste.
Ashley Owen, Oldways PR & Media Manager