Hate how our weather has become so extreme and erratic? Are you more afraid to fly these days seeing that the flights seem to be getting bumpier? Do you realize that our food is less nutritious than in years past because our soil is becoming depleted of nutrients? Welcome to our world with the effects of climate change. This is our new reality. We can’t just sit back and hope others will do something. WE ALL MUST DO OUR PART.
It may seem crazy but one place we can help our environment is in the kitchen—specifically, by creating less waste. Did you know landfills are the biggest producers of methane gas, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change? “In the US, we throw away one pound of food per person every day, just at the consumer level…we’re not just wasting valuable nourishment, but all the resources that went into producing that food, like land, water and fertilizer.” (U.S. News and World Report, 2/20/19) So here’s something we can do that requires little effort: try and create less waste in our cooking and food preparation!
Here are some ways you can accomplish this:
- Waste starts with what goes into your shopping cart. Buy only what you need and will eat!
- Stop throwing out perfectly good food because you are “afraid” of expiration dates. It’s time to understand them! Food manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of the best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are NOT an indicator of a product’s safety. If the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident. Spoiled food will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally-occurring spoilage characteristics. So use your nose!! If something smells off, throw it out. And use your hands: If greens or food is slimy, throw it away. But otherwise, EAT IT!
- Best By or Best if Used By = date indicates when product has best flavor or quality
- Sell By = date tells store how long to display the product for inventory management
- Use by = last date recommended for use of product while at peak quality
- Freeze by = when product should be frozen to maintain peak quality
- NONE OF THOSE ARE SAFETY DATES!
- Free your produce from produce-drawer jail. If you leave your fruits and vegetables in your refrigerator’s produce drawer, you will likely forget they’re there and they will literally rot in jail. Instead free them from the drawer and keep them visible. Wash and cut fruits and vegetables and store them in clear glass containers in the fridge so they will be easy to see, grab and eat!
- Made too much lasagna?? Give the extras to your neighbors, friends, relatives or grown kids instead of throwing them out. I often bring leftovers to my trainer since he is busy and doesn’t have much time to cook!
- Freeze unused portions of food for later use:
- Instead of discarding half a can of tomato sauce or pizza sauce that you used in a recipe, put the remainder in a freezer bag, label it and use it for future use in a soup or a bolognese sauce.
- Made too much rice or quinoa? Throw it in a freezer bag to add to a soup or casserole at a later date.
- Extra broth in the carton? Freeze it in a freezer bag for the next time a recipe calls for some.
- Cook with what you have. This is probably one of the biggest things you can do to help avoid waste in the kitchen. Realize that recipes are guidelines, not gospel, and that you can adapt recipes to use ingredients based on what you have at home.
- Before selecting a recipe, do a google search to find one that uses the ingredients you already HAVE.
- Use the broccoli you do have in place of the zucchini you don’t have (and now I just saved you a trip back to the store! You’re welcome!)
- Add extra vegetables that are sitting in your refrigerator to a recipe even if it doesn’t call for it.
- Throw extra cooked pasta (whole wheat of course!) into your salad or soup to bulk it up!
- Have an abundance of uneaten vegetables? Roast them in the oven and keep them in the refrigerator to munch on in the coming days.
- Got lots of eggs? Boil some water and make a big bowl of hardboiled eggs to enjoy for lunch and snacks all week.
- Is your cheese nearing the end of its life? Throw some in your salad or broil whole grain bread topped with cheese as a side dish for dinner.
- All of these simple tips can make you a person who creates less waste and does your part to help the environment. Another reason to be proud of yourself!
Here’s an idea for a Sunday salad for lunch or dinner using up everything that’s left in the refrigerator from the previous week. Call it a garbage salad if you will, but the irony is it’s actually a less-garbage salad:) . REDUCE>REUSE>RECYCLE>REPURPOSE
Start by pulling out all the fresh vegetables that you’ve got. Chop all of them up. Add other leftovers sitting in your refrigerator: cooked chicken, quinoa, half a jar of olives, cheese, banana peppers, grapes, roasted sweet potatoes, etc.
To dress the salad, simply swirl some olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper on top of the salad and toss.
Easy! Healthy! Delicious! Resourceful! Zero-Waste!
Start to make Sunday Garbage Salads a tradition in your house.