There is a huge problem in this world - food waste. It is something I am very passionate about. Did you know that 1/3 of the food produced globally is wasted? This is a huge number given that roughly 1 in 9 people are starving across the global. What really makes me mad is when I hear people say "we don't eat leftovers in our house - we throw them out". If only they would stop to think about the waste and how unfair this is to people starving across the world.
You may be thinking that food waste mostly happens during processing and at grocery stores. But you would be wrong! In fact, in the US, Sustainable Table estimates that 45-50% of the food waste happens in consumers homes. That's right - think about your own home and how much food is wasted.
Why does this happen? The biggest issue is when food goes bad in our refrigerators before we use it. Think about the last time you went grocery shopping. Did you use everything you bought? If not, why did you buy it? Think about not only the wasted food but the money you could have saved! That's right - when you throw food out, you are throwing out money.
How can you stop this vicious cycle? Meal-planning and prepping can definitely help minimize food waste. In order to meal-plan, you have to write a list. I typically will look at the weekly grocery circular to see what is on sale and then create my menu plan from there. After all, the in-season vegetables and fruit will have the best price for the week.
Once I make a list of the products on sale, then I think about what lunches and dinners I will make for the week. If there isn't a large variety of vegetables and fruit on sale, then I will rely on frozen and canned options. Frozen and canned is a great alternative to help reduce food waste. Canned products are fast and usually have an expiration date for years in the future. Frozen also lasts a long time and you can use just the right amount and put it back in the freezer.
Since we eat a lot of vegetables, I've created a couple of core recipes that can be used for dinner or lunch. Then, I rotate the recipes with other ideas I get inspired from either by fellow bloggers or on Pinterest. If you want to check out my recipes or others I've saved, follow me at heatherleehurst.
I usually make a stir-fry dish with either chicken or turkey tenderloins or vegetarian. This is when frozen spinach and broccoli give a recipe a lot of versatility and nutrition. I use fresh mushrooms, peppers and onions. The mushrooms, peppers and onions also make a great topping for pork chops.
We have one night that is vegetarian night. I rotate frozen veggie burgers (my significant other loves Morning Star Farms) served with a vegetable (again frozen or canned works well) and a rice, noddle or potato dish. Or I may make a vegetarian ziti or lasagna over the weekend. I pack these with veggies as well, such as mushrooms, zucchini, frozen spinach and broccoli. All of the dinners can also be used for lunch as a left-over.
Left-overs!! They are a beautiful thing and make life so much easier when making lunches. Now, I get it, for children this may not work because they may not have access to a microwave to heat food up. But for adults, left-overs are a great lunch. Think about how much healthier it is to eat something that was homemade vs. buying something in a cafeteria or fast food restaurant.
How did some people develop an aversion to left-overs? The answer may be an economic one. In decades of wealth and non-war, it appears that left-overs become a nuisance to American households. However, when in war or economically depressed times, that is when Americans tend to use as much of the food that they buy. In fact, in the 1960's there was a saying of "when in doubt, throw it out". Will the trend reverse again, where left-overs are cool again? They just might given American's are becoming more savvy on how much is wasted when food goes to waste. (Source: The Atlantic).
Plus, there are new products coming on to the market that use waste products from the growing and manufacturing processes of our food. And the possibilities seem endless! For example, Toast Ale is an IPA made from excess bread at bakeries. ReGrained Snack bars are made from leftover grains from craft breweries. Forager Project makes vegetable chips from juice pulp. (Source: Garden Collage)
So the next time you go to throw out left-overs or products you bought at the grocery store that you didn't use, think to yourself, what can I do differently so I am not wasting so much food? If you need some help with meal-planning, there are great resources available to you such as The Kitchn which provides beginner meal-planning guides and tips for great meal-planning.
Also, if you are thinking about how else to use left-overs, there are great ideas from One Green Planet and iValueFood.com. A few key tips are to think about ingredients not left-overs. Such as taking left-over vegetables and making a frittata or burritos. Another idea is to use left-over chicken, steak and vegetables in a salad.
If you try any of the meal-planning tips or start using left-overs for lunches or in different recipes, let me know how it is going for you. I promise, once you see how easy it is to meal-plan or use left-overs in other recipes, you will be able to cut back on food waste. If you'd like to get more healthy living tips for free, follow my blog on Bloglovin.