Ever since my book club read the chapter on Waste in the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker, I’ve been on a personal mission to reduce food waste as much as possible within my own home kitchen.
This pursuit for reducing food waste has been, well, eye-opening. I can’t believe how much food my family of four goes through! Whether its over-buying, forgetting about that head of lettuce crammed in the back of our fridge, or failing to use up all our leftovers, food waste has run a muck in our household.
Unfortunately, our food waste habits probably sound familiar. At least that appears to be the case according to a new report release by the National Resources Defense Council which found the average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food. Its the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills, which makes sense given that we Americans are throwing away about 40% of our food.
Aren’t those numbers staggering!?! My inner-frugal self is pretty upset with me right now. How could you throw money down the drain, she asks? My inner-compassionate self is also ashamed. We’re literally throwing away food when there are many people in our own community who don’t have enough to begin with.
As we’ve begin to “tidy up” our food habits in our home, being mindful of our traditional eating patterns has proven to be really helpful. Not only are we using our foods with more intentionality, but the desire to not leave any food behind has really forced us to become creative with the dishes we prepare. We’re also finding that by making good use of foods about to go bad, we save ourselves a lot of time by always having some aspect of our meal already prepped and ready to go.
Our food dollar has also been stretching farther. Our typical weekly grocery spend is around $180 per week. Since we’ve started tackling food waste, its been closer to $130 each trip.
So how do you reduce food waste in your own kitchen? Here are few helpful tips:
Buy smaller quantities of fresh produce. This has proven to be a great tactic for our family! We were often buying more of one type of food than we would honestly go through in a week. We now buy smaller quantities but more variety of different fresh fruits and vegetables. In part, I think we waste less with this method because we like variety. We’re no longer trying to work our way through an entire ginormous bag of apples or pounds upon pounds of kale.
Planning “two-for” meals. If you aren’t familiar with “two-for” meals, these are essentially meals that you make one night and then purposely reuse it a different night. For example, this week I made a sheet pan Bruschetta-inspired chicken dinner. The chicken was served up with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and onions. Later this week, I’ll be reusing the chicken to top an avocado-pesto pasta I’ll be making. This helps ensure that all the ingredients I purchased are put to good use, minimizing the likelihood that any ingredients will be leftover.
Never leave a food alone. Another great tactic that has worked in our household, especially for snacks, is to make sure no food is ever left alone. If I’m having Greek yogurt, I make sure to pair it up with either some lollygagging nuts, seeds, or fruit. Or how about that last bit of cereal in the box that isn’t enough for a full bowl of cereal? Mix it in and use it up.
Make soup. Once fall arrives, my slow cooker will come out of retirement and be put back to good use whipping up homemade soups while I’m off at work. I love homemade soup and its great place to use up leftover ingredients. If you’re really brave, you could even try making your own soup stock by saving any leftover food bits in the freezer.
Add vegetables… to everything! Soup isn’t the only place where you can make good use of your about-to-go-bad veggies. Really, you can add vegetables to just about everything. From egg cups to homemade pizza, veggie variety can make meals more flavorful and visually appealing. Don’t forget, we often eat with our eyes first.
Want more ideas to reduce food waste in your own kitchen? Here’s a blog post from our friend Toby Amidor, RD over at the Food Network that I had some great ideas just for you!