Author: Amanda Cain
I always cringe a little on the inside whenever I have to throw away food. Especially if it’s a mostly full container that seems like it was perfectly fine yesterday, but it’s actually been there over a week. The holidays seem to compound things in this department as food is a core feature in many traditions. Thankfully I’ve learned a few strategies since I first started cooking to minimize food waste.
#1 – Meal Planning
It’s my first go-to for combatting food waste. Take spinach for example. I love it, but it seems to go bad so quickly. My solution? I plan to use it in several meals throughout the week. Put it in salads, on sandwiches, in pasta, in omelets, you name it. If I plan it in, I’m less likely to end up with a box of wilted spinach at the end of the week.
#2 – Reuse ingredients. Yesterday’s grilled chicken breasts can be tonight’s chicken tacos. Today’s raw veggie sticks can be the base for tomorrow’s vegetable soup. Leftovers don’t have to be mundane – start with more “whole” food items, then try chopping or slicing leftovers to put in soups, casseroles, or different dishes.
#3 – Check expiration dates.
Milk is a big one for me. I don’t go through it very quickly, so I opt for organic simply because it’s processed in a way that gives it a longer shelf life and later expiration date. With foods already in the fridge, prioritize foods likeliest to go bad first. Choose fresh produce and earlier expiration dates first, and incorporate more frozen foods later in the week.
#4 – Freeze it.
If I make a large batch of a recipe, and don’t anticipate using it up within the week, I’ll freeze part of it for later meals. Soups and stews typically freeze and reheat pretty well. This also works for some ingredients you may not use all of – such as meats, vegetables like broccoli or peas, etc.
#5 – Make your own stock.
Feeling ambitious? Make your own stock! Don't throw away the ends of vegetables, seeds and pits, and other leftover parts that didn't end up in the main dish. Put them in a bag in your freezer, and when you’re ready, boil the contents for several hours. Strain the contents, and you’ve got your own stock! The same can go with meat bones, for making your own broth.
#6 – Composting.
Still have food waste? (Let’s be honest, we all have some.) Consider composting, especially if you like to garden or even just have indoor plants! Really, all you need is some kind of container with holes. (Here’s 35 awesome ideas from the blog DIY & Crafts to get you started!) Toss your food scraps, coffee grounds, then leave it outside and let nature do its thing. It’s a quick, eco-friendly way to give your plants some added nutrients!
Cheyenne is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in the Charleston, SC area.