April 22nd Earth Day Celebration: Ways You Can Help Part 2
This article is Part 2 of Ways You Can Help Celebrate Earth Day, April 22nd. The focus will be on ways to reduce food waste at home.
Reduce Food Waste – It’s Time to Make Changes
According to the American Chemistry Council, the average household throws out $640 of food each year (16% of what we buy). In addition to money lost, food waste and yard waste combined make up to 28% of what we throw away (133 billion pounds of food last year alone).
In turn, these waste products take up space in our landfills and release methane a potent greenhouse gas that harms the earth’s atmosphere. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. Thus, saving money and helping the earth’s atmosphere are two good reasons to consider making changes to limit our daily food waste. Here are the five simplest ways in which to do this.
Shop Your Fridge
Before you do a grocery run, do a quick inventory first. Better yet, make a list. Bring all of the older food items in your fridge and cupboards to the front to be used up first to prevent food spoilage.
Write down what needs to be used up each week and plan meals around those ingredients. It will feel really good to use up everything in your fridge, especially the produce that usually spoils the quickest.
Here are a few ideas of how to use leftover food items:
- Soup Anyone? Older veggies past their prime won’t be noticed in a hearty soup. Tip: Freeze soup for up to 2-3 months.
- Toss a Salad You can revive most greens by soaking them in an ice bath for five minutes. Make instant croutons from stale bread (Cube and bake at 400F on baking sheet until crisp).
- Veggie Roast To make the most of sad veggies, grab a baking sheet and put them in the oven with some olive oil and they will come out caramelized and tasty. Add protein, like salmon or chicken to make a meal.
- One Dish Wonder Make a casserole your fridge-and/pantry clean-out meal. Throw in whatever you have- meat, veggies, eggs, and cheese. Pulse some leftover tortilla chips in a processor and layer on top for tasty bread like crumbs to your casserole. Yum!
- Nuke Your Noodles Microwave your leftover noodles (covered in plastic wrap) with a splash of water until warm. Toss with veggies, pesto and chicken for a perfect lunch. Many variations to be had.
- Pizza Ready Leftovers are great for pizza. Take a crust (a pre-made can be delicious) and throw on tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers – then sprinkle on cheese and bake. Tip: Freeze your cheese. For harder types, like Parmesan and Cheddar, defrost 1 hour – or grate frozen for an almost-instant thawing.
- Fry Your Rice Since freshly cooked grains tend to get soggy, day-old rice is actually better in stir-fries. Most leafy greens can be switched in any recipe, so consider wilted lettuce if a recipe calls for sauteing spinach, or kale.
- Smoothie Heaven Virtually any fruit and vegetable can be frozen and added to smoothies. So many variations possible.
Make Smart Bulk Purchases
Everyone loves a good deal, but it doesn’t end up a good deal if it does not get eaten before it spoils. To buy in bulk you must make smart bulk purchases. Make sure it’s something you’re 100% going to use it up or something that can last a long time.
Savvy Food Storage Tips
The easiest way to avoid food waste is storing your produce in ways that preserves freshness. Airtight storage is the key to help keep food fresh. There is both glass and plastic snapware available that are freezer, microwave – and top rack dishwasher safe. If you choose to use plastic baggies, be sure to squeeze out air as much as possible before sealing the baggie to minimize freezer burn.
Freeze, Freeze, Freeze
Use an ice cube tray to make single-serve portions of leftover pasta sauce, pesto or chopped herbs (covered in olive oil). Toss them frozen straight into a hot pan for soups, pastas, sautes and more. You can even freeze wine to chill sangria or leftover juice and coconut milk to add to smoothies and cocktails.
Foolproof Your Fridge
Here are a few tips on where and how to store your foods inside your refrigerator to keep your food fresher longer:
- Stash foods in the proper section, and they’ll last longer.
- Warm leftovers or hot soup: Heat rises so keep these on the top shelf.
- Meat and cold cuts: Put in temperature controlled drawers on the lowest setting.
- Dairy and Eggs: Keep on interior shelves, not in the door where temperatures are the highest.
- Leafy greens and fruit: Set in your bottom bins or drawers. Apples, bananas and tomatoes should be stored separately (they emit natural gases that can spoil produce around them). Berries: wait to wash them right before you eat them to avoid mold growth.
- Condiments and soft drinks: Non-perishables can be kept in door compartments.
Rethink Expiration Dates
Food does not generally have expiration dates, but will have “use by” and/or “sell by” date. “Use by” indicates optimal freshness, and “sell by” is a guideline for retailers on how long to display it. You may be able to safely use dairy, packaged produce and some meats past the “use by” date. Proper storage is key. Questioning whether a food may make you sick? Better to toss it than take a risk.
Simply put, compost refers to organic material that can be added to soil to help grow plants. What is organic material? Fruit and veggie peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, fruit cores, grain based items such as bread, cereals, pastas, meat and dairy food items. Basically everything food scrap you’re used to throwing in the trash.
Composting is one of the effective ways to minimize the amount of garbage your family sends to the landfill. Not only does this reduce methane gas (a major factor in global warming), but it also controls trash can odor and gives you rich fertilizer.
The thought of food scraps on your counter can seem like a nightmare. Just freeze them and find a local compost drop. If there isn’t a neighborhood composting program, let your public works department know you’d like one. Some farmers’ markets even take food matter for composting.
Here at Fresh & Natural we applaud your efforts in helping to protect the earth.
Author: Michelle Hanson
Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will look forward to meeting you!