7 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

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Chocolate does not go to waste in this house, above

Part of being American means that we have access to a bounty of food.  This is a wonderful thing, especially if our pantry’s and refrigerators are stocked with fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and the usual suspects enhance health and vitality.  However, having too much can lead to waste.  It is saddening that many consumers and restaurants waste, even if unintentionally, when so many are hungry.  Here are some great ideas to minimize food waste:

1.)  Buy what you need if.  Whether perishable or nonperishable, we often buy things that we already have or we buy too much of one thing.  Stores, especially warehouses, can be overwhelming.  A feeling that one must stock-up is common.  Try to take a step-back and ask yourself if you actually need something (are you out of the product?), if you use that product on a daily basis, or what it’s utility will be (are you using it in a recipe?).  Remember, you are in control of what you buy, not the store.  An added bonus of conscious shopping is a fatter wallet.

2.)  “Donate.”   If your family won’t eat it all, share it.  For example, if you make a large dish or a big batch of sweet treats, consider giving some to a friend or neighbor.  Must like restaurants donate food to those who will use it; friends and neighbors can share, too.  Whether your friend recently had a baby, a medical procedure, or is simply working extra hours, the gift of delicious food is usually a welcome one.   For example, last week my neighbor had a bounty of tomatoes from her garden and extra roasted vegetables from the night’s dinner.  She brought them over to share with our family.  We both benefited:  she was able to prevent food from going to waste and our family enjoyed delicious food.

3.) Freeze it!  For a bounty of leftovers from a casserole, stew or soup, portion out servings and place in labeled freeze in ziplock bags or tupperware for a portable lunch or quick dinner.  If you won’t be able to finish a sauce, jam or pesto, freeze it in ice-cube trays to use for later and convenient single-servings.  You will benefit by having delicious food at your fingertips that is a quick defrost away.  Recently, we had a large amount of leftover fruit salad.  It no longer looked beautiful and freshly cut, but still had wonderful flavor.  A quick blitz in the food processor and a few hours in the freezer yielded a delicious strawberry and mixed-fruit sorbet.

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Icy strawberry and mixed-fruit sorbet, above

4.) “Can it.”  I often mock “can” extra produce.  For example, extra fruits are puréed in a blender or food processor and stored in a mason jar for a home-made quick jam.  Last weekend, quickly ripening peaches were pureed with basil and honey to create a delicious spread for recently baked challah bread.  The bread was revitalized and the peaches were repurposed and transformed.

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A quick peach and basil spread, above

5.) Save your plate.   Not literally, of course, though we have all popped our dinner plate full of leftovers into the fridge before.  When my kids, my husband and I have a meal, we do our best to portion out what we will eat.  There is no need to “clean your plate,” of course, but consider saving what you don’t finish for another meal or snack.  When my children don’t finish a meal, I save it for later.  Then, a healthy and already prepared dish is ready to go.  Children are excellent self-regulators; they consume the amount they need.  Hunger is truly the best sauce and the leftovers will taste just as good when your kids are ravenous once again.  When my children or I eat at friend’s homes, I notice massive amounts of food piled in the trash after a meal.  This is not only throwing a valuable resource away, but it is also throwing money in the garbage.  Wasted food will be replaced with new food, which costs money.

6.) “Take Two.”  Be creative when utilizing leftovers.  Try to think outside the box when looking at leftover food in your fridge.  For example, last night I noticed left-over salmon, vegetable-bean medley and guacamole from smoky salmon tacos featured on an earlier post.  I puréed the guacamole with a bit of yogurt for a delicious and fresh salad dressing.  I added roasted eggplant, diced tomato,cooked quinoa and fresh herbs to the vegetable bean medley to make a delicious grain dish.  Time was saved, as the base of the grain dish (the flavorful vegetable medley) was ready to use.  The leftover salmon simply needed a bit of yogurt and lemon to pair perfectly with the quinoa re-make and round out a delicious “take-two” meal.

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Take-Two:  An eggplant-quinoa pilaf, above

7.) Be your own cookbook.  Often, new recipes are exciting and inspiring.  We see a recipe in a magazine, or find inspiration on a food blog, and rush out to the store to buy the ingredients.  However, sometimes we have food that needs to be used now (before we purchase and prepare additional food).  Feel free to alter a recipe in a way that utilizes what you have.  No kale for a pasta dish?  Substitute the broccoli in your crisper, instead.  You get the picture.

Alternatively, save the recipe for a later date and create your own by assessing what you have.  Recently, I was inspired to make an delicious appetizer from Bon Appétit magazine.  However, I didn’t have any of the ingredients.  So, I decided to go shopping in my refrigerator instead of at the grocery store.

I thought back to a recipe I created long ago when I lived in Atlanta.  Then, I went to work making a version of the delicious appetizer that is always a crowd pleaser:  marinated chévre.  I combine minced garlic, basil, rosemary, red pepper flakes, whole peppercorns, olive oil, lemon juice and white balsamic vinegar.  Then, sliced medallions of goat cheese are covered with the mixture and allowed to marinate overnight.  Next, a sliced, toasted baguette or crackers is served along-side and presto:  an elegant appetizer.  With a little creativity and inspiration, utilizing what you have can be delicious and classy.

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Marinated goat cheese rounds, above

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©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.

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9 thoughts on “7 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

    1. Thank you for your positive comments and feedback. I’m so glad that you visited the blog! Yes, I really enjoyed reading your blog; it is so warm and personal. Yes, we have a lot of similarities when it comes to food. 🙂 That challah recipe you posted was beautiful, by the way. Keep on re-using and helping your friends do the same… it is so important. Glad the chocolate caught your eye; I’m pretty sneaky!

    1. I could not agree more, Sofia! I watched the documentary “Dive” last week and realized the problem was far worse than I had ever imagined. It re-inforced that I cannot control all the food waste in the world – but I can buy the appropriate amount of food for our family and use it appropriately. Do you feel that Spain has as much food waste as America? Thank you for stopping by and for your comments. I appreciate it!

  1. THANK YOU for posting this! I have a similar page on my blog, called “Leftover Makeovers” because I cannot stand the thought of throwing food out or wasting it for no reason! Unfortunately in America we are lazy as a society- we forget about it in the fridge or decide to toss it because it’s easier/more convenient (somehow?) to pick up some takeout. I freeze, pickle, re-purpose, you name it! So glad to see someone else cares- and it saves a ton of money too!

    1. Thank you for the note! I look forward to reading about how you give leftovers new life. Isn’t it fun to make something new out of something already existing? And generally more tasty, too. I always know exactly what’s in my fridge and pantry, like you. Off to check out your blog! 😉

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