Getting Creative in the War on Food Waste

Nobody likes to waste food—especially those of us who understand the intensive labor and resources that go into farming methods that safeguard the land and the communities that depend on it. And yet, modern life sometimes makes it feel impossible to get organized about shopping and cooking. Even the most mindful among us knows what it’s like to opens the fridge to find food that has sprouted enough fur to warm a grizzly bear.

cooking vegetarian green bean soup
Photo credit: Wonderlane, Flickr

The following sobering facts may inspire you to change your ways: UK households throw out 7 million tons of food and drink each year, more than half of which could have been consumed. And the US wastes 30 – 40 percent of the food it grows, produces and sells. Nearly all of that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfill, accounting for a hefty share of methane emissions that contribute to climate change. What’s more, food waste also hits you in your pocketbook: the typical American family of four loses $1,365 to $2,275 per year on food they never eat.

Feeling guilty? Don’t.

Guilt rarely affects lasting change—but everyday incremental actions do. Join us in getting creative in eliminating food waste. Figuring out what to do with those random odds and ends in your fridge is an art that’s best honed with collaborators. (Not the creative type? Never fear, this app helps find recipes for the foods you have on hand.)

A word of warning: the war on food waste is not for the faint of heart. If a veggie has a dark spot or the milk has gone past the “sell by” date, buck up: sniff, excise the rotting sections and carry on. Refine your strategies by planning meals, shopping with a list, and buying the minimum amount you need. There are many amazing meal planners, complete with shopping lists, online. (If you do overbuy, contact your local food pantry or soup kitchen and see what they accept.)

Here are some ideas for how you can start eliminating food waste at home:

1. Wilted veggies are perfect for a crock-pot soup or stew, or an elegant frittata or quiche.

cheese quiche with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and tomatoes
Photo credit: istock


2. Overripe fruit is easily transformed into an oh-la-la compote over low heat with some butter and a bit of sugar. It’s delicious with pancakes, French toast or waffles (and cheaper and healthier than syrup!)

Homemade pancakes and compote
Photo credit: istock


3. Hard-as-rock baguette can be re-purposed for tomato-and-bread soup, gazpacho, French onion soup or bread pudding. Simplest of all: break it up and pan fry the pieces to make croutons.

cold tomato soup gazpacho
Photo credit: istock


4. Mushy fruit? Bruised bananas, mangoes, or persimmons can be baked into sweet bread. Add some walnuts or pistachios for pizzazz.

Freshly baked homemade banana bread
Photo credit: istock


5. The kids will only eat the floret part of broccoli? Slice the stalks into French fry shapes and fry ‘em up. Provide a condiment for dipping and you have an irresistible snack.

Photo credit: istock


Ramon nut, a sustainable superfood - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

How will we feed the 9.8 billion people who will share Earth in 2050?