I was happy to see an article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ August issue about food waste in the United States. The article is brief, but it talks about some ways Dietitians can try to get involved in this global issue. I whole-heartedly agree that food waste is an issue dietitians can be involved in! As someone working toward a degree in nutrition with the hopes of becoming a Registered Dietitian, I’m happy to see the profession is conscious of the roll they can play in teaching people how to not waste nutrients, while also teaching how to consume nutrients.
I try to reduce food waste in my house as much as possible, but often, it really can’t be helped. I think a lot of us just have such busy work/school/recreational lives that concerning ourselves with saving every scrap of food just isn’t a priority. What does motivate me is saving money. I’m currently a full-time student and I don’t like the idea of wasting perfectly good food. However, sometimes I just cannot eat all the bananas fast enough before they become over-ripe, and there’s only so much banana bread I can tolerate. Or sometimes I’ll forget there’s a half-used cucumber in the bottom of the vegetable drawer and by the time I re-discover it, it’s slimy and gross. R-I-P cucumber.
I don’t want to bore you with stats and numbers about how much food is wasted globally – there are a fair number of documentaries, blogs and videos available online that will try to persuade/guilt you into changing. It certainly frustrates me knowing how much food is wasted, especially on the production side of our food system, but getting worked up or frustrated about something I can’t change is wasted energy. Instead, I want to share with you two things I do around my house to limit food waste.
Edible Vegetable Scraps for Stock
This is obvious and nothing new, but I think a lot of people think they don’t have the time for it, but making vegetable stock is a great way to save money and reduce waste. I keep a plastic bag in my freezer and whenever I have a piece of vegetable scrap I decide whether it’s worthy of making stock from it or whether it should go into the compost. I realize it’s hard fitting something new into your routine especially when it’s easy and familiar to toss scraps into the trash. Initially, it can be difficult to remember there’s a plastic bag in the freezer for scraps, however, I encourage you to give it a try.
I do want to reason with you for a second if you feel making vegetable stock is something you can’t do or don’t want to: you’re going to throw those scraps out anyway, so instead of throwing them in a garbage bag, throw them in the freezer bag. They can keep for a fairly long time and when you want to take a stab at making stock, all you have to do is throw them into a pot with some water, let them simmer on the stove and then strain out and save the liquid. It’s really simple and not as intimidating or as daunting as you may think, plus it saves you money by making stock from stuff you would have just thrown out. If you already know how to do this, great! Help a friend do it!
Again, this is probably a very obvious thing, but it’s worth mentioning composting. I realize not everyone has a backyard, but there are ways to compost on your balcony or even on your countertop. When I lived in an apartment I utilized two 5 gallon buckets stacked one inside the other with holes drilled in the bottom of the upper bucket to allow drainage.
Currently, I have a small bin on my counter where I put vegetable scraps and once a week (ish) I take it outside to my compost pile, now that I’m living in a house. During the winter I keep a small compost bin outside our back door on the deck (the one I has used on our apartment balcony) so I can dump our indoor bin into that one and then once the one on the deck gets full, I take that one over to the main compost pile. This is just so I don’t have to step out into the rain or snow every time. I don’t know if “lazy” or “wuss” is more accurate, but it’s what works for me, so don’t judge! 🙂
Every couple weeks I take a pitchfork and turn the compost so that the air can get to some of the stuff underneath and so the stuff on top gets covered where the microbes can get to it. I also compost other things, but I can talk more about my composting in another article.
Well those are two of the ways I try to cut down on wasted food in my house! I think an important thing to note is that even if food has gone bad, that doesn’t mean it has gone to waste! Composting is a good way to make use of those food scraps. Let us know what ways you cut down on food waste in your house in the comments below. Also, let me know if you’d like to see a video “tour” of my compost or how to make vegetable broth or something similar on my YouTube channel. Thanks for reading!