Waste Not, Want Not

Next time you throw away those almost brown bananas or an expired bag of tortilla chips, consider these striking stats: A recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Resources Institute found that in 2009, nearly one-third of all food produced worldwide was lost or wasted. When converted to calories, 24% of calories produced for consumption never actually reached a person’s mouth.   

That wasted food is more than enough to feed the almost one billion people facing hunger worldwide.  Add in the findings in a 2013 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and the picture is even more jaw-dropping. If the greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s total food waste represented a country, that country would be the third largest contributor internationally of such emissions. But thankfully there is good news, too. We can all help combat waste — and it is remarkably easy! Here are some of Food Works Group’s favorite tips:

  1. Buy ugly produce.  Just because a produce item doesn’t look picture perfect doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.  Pick up a few funny-looking items at the grocery store or farmer’s market that may otherwise get thrown out. Chances are any children at home might be eager to try this funny vegetable, too!
  2. Plan your meals and your grocery runs.  Before heading to the grocery store, make a list of meals for the week and what foods you’ll need to make them. It doesn’t have to be perfect to help guide your shopping and reduce wasteful purchasing. And even a quick check on what’s in your pantry might surprise you!  Here are a whole bunch of helpful meal planning guides and templates.
  3. Leftover night! Pick one day each week to eat the leftovers in your fridge, or even repurpose them.  It saves time, money, and food. One of my favorite dishes for leftovers is a rice casserole. Brown rice + any leftover vegetables + a couple of eggs + a little cheese = magic!
  4. Use skins and stems. Next time you make a batch of mashed potatoes, don’t peel the skins!  The skins on potatoes are full of nutrients and eating them is a great way to save food and stretch your dollar.  The stems on veggies like broccoli are also great to incorporate into your cooking.  Here are 8 delicious, super easy recipes to try with broccoli stems alone!
  5. Fill that freezer! Just because produce is nearing the end of its ripeness, doesn’t mean it needs thrown away.  Freeze fruits like bananas for a delicious addition to smoothies and vegetables like kale to add to a hearty stew.
  6. Donate to a food pantry or soup kitchen. A quick google search is sure to turn up local food pantries, community kitchens, shelters, and other organizations that are looking for donated food.  Instead of throwing away healthful items you won’t use, you can donate them to one of these sites. Lots of people are starting home gardens these days, and your bumper crop of squash might be really welcome at your local hunger-relief organization.