No one likes to waste food, but we do it more than we think. The Environmental Protection Agency says, on average, American households toss out more than a quarter of their food purchases!
Awareness of the problem is slowly rising. There are even plans for a Massachusetts store called Daily Table to sell expired, yet edible, foods and misshapen vegetables. And earlier this year, renowned N.Y.C. chef Dan Barber created a food-waste pop-up in partnership with chefs and food purveyors across the country.
In other words, the food we waste is more than enough to feed the nearly 20% of Americans experiencing food insecurity and hunger this holiday season.
According to WastedFood.com, wasting food squanders the time, energy, and resources—both money and oil—used to produce that food. Increasingly, great amounts of fossil fuel are used to fertilize, apply pesticides to, harvest, and process food. Still more gas is spent transporting food from farm to processor, wholesaler to restaurant, store to households, and finally to the landfill.
Anyone can — with a little bit of effort — make a dent in the amount of useable food that gets trashed. Here are a few simple changes you can make:
1. Make vegetable stock
Keep trimmings from onions, leeks, celery, carrots, mushrooms, green beans, corn cobs, potatoes, etc. in a bag in the freezer. When the bag gets big enough, throw them all into a pot with water to cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour (Simmer longer if the flavor seems weak.) Strain and discard the solids. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Prepare your beet greens
Leafy beet greens are delicious prepared as you would collards or kale. Or use both the beets and their greens in this garlicky beet green pasta.
3. Cook your broccoli stems
They’re often the sweetest part of the broccoli! Cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (peel off the outer layer first if it seems tough) and cook along with the florets. Or, make broccoli pesto pasta!
4. And your chard stems
They’re just as edible as the leaves, but they require longer cooking to soften. Thinly slice, then sauté in olive oil until tender.
5. Pickle your watermelon rinds
Pickling in general is a great way to use up an overabundant veggie. Why not use it for all that melon rind that would normally end up in the trash? Crunchy watermelon rind pickles are great in salads, or even sandwiches made with your broccoli pesto.
Want to motivate yourself and encourage your family to waste less? Take the EPA’s End Food Waste challenge. And if you’ve got a creative way to use what others would normally throw into the compost pile, we’d love to hear it.