Reducing Food Waste
I'm quite excited for today's post. A few months ago I stumbled across Recipe Redux on Dish & Delight, one of my favorite South African blogs run by Cheryl Meyer, a registered dietitian. I enquired about Recipe Redux, which is a recipe challenge group that is focused on developing delicious dishes that are wholesome and healthy for everyone, and was afforded the opportunity to join. Each month a theme is set, we each have to develop a delicious recipe in line with the theme, and then we get to share our post with our followers and fellow bloggers at the end of the month.
I was very excited to read the theme of this month's Recipe Redux post. Food waste is something that I am becoming more and more aware of, especially now that I am having to purchase, prepare, and budget for my household's weekly groceries. The first thing that popped into my head when I read the topic was carrots. I had a big bunch of carrots with bushy green tops on them sitting in the fridge, and I realised that I would probably have discarded the tops if this topic hadn't come up. At first, I was very keen to develop a recipe for carrot gnocchi with a delicious carrot top pesto, but after opening up the Nutrition Stripped cookbook one morning I was surprised with McKel's delicious recipe for exactly that. I decided on plan B, which you'll get to read all about after my loooong post about food waste.
Believe it or not, almost one-third of the food produced for human consumption worldwide goes to waste each year either through the food production chain or by consumers in the home . Food waste in developed countries, mostly in North America and Europe, equates to almost US$ 680 billion per annum, with the amount of waste per capita adding up tp between 95-115 kg/year . Developing countries tend to experience less food waste than industrialised ones, but there is still a significant amount of food waste that takes place in these areas mostly due to problems that occur in the early stages of the food supply chain . In developed countries, more than 40% of food waste occurs at the consumer level, from uneaten leftovers and spoiled produced being tossed in the bin, whilst in developing nations 40% of food waste occurs before the food has even reached supermarket shelves .
Throughout the world, food losses and waste each year roughly equates to :
- 30% for cereal crops
- 40-50% for fruits, vegetables, and root crops
- 20% for seed oils, meat, and dairy
- 35% for fish
The scary reality is that the amount of food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people, and the food currently lost due to lack of proper infrastructure in the food supply chain in Africa could feed 300 million people . By managing food in a more sustainable and mindful way, we can play a small role in solving a very big problem. Although not all of us can make a direct impact on the food supply chain, we do have a role to play in our own individual lives when it comes to reducing food waste during purchasing, storage, and preparation of food in our homes. In this post, I'll be taking a look at 10 easy ways in which we as consumers can reduce food waste as much as possible and I will be sharing a yummy recipe that makes use of scraps that would normally get thrown away.
This video pretty much summarises what I have mentioned above :)
What are the benefits of reducing food waste?
Reducing food waste in your home will save you money in the long run because you won't be purchasing food that doesn't get eaten. Over time, as you learn to plan better you will end up buying less food . Reducing the amount of wasted food in your home will reduce methane emissions from landfills, lowering your carbon footprint, and it will help conserve energy and resources required for the growing, manufacturing, transport, sale, and disposal of wasted food . By donating uneaten food that is still safe to eat, you can play a role in supporting your community and feed those who may not have otherwise had any food to eat .
1. Plan ahead & make a shopping list
Before you go grocery shopping, sit down and plan meals for the week. This doesn't have to be a complicated exercise, and you don't need to stick to your plan 100% if you don't want to. Write down a list of main meals (breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner) for the week. Keep it simple by cooking once, eating twice (hello leftover lunches!). It's always fun to try out new recipes, but make sure to have a list of staple meals that your family loves. It makes things easier when you need to plan meals for the week. Next, figure out what ingredients you need to purchase for those meals and write everything down on a list to take shopping with you. Work out what other staple items and snacks you need, such as fruit, milk, yoghurt, and eggs, and add them to the list. When you get to the shops stick to your list. There are a few really useful apps (click to read about them here rel=”nofollow“) that can make things a bit easier if you're not into the old-school pen-and-paper type of shopping list.
When you get to the shops, buy exactly what you need. Don't buy a huge 2 kg bag of carrots if you only need three carrots for the week. It might feel like you're losing out by not buying in bulk to save, but you'll most likely spend less money on food this way because you will actually use what you purchase. Oh, one more thing - DON'T SHOP ON AN EMPTY STOMACH! You'll probably buy more than you need if you do :)
2. Tidy up your pantry & fridge
This should actually be step number 1 in the list. Before you even start trying to figure out what meals to make in the week, go through your fridge and figure out what needs to be used up in the next few days. Plan your upcoming meals around these ingredients, and plan your shopping list accordingly. The next step is to tidy up your fridge and pantry a bit so that you don't forget about those leftovers lurking in the back of the fridge. Another great tip whilst you're tidying up the pantry is to make a note of what pantry staples you already have, and which ones you need to add to your shopping list.
Once your pantry and fridge are both nice and organised, start to practice FIFO (First In, First Out). When unpacking new groceries for the week, put older products near the front of your fridge and put new groceries closer to the back. If you do this you are more likely to use up the older ingredients before they go off, and they won't go to waste.
3. Be smart about storage
Keep food as fresh as possible by storing it correctly. Store fruit like apples, berries, and oranges in the fridge. Allow stone fruits, avocados, and melons to ripen before placing them in the fridge. When it comes to vegetables, store salad greens in an airtight container with a piece of paper towel in the fridge, and cut off the tops of carrots and beetroot to extend their shelf life. Keep onions, garlic, and potatoes in a cool, dark place outside of the fridge. Store eggs in the carton on a shelf in the fridge, not in the door. Store grains, nuts & seeds in airtight containers to prevent them from going stale. You can find some more in-depth info about how to store all of your favorite foods here and here.
4. Get creative in the kitchen
Be smart with ingredients you already have in your fridge and pantry before you do a big shop. Leftover vegetable soups, stews, or stir-fries are always winning dinners. If food is still safe for you to eat, get creative with the parts that you would normally end up throwing away. Prepare beetroot tops by sautéeing them a little bit of olive oil with a sprinkle of salt, and serve them as a side dish. Sauté broccoli stems along with the florets. Use vegetable scraps to make a stock. Another great example of getting creative with less-loved food parts is to make today's delicious Carrot Top Pesto recipe. Love Food Hate Waste is a movement that is changing the way that consumers shop and prepare food in the home. Check out their website for some epic leftover recipes.
5. Don't go overboard
Don't overprepare meals unless you're willing and able to eat the leftovers for days to come. I know that it's a lot easier not to over prepare food when you're cooking for a large family, but when it's one or two of you things get a bit more tricky. Adjust recipes to match the number of servings you actually need. Eat from plates and bowls that allow for better portion control and less food waste (anyone heard the old saying 'Your eyes are bigger than your stomach'?). When eating out, try share a meal with someone if you know that the portions are going to be quite large. This will work out to be cheaper for both of you, you won't overeat, and you won't need to take any leftovers home. Sharing is caring after all :)
6. Understand your labels
Far too often, perfectly edible and safe food is thrown in the bin because of confusion about expiration dates and a fear of spoilage. Time for a little bit of food labelling 101 - food labels such as 'Use By', 'Sell By', and 'Expiration' are not food safety dates; they are established to provide an indication of peak food quality. These dates can be really confusing, and aren't always the best way to determine whether or not something is spoiled. Generally you want to eat leftovers within 3-5 days of preparing the meal, but when in doubt use your eyes and your nose to determine whether or not food is still ok to eat. Here is a pretty cool resource to help guide you.
7. Skip the bin
Eat leftovers before they go off. Instead of throwing excess food in the bin, pack it into lunchboxes for work and school for an easy pre-packed lunch. Instead of throwing away edible food in the bin, share it with others. If you end up with too much food for you to eat why not donate it to a food bank or homeless shelter, or even just warm it up and share it with the security guard who looks after your building? Inedible food is a different story, but it doesn't have to be thrown away either. Why not set up a compost heap in your garden? Composting is a great way to transform food waste into something that can nourish your garden. For a lesson in composting, check out this resource.
8. Figure out what you're wasting
Over the course of a week or two, write down all of the foods that you throw away. It sounds silly, but at the end of this period you are likely to get a good idea of what you're throwing away on a regular basis. If you notice, for example, that you're throwing away half a bottle of milk each week because it is going off before you can finish it, maybe it's a good idea to buy a smaller bottle of milk each week. Is your bunch of bananas ripening too quickly for you to eat them all? Peel, chop, and freeze half of the bunch to add to smoothies, or just buy a smaller bunch of bananas.
9. Use your freezer
Instead of throwing away food reaching the end of its life, why not freeze it? You can freeze peeled bananas, grated cheese, vegetables (blanch them first), bread, yoghurt, milk, ginger, herbs, and a whole lot of other ingredients. If you cook a batch of food too big for you to eat at one meal and for lunch the next day, freeze half of it for a later stage. Things like stews, soups, and pasta dishes work really well, just remember to label them with the name of the dish and the date it was prepared so that you use it up in good time. As a bonus, you will gain an extra night where no cooking is required if you have ready-made meals on hand in the freezer.
10. Give extra love to older (and uglier) fruit & veggies
Another great way make things last a bit longer is to try out other preservation techniques such as fermentation (great for your gut!), making stock, dehydrating, and pickling. Don't be afraid to buy produce that looks a bit funny. Often fruits and vegetables are thrown away because their size, shape, or colour doesn't match what we think that they should look like. The unfortunate looking fruits and vegetables that you might spot on supermarket shelves and at farmers markets are for the most part perfectly good to eat. By purchasing them, often at slightly lower prices, you will make a difference by using up food that would otherwise be thrown in the bin. I remember watching this video a few years ago and was so excited to see what Intermarché was doing to change consumers perceptions of Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.
Some really cool anti-food-waste resources
- The FoodKeeper app - It helps you to better understand how to properly store food and drinks to maximise their storage life, how long you can store them for, and prevent food waste in the process
- This cute video on the FIFO principle
- Love Food Hate Waste - An organisation that aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste. Their website is filled with practical tips that can make reducing waste easier for you, as well as many delicious recipes that make use of less-loved parts of food as well as leftovers.
Enough information, it's recipe time. My plan B recipe, which I will be sharing with you today, is a delicious recipe for Spiralised Carrot Nests with Carrot Top Pesto. I have been spiralising zucchinis, carrots, and sweet potatoes for months now, and honestly can't get enough of using my spiraliser. A few months ago I tried to make spiralised, baked sweet potato chips and they were absolutely delicious :) I played around a bit with my recipe, adding in cumin (a spice that pairs really nicely with carrots), and made these carrot nests for today's recipe. The best part is that I didn't have to waste my carrot tops! I also came up with a carrot top pesto that is really simple to make, and really tasty.
I can't get enough of this recipe. Honestly, I've eaten this for lunch at least four times in the last two weeks. Spoon some carrot top pesto over the spiralised carrot nests, and enjoy them with soft to medium boiled/poached eggs (my favourite), goat's cheese, or even some leftover protein (lentils, chicken, ham) that you might have in your fridge. Pair this with a green salad and you've got a delicious, well-rounded meal ready for you in less than an hour. I hope you enjoy the recipe!
Make sure to check out some of the other awesome creations that fellow ReDux participants came up with this month by clicking on the picture below :)
For the carrot nests:
- 2 large/3 medium carrots, spiralised
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Salt & pepper, to taste
For the carrot top pesto:
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 2 cups carrot tops, rinsed and dried
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
- 1/8-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, to taste
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp honey, optional
- Salt, to taste
For the spiralised carrot nests:
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- If you haven't done so yet, spiralise your carrots. Keep the carrot tops aside to make the pesto. Also, don't throw away the centre of the carrots. Keep them to use to make a stock, soup, or the base of another dish at a later stage.
- Place the spiralised carrots in a bowl along with the olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix everything up so that the carrot tops are coated nicely.
- Grab some spiralised carrots and carefully twist them onto the lined baking tray, making a nest shape. Do this with what is left in the bowl until there is no more spiralised carrot left.
- Place the baking tray in the oven, on the middle shelf, and allow the nests to bake for 30 minutes. Check them after about 20 minutes to make sure that they are cooking evenly, and that none are burning.
- When they are done remove the baking tray from the oven, allow to cool a little bit, and enjoy!
For the pesto:
- In a dry pan, lightly toast the sunflower seeds over a low-medium heat until they start to brown and become fragrant. Stir the seeds every now and then to toast them on all sides.
- Put the toasted sunflower seeds in a food processor and pulse slowly until they become flour-like. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend at the highest setting until smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed. If the pesto is too thick, add a bit of water to thin it out.
- Store the pesto in an airtight container in your fridge for up to a week.
- When adding the lemon juice, add 1/8 cup and taste the pesto before adding more. Also play around with salt and pepper to taste. Start small, and rather add more at a later stage.
- To store, as an alternative (if you don't think that you will eat it all within a week), freeze some of the pesto in an ice cube tray and once frozen transfer to a plastic bag to store in the freezer. Use within 1 month.
 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction. FAO; 2017. Available from: http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/.
 United States Environmental Protection Agency. Reducing Wasted Food At Home. EPA; 2017. Available from: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home.
 Newcomer L. 29 Smart and Easy Tips to Reduce Food Waste. Greatist; 2013. Available from: http://greatist.com/health/how-to-ways-reduce-food-waste.