Save Food, Save the Planet

In honor of Earth Day, take a look in your fridge and at your habits—there are easy steps you can take to reduce food waste—from planning to recipes—to help save the planet, not to mention money

PIMAN KHRUTMUANG/ADOBE

Do you know how much food we waste? Each year up to 40 percent of food in the United States never gets eaten, wasting valuable resources, not to mention our money.

Strawberries first raised my awareness and got me thinking. I saw a Save the Food TV commercial that showed all that goes into getting a pack of strawberries from the farm to the table—and it’s a lot. Farmers, pickers, packers, planes, grocers, and more. I actually felt sad at the end of the spot. (Check it out here.) It definitely makes you think about all the effort that goes into our food and how often we waste a lot of it. An average of 1,000 pounds per family of four is thrown out, in fact, and that can mean a loss of at least $1,500 a year on the wasted food.

Nationally it translates to $218 billion lost, which includes the cost of food wasted on the consumer level, retail, wasted water, energy, fertilizers, cropland, and production costs, according to Save the Food, a campaign of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1970. Plus, food is the single largest contributor to U.S. landfills today.

But there is something we can do about it. Saving food starts with your mindset, say the folks with Save the Food. It’s stopping for a moment in the grocery store, considering whether that tomato will actually get used this week. It’s crafting dishes to use ingredients on hand. There are some broad steps they suggest you can take to cut back on food waste. Plan meals in advance. Use restraint (and a shopping list) at the store. Store food properly for safe and handy use. Develop use-it-all-up menus. And make the very most of your freezer. They have tips for these tactics and more on the website, and here are highlights for planning and some recipes to get you started.

Planning

A big part of avoiding food waste is planning. Save the Food features tips and interactive tools to help you start planning smarter and saving food right now.

The Guest-Imator: An interactive dinner party calculator that helps you estimate how much food you need to keep your guests happy and healthy.

Meal Prep Mate: A digital tool to help you create your shopping list and plan your meals before now and the next grocery run—all without wasting a drop.

Interactive Storage Guide: Save the Food’s encyclopedia on food storage. Learn how to store it best, how long it should stay there, and even what to do if it’s a little past prime.

Alexa: The world’s first voice-activated, food-saving assistant. Ask about everything from better food storage to what you can do with wilted celery.

Recipes to Try

Think that sour milk or mushy bananas are no good? Food that’s a little “past-its-prime” can be transformed into something delicious—like breads, pancakes, or shortcake. Save the Food features recipes for everything from overripe avocados to cheese rinds on the site. Following are some ideas to check out.

Bruised Pear Pandowdy: A close cousin of crumbles and crisps, this pandowdy features a delicious mix of salvaged pears, buttery dough, and caramel drizzle. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

Ugly Vegetable Pasta: Have ugly veggies? Instead of tossing your ugly veggies, make them the stars of the show. Brown the veggies, cook some pasta, add some homemade spicy garlic oil and enjoy your work of art.

Mac and Cheese: Say cheese! Mac and Cheese makes us all smile. Using up leftover cheese rinds, cheddar cheese and cream cheese that may be hiding in your fridge, you can make your very own. Get excited for cheesy goodness.

Savory Broccoli, Cheddar and Bacon Scones: These savory buttermilk scones are a “mother” recipe. In other words: this is choose-your-own-adventure territory. Mix and match leftover veggies (like spinach, roasted butternut squash or caramelized onions) and meats with herbs, green onions, and cheese to make a perfectly portable breakfast or lunch.

Strawberry Top Rosé Granita: Drink menu or dessert menu? This one belongs on both. When is the last time you tasted something entirely new? They took a classic Sicilian Dessert (think Italian ice) and found a way to bring it to life with an herby twist that’ll catch you off guard and keep your guests coming back for more. Think of it like a cocktail. A cocktail that Saves Food. Sounds like a great reason for a toast. Cheers!

 

Hungry for More?

Check out these recipes I have highlighted here and make sure to use up those hard-boiled Easter eggs you may have on hand (that have been kept safely refrigerated, of course), plus create two meals from one to make the most of your ingredients.

5 Deviled Egg Recipes with Flair
Make the most of your Easter eggs or whip up a batch of hard-boiled eggs for a different take on this ever-popular snack.

Pork Carnitas Tacos plus Carnitas-Potato Hash with Egg Recipes

Enjoy two meals from one easy slow-cooker or oven-baked pork roast and make the most of dinner now plus breakfast or brunch later

Greek Meatloaf and Chinese Meatball Soup Recipes

Knock out two meals for the week with a little planning and crossover ingredients

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.