How To Tackle Food Waste When You’re Impatient
The issue of food waste has recently become a hot button topic. It’s not just a matter of wasted resources and money (the average American household of four people wastes more than two million calories of food with a value of nearly $1,500 each year), it also has to do with global warming. Millions of pounds of food scraps make their way to landfills every year where they release methane gas as they decompose. And that’s a big deal because methane gas is 25 times more warming than carbon dioxide over a 100 year period.
Apart from composting, utilizing leftovers and strategizing at the grocery store, home cooks haven’t been given a lot of information on how to do their bit. But now that food waste is becoming more of a mainstream issue, innovators are coming up with all sorts of ways that we can integrate cautious consumption into our lives, all while embracing our impatience. Here are some great ways we can all save more food from the landfill (not to mention some serious $).
Learn to Love “Uglies”
We’ve all grown a fondness for misshapen heirloom tomatoes and off-colored gourds, but there are ways to push this concept even further. Chefs are using once-tossed items like broccoli leaves, carrot tops, and beet greens into their dishes — a technique that’s easily applicable for the home cook. You can think of it as applying the “nose-to-tail” movement to your fruits and veggies. Try using carrot tops in a pesto, or tossing broccoli leaves in a salad rather than the trashcan. You might be thinking, “OK, there’s no way in hell using something as tiny as broccoli leaves will move the needle on food waste at all – Puh-lease!” but it does! This month, Sweetgreen’s SoCal location is serving a broccoli leaf salad with strawberries and feta, which will save 430 pounds of leaves from being sent to the landfill. Added bonus: The tiny leaves are nutrient dense, contain fiber, vitamins, and even some protein!
Sweetgreen founder Nicolas Jammet says that their partnership with Dan Barber’s WastED movement helped him learn how to look at food waste differently. Jammet realized each SweetGreen store was throwing away at least one whole trash bag of kale stems — which are totally edible and delightful when pickled or roasted — every day. “There are so many exciting ways to build a healthy meal, and to really explore new ingredients in a way that’s exciting for the consumer and the farmer (…) Working with Dan made us look at our whole supply chain differently,” says Jammet. And they are not alone: At Seattle’s Sitka & Spruce, for instance, chef Matt Dillon is serving a plate of pickles that includes brined kale stems on their iconic brunch menu. And chef Michael Fiorelli of Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach is using the butts of parmesan cheese rinds to make broths and stocks, an age-old waste-not practice of Italian cooks.
Getting creative in the kitchen is just the tip of the iceberg. Some forward-thinking cities like Seattle and San Francisco have implemented innovative composting programs, where those who don’t compost their food waste and biodegradable papers in the city’s provided bins are subject to fines. The Compost Ninja is out to lead the charge for those not living in the aforementioned metropolitan areas, supplying compost buckets that are switched out through their service each week for just $7. You can either opt to use the composted soil that they produce for your own home garden, or donate it to local community gardens.
There are other solutions too, like the Food Cycler. Within three hours, your table scraps are ready to be used to fertilize your rooftop garden. Agitators break down waste into smaller pieces, while heat is applied to aid in decomposing and sterilizing. It then uses a carbon filter filtration system to get rid of any odors. It’s an impatient food waste no brainer!
Thankfully, there are ways to help consumers be more conscious of their eating and wasting habits, by preventing food waste from happening in the first place. The USDA has issued a great FoodKeeper app available for both iPhones and Androids aimed towards helping consumers add longevity to their purchased produce. Having trouble figuring out whether your tomatoes should go in the fridge or not? Do avocados belong on the countertop? The app can help sort out how, where, and how long an item should be stored. Jordan Figueriedo of @UglyFoodAndVeg says that this is one of his favorite anti-food waste apps out there, though he warns that the app’s “throw away” dates can be a little on the conservative side – If your fruit and vegetables still look smell good, trust your senses and not the app!
There are other technologies with the goal of ensuring freshness that are being developed as well. Phresh Food Protector is a mini robot looking device that’s designed to be placed in your fruit basket, giving fruits and veggies a shelf life three times longer than what they’d have without it. Jordan Figueriedo also highly recommends The Bluapple – a device that sits in your fridge and prolongs the life of your fruit and vegetables up to three times (Amazon loves this device too!)
Cook The Excess
Another great way to use up all your leftover fruit and vegetables is to make a fruit compote or ratatouille. For either option, don’t get bogged down with the specifics of any recipe. Fruit compote can be made easily by cooking any assortment of fruits together in boiling water with a touch of honey – delicious to have with yogurt for breakfast, as a snack, or on ice cream! For ratatouille, chop up all your vegetables and cook in a large pot with a large can of San Marzano tomatoes (plus all the liquid!), some water and salt. In about 30 minutes you’ll have a great meal that can be enjoyed for breakfast (topped with an egg or two), lunch, dinner, or as a side.