food waste

National Nutrition Month: 7 tips to Go Further With Food and reduce food waste

There's nothing I hate more than throwing away leftovers or other food we didn't get around to eating. In the US, one third of all food produced is thrown out. Most of this waste occurs at the store and in the home but is also high among fresh product during harvesting and processing. Food waste is the largest component filling up our landfills and producing methane. The country spends millions of dollars each year transporting waste and families spend hundreds on dollars on food that ends up in the trash.

This year's National Nutrition Month theme is Go Further With Food with a focus on reducing food waste. Reducing food waste can save you money, save your local community money, produce less methane gas, preserve your natural resources, and feed more people. We can all do our part to reduce our waste, below are a few simple tips to get started in your own home.

 
National Geographic - representing the 1,160lbs of food the average American family wastes each year

National Geographic - representing the 1,160lbs of food the average American family wastes each year

 

1. Shop your freezer, pantry, and fridge before going to the store.

Towards the end of the week when my fridge is looking bare and I'm running out of fresh produce, I often pull together meals from what I have on hand - canned beans, frozen meats or seafood, frozen veggies, whole grains, etc. It's actually usually pretty easy to do it just takes a little brainstorming. This saves me from going to the store and buying extra food I don't need. It's always a good idea to check what you have on hand so you don't double or triple up on ingredients you may already have.

2. Shop the discounted food section.

 I love that more and more grocery stores have a discounted section with 'ugly' produce or foods that are on their way out. I often buy partially moldy strawberries here for just 50 cents or a dollar. I cut off the bruises and mold and make strawberry chia jam or freeze them to use in smoothies, on oatmeal, or to have with waffles.

3. Use vegetable scraps to make broth to use in soups, stews, casseroles, etc.

Unfortunately, I don't have a place to compost at my apartment complex. I do however try to use my vegetable scraps in other ways, like homemade broth. To make homemade broth -  boil a pot of water with onion skins, celery ends, pepper stems, and any other type of veggie scrap. Strain out the scraps and use the broth in soups or other recipes later on. It also freezes well. Or try some of these recipes to use your food scraps and reduce food waste.

4. Freeze leftovers before they go bad.

Sometimes a recipe makes more than I planned on and I end up with too many leftovers. Luckily, many things freeze well and can easily be stored and saved for a quick meal later. Anything from meatballs and pulled pork to frittatas and chili all store and reheat well. Also slice your fresh fruit and veggies if they're about to go bad and store in freezer bags to use later.

5. Plan meals for the week and factor in leftovers.

Most weeks I think of 2-3 meals or recipes I want to make for dinner. I'll plan to make enough to have leftovers for lunch too. Planning just 2-3 meals leaves room for flexibility - some recipes will make more than expected, we may go to a friends house or go out one night, etc. - things come up. If I run low on food I refer to Tip #1.

6. Make a list before going to the store.

You've likely heard this before but it really does help to save you money, time, and even food waste.

7. Only buy what you need.

Similar to Tip #6- buy only what you need. Go to the store with a plan to prevent spontaneous purchases that may ultimately be wasted.

 

 
reduce food waste
 

What do you do to limit your food waste? Comment below!

 

Strawberry Chia Jam

I often buy the extra ripe strawberries from the discount rack at my local grocery store. I usually freeze them to save for smoothies or to top waffles and pancakes or mix into oatmeal. But one of my favorite things to make with extra ripe strawberries is this simple chia jam. Chia seeds are an easy way to add texture, omega-3s, fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, and more to almost anything. They naturally absorb liquid, creating a gel-like (or jam-like) consistency.

 
strawberry chia seed jam
 

 

Ingredients:

2 cups ripe strawberries, diced
2 Tbsp chia seeds

Directions:

1. Mash the strawberries in a small mixing bowl with a potato masher.

2. Mix in the chia seeds.

3. Allow the mixture to sit for about 20 minutes to give the chia seeds time to absorb the juices and thicken the jam.

4. Spread on toast, crackers, waffles, etc. Enjoy!

Notes:

  1. Depending on the ripeness of your berries and taste preference for sweetness, some people choose to add some pure maple syrup. Start with 1 tsp and gradually increase to taste.

  2. If you prefer a a smoother consistency jam, add it to the blender.

 

8 Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen & Spring Vegetable Lasagna

Happy Earth Day! It was a beautiful day here in Bozeman. I spent the day outside biking, floating, and relaxing. How was your Earth Day Weekend?


 
 

In honor of Earth Day, this month's Recipe Redux challenged dietitians and healthy food bloggers to make a recipe in ways that prevent food waste. This is the first Recipe Redux I've participated in and am excited to have partnered with Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, a Colorado dietitian and food blogger at One Hungry Bunny Preventing food waste is important to me, so I included a few tips and Katie created an amazing lasagna recipe using vegetable scraps.


I’m a big proponent of reduce, reuse, recycle and I love applying it in the kitchen. It’s estimated that approximately 30-40% of food produced for human consumption is wasted -from farms to processing facilities to grocery stores and restaurants and even in our own homes. Food waste is a national concern not only because of the millions of Americans going hungry each day but also because of the economic and environmental impacts. So...

 

Why Should We Care About Food Waste?

 

When we waste food, we’re also wasting valuable natural resources, including land, water, labor, and energy…

  • 25% of our freshwater supply and 300 million barrels of oil are used to produce food that is wasted
     

Food waste is a huge contributor to methane production...

  • Landfills are one of the largest sources of methane production in the country and food waste is the largest component filling up our landfills.
  • According to National Geographic, “Producing the food we throw away generates more greenhouse gases than most entire countries do,” that’s 135 million tons of greenhouse gases each year.

 

Over 40 million Americans continue to go hungry each day…

  • That’s 1 in 7 people going to bed without dinner or not knowing where their next meal will come from

 

We’re throwing money in the trash...

  • As a country, $250 billion dollars each year, to be exact.
  • The average family in the U.S. throws away an average of $640 each year in food waste alone.

 

(You can read more here, here, and here.)

 

Did you know 39% of food wasted is fruits and vegetables?

As much as it bothers me to see someone de-stem a strawberry along with another good ½ inch of perfectly edible strawb, or to see someone throw out a whole broccoli stalk and only eat the tree tops, I know there are things I can be doing better as well. There are plenty of reasons to waste less, and I think we can all do our part.

In this recipe, Katie geniusly blended up her leftover veggie scraps to make an amazing lasagna and put her perfectly good vegetable scraps to good use. She then used her leftover ricotta to make cheesecake squares and her leftover blended veggies in paella. The girl’s a genius!

spring lasagna.jpeg

 

How Can I Do My Part?
8 Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen

  1. Leave the skins on your potatoes
    Not only is peeling the skins off your potatoes wasteful, but also strips the vegetable of it’s amazing fiber content.

  2. Use the stems of chard, spinach, kale and other veggie scraps in smoothies, pastas, soups, sauces, casseroles, and lasagnas

  3. Buy multi-purpose ingredients
    Choose ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes. Instead of letting your leftover ricotta sit for weeks until it gets moldy try making lasagna, cheesecake bars, muffins, pancakes, or a sandwich spread.

  4. Save your scraps
    Just like Katie did, you can puree your veggie scraps for a lasagna or paella or use the scraps to make a soup stock.

  5. Go to the grocery store with a plan
    Meal planning and meal prep are great for organization, family dinners, weight loss, and overall nutrition and also help to reduce our waste from the start. Without a plan, it’s more likely our produce will get left to rot in the fridge.

 
If you need help with meal planning, getting back on track, or getting more organized, check out my meal plan subscriptions  here . Sign up for your Free Trial (no credit card required!).

If you need help with meal planning, getting back on track, or getting more organized, check out my meal plan subscriptions here. Sign up for your Free Trial (no credit card required!).

 

 

6. Repurpose your leftovers
I can only eat the same meal over and over for so many days in a row. But by repurposing your meats, beans, soups, roasted veggies, whole grains, etc. you can easily create a brand new meal from the same delicious leftovers.

7. Use your freezer
Preserve your leftovers, meat, bread, baked goods, and soups by tossing them in the freezer to eat later on. If bananas, strawberries, peaches, etc. are starting to go- slice them up and throw them in the freezer too. They’re great in smoothies, purees, or dessert sauces.

8. Don’t be picky about sell-by dates
Buy the milk that ‘expires’ today, it’s likely on sale and will last another week, otherwise it will just get thrown out!

 

 

And now for the recipe... Be sure to check out Katie's site for more healthy and delicious meal ideas. Enjoy!


spring lasagna.jpeg

Healthy Spring Vegetable Lasagna

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
(Total Time: 1 hr, 5 mins)

*Note: This recipe requires a few different steps. To shorten cooking time, prepare the filling and tomato sauce earlier in the day or the night before.

 

Ingredients

12 "no boil" lasagna noodles
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, part skim (set aside)

Tomato Sauce*:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Additional vegetable scraps of your choice, optional

Vegetable Filling:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head of broccoli, finely chopped (stalks and leaves too!)
1 cup green peas, thawed if frozen
4 cups raw spinach leaves
1/2 cup vegetable scraps of your choice**
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Ricotta Filling:

2 cups low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium high. Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes and vegetable scraps. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir often, breaking up the tomato pieces with a large spoon to make a sauce. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. To make the ricotta filling, combine the ricotta cheeses and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  5. In a large nonstick skillet or saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Saute the broccoli, peas, and vegetable scraps for about 5-7 minutes to soften.
  6. Add in the garlic, dried herbs, and spinach. Cook for only 1-2 minutes (to keep the garlic from burning) until the spinach leaves have wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. In a 9 x 13 oven-safe baking dish, pour in tomato sauce to just cover the bottom (about 1/2 to 1 cup). Layer the lasagna noodles crosswise to fill across the width of the pan, should be about 3-4 noodles each layer.
  8. Next, cover the noodles with a layer of the ricotta filling and then the vegetable filling. Repeat until you have three to four complete layers of noodles.
  9. Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. If the lasagna looks dry, feel free to pour in up to 1/2 cup water to soften the noodles prior to cooking.
  10. Cover with tin foil that is lightly greased with cooking spray (this prevents the cheese from sticking to the foil).
  11. Bake for 30-40 minutes covered, then 5-10 minutes uncovered. Let the lasagna sit for a few minutes out of the oven before serving (this allows the noodles to soften more just before serving).

Notes:
*If you prefer store bought sauce, replace the sauce portion with your favorite brand.
** For the scraps, feel free to pulse in a food processor to finely chop.

 

Kathryn Pfeffer-Scanlan MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with over five years experience in the inpatient clinical setting and now expanding her expertise in the health and wellness industry as a recent transplant to Boulder, CO. Katie is passionate about cooking and food photography, sharing her culinary adventures on her food blog, One Hungry Bunny, and exploring her new Rocky Mountain surroundings. Follow Katie on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.