Food waste is a huge problem, so much more than you can imagine. You might look at your own trash and think ,”oh that isn’t too bad.” Here is the problem, take your personal food waste and multiply it a thousand times and that is you local grocery store not to mention major growers and food producers who are the ones creating a constant waste stream of food that in this chef and nutritionist’s view is often made up of delicious and nutritious foods. A handful of entrepreneurs have come on the scene and are finding creative ways of using food that would otherwise be bound for landfills and selling them to the public.
A recent trip to my local Stop and Shop last Friday allowed me to score these 3 trays of raspberries for a $1.50. Had a purchased the same raspberries the night before, I would have spent around $50,but since the produce manager viewed them as less than perfect they were in the cart destined for what I hope was the compost heap, but what was most likely the dumpster. After emptying the containers on paper lined sheet pans and examining the berries I found only 3 that had a bit of spot mold and needed to be thrown away. Ironically I have bought raspberries at full price that were a lesser quality than these. Luckily I know that spreading berries out like this extends their life, and taking those same trays and placing them in the freezer allows me to IQF (individually quick freeze) these delicious berries so we can enjoy them in the weeks and months ahead.
The Optimal Kitchen is about empowering clients to learn how to tackle the challenges of feeding you and your family healthy whole foods in affordable ways and reducing your personal food waste is a critical part of this process. Below are some simple ideas on how to ensure less of the food you grow or buy ends up in the compost or trash.
- Make your own STOCK: this is one of the best things you can do to reduce waste and save a ton of money. Save all vegetable scraps, items like carrot peels, onion skins, tomato tops and the likes in a ziploc bag in your freezer. Once the bag is full empty into a stock pot, cover with water and simmer for several hours and then strain. You will have a delicious, sodium free vegetable stock to use immediately or to freeze and safe for the future. Most vegetable scraps are perfect for stock but avoid cucumber skins (due to wax coating), and potato skins which make your stock a bit starcy.
- Make your own fruit Vinegar: When you have bruised peaches, berries, apples or the like don’t throw them away. Take those fruits and place them in a glass jar and cover with some distilled white vinegar and some water and cover with cheesecloth. Let it sit in a cool dark spot for a few weeks and then strain and place in a glass bottle and you will have a great flavored vinegar to make your own salad dressings.
- COMPOST: this is not a food item you are creating but your food scraps do become a valuable soil amendment for your vegetable or flower gardens. If you don’t want to deal with composting please take the time to find a friend or neighbor who does and consider collecting your vegetable scraps for them.
These are a few simple ideas that will save you a bit of green as well as help to keep our planet a bit greener. Remember: Every time you throw food in the trash you are throwing money away and if you are like me you work way to hard to throw valuable money into the trash!