Did you know household food waste is the largest contributor to overall food waste in the world? That there’s more than enough food grown to feed the planet but it’s either fed to livestock or thrown in the trash? There’s a big problem with grocery stores and the food industry too, so don’t think I’m blaming this all on us. But still- why buy it if you aren’t going to use it? It’s hard to see yourself as an influential part of the whole system, but I’ve always believed that small acts can have big impacts. Things like where and what you spend your money on and how much waste you create. No, I’m not weighing our trash every week, and my neighbors aren’t calling me the crazy trash lady- this isn’t a noticeable part of my personality- but it’s important to me nonetheless.
Whether you’re interested in wasting less because it’s better for the environment, because it’s better for your bank account, or because it makes you feel like a food ninja to use up every last thing you buy, I’m not here to judge. Whatever your motives, here are my tips on how to waste less food:
- Shop strategically. If you buy more than you need, it’s going to go to waste. Period. So, here’s what you can do. Build your grocery list around the meals you are going to make for the week, and try to buy just what you need. Don’t just buy 10 oranges- sit down and plan out how many you will actually eat for the week, and buy that many. If you want to have broccoli with one meal, can you think of ways to incorporate leftover broccoli into another? Crossovers are the easiest ways for me to use up all our food, and I’m always happy when Friday comes and we’ve gone through all the produce.
- Freeze vegetable scraps for stock/broth. There’s always a bag in my freezer with odd carrot and celery ends. Any vegetable stems or tips that you cut off can be put into the bag, and when it’s full, make a pot of vegetable broth! You can also throw in leftover chicken bones from a roasted chicken (raw works too- but roasted bones make a more flavorful broth). Herbs, limp old veggies from the crisper drawer- whatever you’ve got- they’re all good here. Just dump them all into a pot, cover with water, and let boil/simmer for a few hours, and you have the base for whatever soup you can imagine. Considering a quart of stock or broth can go for $3-$5 at the grocery store, I’d say a big old pot of stock from things you were going to throw out is a big win. Also- most boxed/canned broth is just salted water with natural flavoring. Sooooo, yeah. Go ahead and make it from real food at home.
- Transform your leftovers. Whether it’s a leftover raw food or part of a meal, chances are it can be creatively worked into another dish so you aren’t eating the same meal over and over. My two go-tos for leftovers are baked pasta and soup. Either one can be filled up with whatever random savory things you have laying around in your fridge. Leftover fruit freezes beautifully for smoothies, and overripe bananas make the best banana bread. You can also transform vegetables into pickles, which leads me to the whole point of this blog post (Hello, 500 words later).
Pickles! I can remember a time when my sister Debra didn’t know that a pickle was formerly a cucumber. Don’t even bring up the fact that a pickle is technically anything that’s been pickled. Sometimes the teenage brain can’t handle this sort of life-shattering information. Trust me. Either way, my family loves pickles. Cucumbers, jalapeños, olives (do olives count as pickles? They must, right?), various hot and sweet peppers, we love all the pickles.
So, in the spirit of not letting my beautiful produce go to waste, I’ll pickle just about anything. These pickled kale stems are definitely not what comes to mind when you think of pickles, but they’re super easy and satisfy my need for a salty-sour-crunchy bite. These are also quick pickles, aka refrigerator pickles, so they don’t need to be canned. Just jar them up and let them sit in the fridge for up to a month.
All you need to make pickles at home is vinegar, water, and salt. Extras like garlic, jalapeño, black pepper, and mustard seeds are great too. If you go through tons of kale, go ahead and save the stems for pickling. Otherwise, use up whatever veggies you have to make a quick, fresh pickle you can munch on anytime. If you make pickles, leave me a comment below to let me know how they turned out! Or, tag your pickles with #bakedgreens on Instagram so I can see all your food-waste reduction in action!
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 Tablespoon salt
- 12 kale stems, cut to fit in a pint jar
- Optional: 1 garlic clove, 1/2 a jalapeño, black pepper, mustard seeds, or herbs.
- 1. Put vinegar, water, and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, chop kale stems (or veggies of choice) and put them into a pint jar. When water mixture has come to a boil, turn off the heat and pour it over the jarred kale stems.
- 2. Let pickles sit on the counter until they've cooled completely, then cover and move them to the fridge. These taste best and most pickle-y after sitting in the fridge for a day or two, and will last for up to a month.
- 3. Enjoy pickles straight from the jar, in sandwiches, or chopped up in dips and dressings.