Updated: Apr 22, 2019
When I was young my family used to make fun of me because if there was a single pea left on the dinner table I would grab a container and store it in the fridge. They thought it was pretty funny to save one single pea. But, even at a young age, there was something inside of me that bugged me to waste, even if it was one single pea!
Flash-forward (eh’hem) several years, there was good reason not to waste that food. It is estimated that 30-40 percent of food goes to waste while 805 million people in the world suffer from chronic hunger. According to The Center of Sustainability and Commerce at Duke University the average person generates about 4.3 pounds of waste per day. There are approximately 3,500 landfills in the United States, which acquire 55% of the 220 million tons of waste generated annually (that’s a lot!). According to the EPA, landfills are the second-largest source of the human-related methane emissions affecting our environment.
We are also enticed to save on our final grocery bill by big box stores, such as Costco and BJ’s, when we purchase food in bulk and multiples of containers. Even if you are a minimalist and purchase only what you need, perhaps you have lemon rinds and cilantro stems left after you use the primary component of the fruit or herb. Take note the next time you are creating a meal or cleaning out your fridge. How much waste are you discarding in your garbage disposal or trash? By the end of the week you might have enough food to fill up your entire bathtub! Admittedly, I have to be better about not letting food go bad in the fridge or discarding big broccoli stems that could otherwise be consumed or composted. It's always a work in progress, but hopefully being aware will lend to that progress.
Here are ten ways to cut down on food waste in the kitchen:
Use the rind! If you don’t have one, purchase a grater so that you can zest lemon and lime peels. They are packed with vitamins and minerals that would offer many more benefits by consuming rather than wasting them. Store excess for soups, salads and stir-fries. Try this delicious and nutritious recipe, Lemon and Walnut Linguine With Roasted Broccoli, which calls for nutrient-dense lemon rind.
Add produce pulp to muffins, pancakes and breads. You’ll never know the difference, but will be adding lots of additional fiber to your plate. These Raw Juice Pulp Crackers will help you live waste-free and are perfect for snacking on the go!
Make a nutrient dense soup broth. Use immediately or save in a sealed container for 3 days and use as a nutrient-rich veggie stock. Soup broths are a great alternative to water when cooking rice, pasta quinoa or other whole grains.
Make iced or hot tea. Use the same recipe to make a soup broth, but instead of using it as a broth, drink it as a tea. Add a little lemon zest for a citrus boost or ginger for a spicy kick. During the summer, add ice for a cool refreshing drink or mix with a little sparkling water for a summer spritzer.
Add juice pulp to stir-fries. I recently made turmeric, ginger and lemon shots with my juicer and had so much beautiful turmeric pulp left over. I ended up adding it to an Asian stir-fry that night, which gave it a delicious earthy flavor, not to mention the bonus of feeding my body with super-powered nutrients.
Dehydrate and grate veggie pulp to use as “bread crumbs” on top of vegan pizza, pastas and vegan mac n’ cheese. These veggie-based breadcrumbs are so good that you might find yourself ditching the sugary granola bar and enjoying plant-based breadcrumbs as your afternoon-pick-me-up!
Make your own skincare. The stems and rinds of vegetables and herbs are packed with antioxidants. Lemon rind is great for skin lightening and rosemary stems are phytonutrient-rich. Why waste them? Grab your spice grinder and grind the two together then add to your favorite moisturizer for a facial mask. Or, you can simply combine them with coconut, avocado or olive oil for a super antioxidant moisturizing overnight facial mask.
Feed the chickens! Farm animals aren’t picky about their produce-stems, seeds, ugly fruit-they love it all. Bring the left over produce to a nearby farm to feed the chickens, goats and pigs. They will thank you and, if you are the one feeding it to them, you will thank them for making you smile. (Have you seen a pig go to town on produce? It’s quite the spectacle.)
Preserve and use leftover produce as decoration. I recently added some dried rosemary stems to my decorative plants and they look rustic and pretty! Get inspired by these DIY Nature As Décor Projects.
Make decorative ice. Add rinds, stems and seeds to an ice tray and surprise your guests when you serve them their drink. Not only does it make you look like a professional host, but you’re also helping your friends stay healthy by giving them a little fiber and nutrition with their drink.
The veggie dip below was made with the pulp of carrots, ginger and beets after juicing. I sautéed mustard seed, garlic, onion and the carrot/ginger/beet pulp until soft then added vegetable broth and a can of coconut milk and simmered for about 5 minutes followed by blending the dip in a high speed blender. I added salt and pepper to taste to make a nutrient-powered dip.
Individually, if we cut down on our waste by at least 10% a day, each one of us would save over 150 pounds of waste a year! That’s a lot of waste saved for minimal effort. Minimizing waste begins with you and me—together we can create big positive changes for the future of our planet.
What are your favorite ways to reuse, recycle and minimize waste?