This month’s Recipe ReDux comes just in time to celebrate Earth Day this weekend. Fittingly, our theme this month is Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste.
Confession: I’ve totally been guilty of wasting food. You know what I’m talking about. You buy those beautiful zucchini thinking you can finally make those trendy “zoodles” you’ve been seeing all over Pinterest. Except then your spiralizer breaks or you don’t feel like figuring out a new recipe, so you’ll just save it for another night. Except another night turns into another, and soon the zucchini are weird and wimpy in the back of your crisper drawer. Ew. Anyone else been here before?
We’re not alone. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every year in the United States we waste about 31% (133 billion pounds) of our overall food supply. That is INSANE!!!
Reducing food waste at the individual consumer level is one of the biggest ways we can start making a difference. Additionally, you guys know I love to live frugally and mindfully. Focusing on lowering our food waste helps our budgets and creates a more mindful approach to our food and finances. Here are a few of my go-to reducing food waste tips:
- I love my freezer! I guess that should say I use my freezer. 😉 But it’s my number one trick for a reason. When chicken or meat goes on sale, I can buy in bulk, come home, and portion individual servings into bags. That way, when it’s time to make a meal, I can thaw just what I need and be less likely to create waste. If I have leftovers and won’t be able to eat them soon, I freeze them for a future meal. When food looks like it’s getting close to its last leg, I freeze it. I actually will intentionally buy produce marked down because it’s at its use by day. Just last week I bought a bag of 6 bell peppers for $1 and came home, cut away a few bad spots, cut into strips, cooked, and portioned into 1/2 cup baggies that we can easily add to burrito bowls, fajitas, quesadillas, casseroles, omelets, and more.
- Get creative with what I have. I love cooking. Many nights my inspiration comes simply from what needs to be used. Sometimes this means zucchini noodles. Sometimes this means blending a bag of frozen peas with the last of that bag of spinach for a creamy green sauce for pasta. Other times it may mean blending strawberries into a dressing, like with my Strawberry Salmon Salad.
- Use overripe fruit as a natural sweetener. Overripe fruit, like bananas, pears, and apples, can be mashed into your oatmeal for added sweetness, or used as a fat substitute when baking.
- Buy intentionally. I always do a brief kitchen inventory before heading to the store. Seeing what I already have can help me create a list of meal ideas for the week and I can just buy a few things to round out what I’ll need for meals, recipe testing, and those staple foods like milk and eggs.
I recently was quoted in a Food & Wine Magazine blog post that talks about ways you can use foods past their prime. There are some great suggestions in there, so I’d recommend checking it out for more ideas! (Spoiler: expiring foods can be re-purposed in non-edible ways, too!)
I also wanted to share with you guys a recipe I made a while ago that has become a total go to. Why is that? Because it’s very customizable, kind of like a “kitchen sink” recipe – use what you have! With these veggie egg cups, I used veggies I needed to use, like an older bell pepper, asparagus, mushrooms, and beet greens. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, or even try one of these ideas for inspiration:
- Taco Egg Cups: spinach, tomato, black beans, corn, chili powder, cumin, and garlic
- Mediterranean Egg Cups: red onion, green bell pepper, tomato, arugula, feta cheese, garlic, and oregano
- Green Eggs & Ham Egg Cups: spinach, kale, zucchini, green bell pepper, broccoli, and diced Canadian bacon
There’s a lot of ways you can have fun with these. Think of it as a base recipe that you can DIY. 😉 Have your kids help, too! Let your kids go through your fridge to find vegetables that need to be used. Talk to them about the importance of food waste. Kids are far more eager to help and get creative with us in the kitchen than we give them credit for!