When I think about leftovers, I get excited. Using leftover roasted vegetables in a soup, frittata or loaded into tacos is just the beginning of where my mind goes. Tossing leftovers into the garbage or even the compost has never felt like an option because I think of food as a valuable resource, one to be enjoyed and consumed.
Much of the world feels the way I do about food. Unfortunately, this attitude is not shared by many food producing corporations and individuals in our country. According to the World Economic forum North America has more food wastage than any region in the world, and The United States is responsible for the majority of it.
According to estimates the percentage of food wasted in America is right around 40 percent with most coming from households.
Here are a few tips for reducing your household food waste:
- Purchase only food you know you will use. We are marketed to constantly, and often people leave the grocery store with all kinds of food they did not intend to buy.
- Question the “Best by” date. In most states these dates are not regulated, and producers pick them. Producers want you to buy more food so many of them have much earlier “best by” dates than necessary.
- Always bring home a doggie bag. Bring home your leftovers from restaurants. Even if you were not totally satisfied, you may be able to turn your leftovers into a delicious omelet or taco.
- Compost. Even if you don’t have space in your own yard, sometimes neighbors will let you add to their compost, and there are companies that will pick up your food waste and turn it into compost.
- Get creative in the kitchen. Some of my favorite meals are constructed to use up leftovers.
Here are a few suggestions:
*Salads – grains, beans, meats, pasta, fruit, cheese cooked vegetables, sauces, fish, and eggs all work well tossed with some greens. I’ve even been known to chop up leftover sandwiches and pizza and toast them for croutons.
*Frittata – potatoes (including French fries!), cooked greens, veggies, meats, leftover Chinese food, and cheeses can get whisked into an egg base with some herbs and seasonings and baked for a hearty meal.
*Tacos or Burritos – roasted vegetables, fish, beans, meat, sauces, and cheeses can be wrapped into a tortilla for new and different flavor combinations.
*Soups – almost any leftover you can find will go into a soup. Things as different as pesto pasta and sushi have gone into the same soup at my house and the result can always be tweaked by adding a little fish sauce or a bit of cream to take the flavor in one direction or another.
If you are interested in learning more about food waste reduction initiatives in Western North Carolina please feel free to get in touch or look up the Food Waste Reduction and Recovery WNC Facebook Page. Find out more about our quarterly meetings by emailing [email protected].