GOING GREEN – Avoiding food waste is green

Margaret-MalsamWhen America’s thrifty “green” pioneers butchered a pig, they made use of everything but the squeal. No food from the pig was wasted. To make our earth more sustainable today, we should learn to not waste food.  Over 40% of the food in the U.S. goes to waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, which results in over 1.3 billion tons of food ending up in landfills every single year.

Avoiding food waste is going green because it saves the energy, water and natural resources used to grow, package, and transport it to landfills which results in more greenhouse gases. How do we do avoid food waste?

First, we should learn to store foods safely. After a meal, cooked foods should be allowed to cool to room temperature and placed in covered glass, metal, and ceramic containers. It should be refrigerated immediately.  It should be frozen or consumed within two or three days.  Frozen leftovers can be used to create another dish later. Meat bones can frozen and later boiled for stocks for delicious soups.

Second, avoid storing food in plastic containers as these containers can leach harmful toxins into food.  Plastic releases chemicals such as benzene and dioxin into the air during the manufacturing process.  Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, and it poses a danger to the water table once it’s in a landfill.

food-containerThird, learn how to recycle food.  We should plan our meals for several days ahead as this is probably the most foolproof method of making sure food gets used during its safe-storage time. A pot roast or whole baked chicken can be recycled many ways into casseroles or sandwiches.  “Planned overs” can supply a second meal so technically this second meal isn’t considered “leftovers”.  Instead think of any food remaining after a meal as an ingredient for a future dish with a new name. Try preparing leftovers with an ethnic Italian, Mexican or Asian twist.

More tips to avoid food waste

Take a sealable non-plastic container for leftovers to restaurants if you’re unable to finish what you ordered. This is a simple way to avoid using Styrofoam
cartons which go into landfills. I bring home extra rice after a Chinese meal to make rice pudding.

Only buy enough produce to use within a few days because fresh produce can go bad quickly. However, you can sauté small amounts of leftover fresh vegetables from a relish tray with leftover meats to make a stir fry.

Combine leftovers with fresh foods and other staple ingredients to make different dishes. Use leftover macaroni and cheese to add substance to soup, as a topping for a casserole, or combine with scrambled eggs for a breakfast burrito. Leftover cooked oatmeal tastes even better the second time around when added to homemade breads, pancake or muffin batter, cookies or cakes.

Crush leftover bits of dry cereal and use them to make oven-fried chicken, a casserole topping, or added crunchiness in meatloaf. Stale bread can be used to make croutons, french toast or bread pudding.

Transform mashed potatoes into a topping for meat loaf or mix with beaten eggs for potato cakes. Put leftover scalloped potatoes into a pot pie or make potato soup.

Marinate cooked vegetables in french dressing and use in salads or mix them with leftover meats to fill omelets.

For a sandwich spread, place turkey or ham pieces in a blender with mayonnaise and pickle juice.

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