Saving the Kitchen Carnage

Americans have this little habit of overdoing it. We tend to buy too much, prepare too much, and throw it away when it no longer serves us. The average U.S. Household throws away hundreds of dollars in food every year.  Not only does this contribute to the size of our landfills, it contributes to the methane gas released by those landfills which contributes to global warming. In addition to the deterioration food waste has on the climate and agriculture there is the heartbreaking epidemic of hunger. According to worldhunger.org in 2014 there were 17.5 million American households that were considered food insecure. The same study shows 46.7 million Americans live in poverty, with 19.9 million living in extreme poverty. Yet we continue to waste and throw away food by the ton. 33 million tons each year according to the EPA.  

The USDA states that 30%-40% of the American food supply is never consumed. For the bean counters out there that’s $1.3 billion dollars we spend to dispose of food, not to mention the cost to our economy to subsidize hunger. During the 2012-13 school year 30.7 million children participated in the National Food Lunch Program. Hunger is preventable and inexcusable in this country. Please, if you complain about these programs, I ask you to take a look at how much food you toss in the trash bin every  week. The Natural Resources Defense Council states Americans simply throw away the equivalent of $165 billion a year476886085.

Staggering isn’t it?

There are many things we can do to curb wastefulness.  Buying local, buying only what you need (even if it’s on sale), and checking out a company’s waste practices before patronizing them all help to lower waste. In this post I want to concentrate on the impact that happens in your own kitchen. Thousands of dollars in food gets bagged and set on the curb every week. Start eating those leftovers and think before you throw any food away, be creative. Can you do something else with that?

A good practice to get into is to knowing what you have in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and to work through it before bringing more groceries into your home. A friend of mine calls this “eating through the pantry”. My version is to take the bulk of one day, put on my creative apron and roll my sleeves up. Then I start going through the fridge and the pantry. This is a sampling of things I do with food items before they go to waste.

  • Fruit that is overripe or on its way out become breads or muffins, or at least gets cleaned and frozen for baking or yummy smoothies.
  • Apples can be made into applesauce or apple cider vinegar. 
  • Stale bread can be dried out for croutons or bread crumbs (why do we PAY for dried bread??)
  • Not so fresh vegetables make great stock, or a veggie soup. Most veggies can also be cleaned, blanched and frozen for later use. Tomatoes can be blanched, chopped and frozen and added to future recipes, or if you have a lot, there’s nothing better than homemade pasta sauce.
  • Leftover poultry or ham can be made into yummy spreads for sandwiches. Pretty much anything can be turned into a stew or stir fry to serve over rice.
  • If you have an abundance of fresh herbs dry them out, or chop them and add to olive oil or broth, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Then just pop one or two out and melt in your pan when you need them!  
  • Go through the pantry and use up any baking mixes or dry goods that are nearing the end. Stale corn flakes or crackers are still great for breading chicken, any cereal can be made into marshmallow treats and stale pretzels, cookies and graham crackers can be crushed into pie crusts.
  • Hit the fridge and freeze anything that’s nearing the expiration date. Yogurt, juice and milk can all be frozen for later use in baking or for smoothies. Hard boil those eggs. Cheese can be frozen to make cheese sauce later.  Keep in mind expiration dates aren’t written in stone. Most items are just fine a few days past the date.

Before you know it you have a clean fridge, the pantry is void of anything close to going out of date and you have some delicious meals and snacks on hand. The freezer is stocked with homemade staples for later use and you have saved yourself from a wasted grocery budget and the earth from wasted food! Now if someone could just do the dishes for us.

Cutting out the waste from your kitchen is a small but vital step in reducing landfills and greenhouse gasses, leaving more on the shelves lowers demand which lowers costs and helps to tighten your grocery budget. To go even further, learn to compost anything you absolutely cannot use and donate to a food pantry weekly. These organizations are doing a great service and often have a hard time keeping up with those in need.  For more links to ideas on making your groceries work overtime and greening your kitchen, check out my Pinterest board at https://www.pinterest.com/bluertide/my-cheap-green-kitchen/ . If you have any secrets to cutting kitchen waste please share them in the comments below!

If you would like to know more about food waste, global hunger and the stats listed above, please visit the sites below.

http://www.worldhunger.org/hunger-in-america-2015-united-states-hunger-and-poverty-facts/

https://www.nrdc.org/issues/food-waste

http://www.endfoodwastenow.org/index.php/resources/facts

 

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