How to Reduce Food Waste for Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day! The foods you choose to eat and the way to choose to eat them can impact the environment. Here are some tips to help you reduce food waste in your house. 

Buy what you need.

Eat the food you have at home; you already bought it! When you do go to the grocery store, assess what you already have at home and plan your meals for the week based on your stock. Make a shopping list, and stick with it; this prevents you from over-buying and will help you stick to your food budget. If you have leftovers after your meals or fresh produce that is close to spoiling, freeze them to enjoy later instead of throwing them away. (Note: if food smells strange and/or has mold growing on it, throw it out. When in doubt, throw it out.)

Eat more parts of the plant.

Skip peeling your fruits and vegetables. The peels hold lots of the nutrients and add more fiber to your diet. Just eating the skin with fruit or vegetable can greatly reduce food waste. Also, some of the plant parts we throw out are actually edible and can be a nutritious addition to a healthy eating pattern. Some examples include: 

  • Carrot tops taste similar to parsley and can be finely chopped and turned into pesto. 
  • Watermelon rind tastes yummy pickled or sliced into a stir-fry, and the seeds can be toasted in the oven and thrown into a trail mix. 
  • Beetroot and turnip tops are a nutritious and tasty addition to a raw salad or sautéed greens. 
  • Broccoli stalk adds extra flavor and crunch when chopped finely or shredded. 
  • Squash (pumpkin, zucchini, etc.) flowers can be stuffed with cheese and spices and eaten. Squash seeds, like watermelon seeds, can be eaten a nutritious snack.
  • Sweet potato leaves can be sautéed and served as a side dish.

Reimagine leftovers.

Don’t let your food get boring. Boring food is hard to eat and easy to waste. Instead, be creative and make new meals from your leftovers. Use leftover meats, poultry, eggs, or fish in salads, sandwiches, wraps, or rice/pasta dishes. Freeze overripe fruits to use in smoothies or baked goods, like pancakes or muffins. Sauté softening vegetables and combine with rice to make a stir-fry.

Store foods properly.

Research how to store different food items properly. Some produce and fresh dairy, eggs, and protein require refrigeration to safely store and extend their shelf life. Other produce works best in a dry, dark location or even on the countertop. A quick and easy hint to help you determine how to store it is to see where it was located at the grocery store. Also, you most likely will need to refrigerate most items after opening or cutting up, even if they were shelf-stable at the grocery store.

Use your food scraps.

Try growing new plants from the seeds and roots in your food scraps pile. Start a compost bin to turn your fruit and veggie waste into nutritious soil to take care of your plants. Use some food scraps to make arts and crafts, like stamping the bottom of celery to make a flower shape or boiling onion skins to make dye.