Food waste is a global issue, with estimations that 30-40% of all food goes unsold or uneaten. While reducing food waste is a shared responsibility, how can we, as everyday consumers, help? It turns out that many of us believe that our own individual choices can make a difference. Our latest Food and Health Survey found that 42% of consumers believe their individual food and beverage choices have a moderate or significant impact on the environment.
One practical way we can begin to decrease individual household waste is by getting savvy on how to reuse leftover food items and scraps instead of immediately tossing them in the trash. Let’s look at how to utilize a few common food scraps or leftovers.
Leafy bits of greens
Thought to be one of the most wasted food items, leafy greens don’t have to fill our trash bins. They can be used as a garnish to top food dishes like tacos, thrown into a smoothie, or added to a stir-fry mix.
Citrus peels are often discarded, but they don’t have to be. These peels can be candied, used as a drink garnish, or added to infused water. Alternatively, zest your peels before using the citrus fruit and place the zest in the freezer to be used later in baked goods or sprinkled on yogurt or oatmeal.
Vegetable peels and stems
Vegetable stems (e.g., broccoli and asparagus stems) might seem like a waste, but try adding them to a soup or stir-fry. Alternatively, they can be blended into a dip, hummus or sauce. Similarly, create a “veggie peels” freezer bag and through your leftover vegetable peels in after each meal. Once your bag is full, make a homemade vegetable broth.
Bones from beef, chicken and ham
Leftover bones can be used to make a delicious stock. Yes, beef bone broth is trendy right now, but did you know you can also use chicken and ham bones? Like the veggie scraps freezer bag, create one for leftover meat bones. Once your bag is full, find a fun recipe to try making your own stock.
Maybe your default is to pour this down the drain, but you might be surprised to find there are several ways to utilize pickle juice. Pickle juice can be added to a homemade salad dressing, mixed into to a cocktail drink or baked into a bread recipe.
When in doubt, compost
When leftover scraps or peels can’t be further utilized, composting is the next best thing. Composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter, including food scraps, into a fertilizer that can enrich soil and plants. If you would like to compost at home, we recommend looking into local regulations and opportunities for compost pickup.
To learn more about consumer attitudes and perceptions about food waste, check out this consumer research.
This post includes contributions from Kerri Schumacher, IFIC’s University of Maryland dietetic intern.