When a standoff over a crust of bread or stories of bartering clothes for food are part of your childhood, you think you know a thing or two about hunger, about appreciation of abundance, about not being wasteful. And, you do. But every so often you are shaken from complacency and you look at your daily routine with fresh eyes.
Crust of bread and such...
- old bread can be buzzed in a food processor or blender to make bread crumbs,
- or cubed and turned into croutons,
- This crust is an old rye sourdough that sort of got dried out in the fridge.
I learned a lot from Elizabeth Andoh, author of Kansha Cooking - which is all about "no waste" in the kitchen. Nothing goes to waste in the KANSHA Kitchen. "
The Four Pounds of Cheese Project
When Twitter pal Jenni Field "Tweeted" about this four pounds of cheese Americans waste each year, I thought "Not me! Dairy allergy!" then I thought, I might have a chance to share what I've learned about reducing food waste. First, let's review a few shocking and frankly disgusting facts about food waste, according to this EPA report:
- 34 million tons of uneaten food thrown in the garbage each year.
- Less than three percent of the 34 million tons of food waste generated in 2009 was recovered and recycled.
- The rest —33 million tons— was thrown away.
- Food waste now represents the single largest component of MSW reaching landfills and incinerators.
The project name comes from an article in the July, 2011 issue National Geographic Magazine entitled How to Feed A Growing Planet. In the article, there is graphical representation of an average of how much of several categories of food Americans purchase (and waste) each year. The average American purchases 28 pounds of cheese per year, and ends up throwing away four pounds, or about 14% of what they purchase.
Here is what I discovered by tracking a week of my own food waste.
My Waste Watching Week
Scraps - Many scraps can be saved in the freezer in ziptop bag or container and used when making a vegetable stock.
In this bowl are:
- onion skins (both the scarred or bruised outer layers and the papery brown skin can be used.)
- parsley stems - lots of flavor and these can also be saved in the freezer for stock.
- there's also some salmon skin which is not good for composting and since it's from cured salmon, too salty to toast and eat.
- some bits of an organic plum that I cut out.
- an heirloom tomato with a bruise got eaten (the pretty parts) and the bruised part, I incorporated with my breakfast of leftovers.
Leftovers are a great way to incorporate what would have otherwise been wasted.
- These beans included that bruised but still tasty tomato, a bit of roasted poblano and a pinch of cilantro just big enough not to toss.
- The salsa included tomatillo, avocado and some onion also not much left after prepping another meal, but too much to toss.
- An egg, fried and steamed just to set elevates a humble breakfast of leftovers.
Rinsing and soaking water - Water from soaking beans, rinsing rice, and also from the cats' bowls, I try to recycle and use for watering the plants.
- Keep an empty milk bottle or old vase next to the kitchen sink.
- Remember Boston's Water Crisis?
- Soon, you'll find the visual reminder will help you capture water from rinsing lettuce, rice, or soaking beans.
- Rice soaking water can also be used in making Japanese style pickles.
These walnuts somehow liberated themselves from the zipbag in the freezer.
- They ended up on my filthy floor. I dumped them in the sink to photograph before I tossed them. Two messages here: nuts can be kept in the freezer much longer than in the cupboard. Be sure to use a proper container so you don't end up wasting the thing you were trying to save.
- Coffee grounds are not completely wasted, either. I use them and sometimes Kosher salt as a safe scouring agent when a pan needs a little more scouring than a sponge can do.
Poaching is a great technique for healthy protein that doesn't require heating up the kitchen. You can even do it in the microwave.
Poaching liquid can be reduced, seasoned, then frozen. I used this liquid and the water I steamed corn with to add to beans I cooked.
Mushrooms - Dried and fresh - the stems can be saved for stock. The water used to rehydrate dried mushrooms is rich in umami - do not waste it!
Oh and those carrot greens? Haven't done anything with them yet, but I'll be sure to let you know what I discover.
This compost is what you get from proper worm composting. I took this photo in Oregon at a biodynamic vineyard. I'm trying to get the Greenway Conservancy interested in collecting our compostable food waste to compost on the Greenway.
- Try looking at Kim O'Donnel's old Washington Post "Eating Down the Fridge" challenge for inspiration.
- Make a fried rice or a frittata to use up bits of this or that.
- Cobs of fresh corn can be used to make stock.