Waste Not, Want Not | Torrance Memorial

Published on March 20, 2018

Waste Not, Want Not

wasted food in a trash can

By Andrea Guastamacchio, RDN, CDE

Food waste is a growing problem that affects corporations, hospitals, schools, restaurants and individual households. It is not a new issue, but a growing one. According to the National Restaurant Association, food waste is defined as any food that is discarded during processing, handling, storage, sale, preparation, cooking and serving. Most people do not realize how much food they throw away every day. Did you know that 25% of our food is wasted in the United States? From uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce, this amount of waste can accumulate up to $2,200 annually for the average American household. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this can add up to 35 million tons of food each year. The amount of food Americans waste has increased more than 50% in the last four decades. Considering that 1 in 7 Americans use food banks, this has become a costly trend. The EPA announced a target date for reducing food waste by 50% by the year 2030.

The month of March is a time for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists to celebrate nutrition and tackle food issues that affect us all. The goal is to educate our communities on reducing food waste and bring awareness on what can be done. Not all food that is wasted can be saved or eaten, but a lot of food waste can be prevented - especially at home! A good place to start is right in your own kitchen. Here are a few tips that will help.

Enlist these strategies in order to do your part!

PLAN AHEAD

  • Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the things needed for those meals.
  • Make your shopping list based on the number of many meals you’ll eat at home. How often will you be eating out this week?
  • Buy only what you need and stay within your budget.

BUY WHAT YOU NEED

  • Look in your refrigerator and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have.
  • Make a list each week of what needs to be used and plan upcoming meals around those items.
  • Buy only what you need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.

STORE CORRECTLY

  • Find out how to store fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh longer.
  • Freeze, preserve or can surplus fruits and vegetables - especially abundant seasonal produce.
  • Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other nearby produce spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, and store fruits and vegetables in different bins.
  • Wait to wash berries until you want to eat them to prevent mold.

PREP TIPS

  • When you get home with the groceries, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and place your fresh food items in clear containers for snacks and easy cooking.
  • Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the month.
  • Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you will not be able to eat in time.

BE MINDFUL

  • Have produce that is past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, casseroles, and smoothies.
  • Learn the difference between “sell by,” “use by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates.
  • Plan an “eat the leftovers” night each week.
  • Get creative with leftovers and transform meals into soups, stews, and salads.
  • If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat. For example, stale bread can be used to make croutons, beet tops can be sautéed for a delicious side dish, and vegetable scraps can be made into stock.
  • Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers. Search for websites that provide suggestions for using leftover ingredients.

For more information contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center: 2841 Lomita Blvd., 3rd Floor, Suite 335 • 310-891-6707