Tips for Lowering Food Waste, which Saves Money and the Environment from Mary Donkersloot, RD

Did you know that U.S. consumers throw away roughly 25 percent* of the food they buy? Experts estimate food waste costs the average family of four approximately $2,000 a year! No one wants that!

Here are a few simple steps to a more sustainable lifestyle to prevent food waste that will not only save you money, but also benefit the planet. First, buy only what you need and eat what you buy.  Sounds simple, but common sense is not always common practice.

Begin by shopping from your refrigerator. If you keep your refrigerator organized, it’s easy to do an inventory before you head to the market. Make a list of what you need and be realistic about how much cooking you’re likely to do in the week ahead.

Next, make sure to store foods properly. Let tomatoes, avocados, melon and stone fruits, such as peaches and plums, live outside the refrigerator until they are ripe. Then, incorporate them into your meals or refrigerate.

Fresh herbs, like basil and thyme, can be stored in a glass of water on the countertop. For a complete list of storage tips, check out the website Choose My Plate.

Don’t be too quick to toss food out. If spinach or greens are looking too tired for a salad, sauté them with a bit of olive oil and garlic for a nice change of pace.

Cauliflower, asparagus or celery looking past their prime? Chop them into small pieces and sauté with onion, or cook in water or chicken stock and then puree in a blender to make a lovely, nutritious soup.

Need a night off from cooking? Plan a leftover night. Turn your rice into a stir-fry with some chopped garlic and a handful of frozen peas or try my favorite fried rice recipe below.

Finally, remember labels such as “best by,” “use by,” “sell by” and “EXP” are not food safety dates – they’re established by the manufacturer to provide an indication of peak quality. It’s best to use your eyes and nose to determine if the food has spoiled or if it can be repurposed for a dinner that may surprise you with its goodness.

Fried Rice

Have you ever wondered what to do with leftover rice? Before you’re tempted to toss it, keep in mind that rice that has been well covered and refrigerated keeps for four to six days. And, you can freeze it for up to six months. I like to freeze individual packets of brown rice for an easy weeknight side or dinner.

This basic recipe makes a great side. The peas add a chewy texture with no prep required, but feel free to add whatever vegetable you have in your refrigerator – broccoli, carrots, snow peas.  To make a meal out of it, add a couple of eggs or some leftover chicken. Fresh scallops or shrimp can be sautéed and tossed in, as well. Plus, feel free to mix up the flavors. For an Asian-inspired dish, add a splash of soy sauce with a teaspoon of sesame oil. For Mediterranean, add chopped black olives and a squeeze of fresh lemon. For Mexican, try chopped tomatoes with dried thyme or chili flakes.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons Carlini Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 onion, chopped

1 cup refrigerated or frozen rice

½ cup Season’s Choice Frozen Sweet Peas

¼ cup water, SimplyNature Organic Chicken Stock or SimplyNature Organic Vegetable Stock

Directions:

  1. In a medium nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium–high heat. Avoid over-heating the oil.
  2. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about two to three minutes. Add the rice, breaking it up with your hands or a spoon, and then add the peas. Sauté, stirring constantly, until heated through.
  3. Add the stock or water as needed and any added herbs or seasonings. Serve immediately.

*Based upon statistics provided from the Natural Resources Defense Council:  http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-ip.pdf

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