Balancing a hectic schedule with an eco-friendly lifestyle is tricky – but it can be done. Learn how to make it happen in your kitchen.
In your efforts to help sustainability, there’s plenty you can do from the comfort of your own kitchen. It’s in the frontline of the battle to cut food waste and make you healthier and happier in the process.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), globally 1.3bn tonnes of – including an incredible 45% of all fruit and vegetables – is lost or wasted every year.
In the US, that translates to 37.6m tons of food thrown away by homes. It takes millions of acres of land and trillions of gallons of water to produce that quantity of food, and as it decomposes it releases large quantities of greenhouse gases.
These smart kitchen hacks are designed to help you get the very most from the food in your fridge, fight food waste and, in the long run, save you precious time and effort.
1. The peel-good factor
Think before you peel! When you’re tired and in a hurry, peeling vegetables is frankly, well, unappealing, right? The good news is often there’s no need. The peel from many vegetables and fruits – especially potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pears, apples and eggplant– is packed with essential nutrients, like antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Peeling it is literally throwing away good food that can also add flavor and texture to your meal. Simply give it a scrub instead.
2. Water power
Don’t throw away your cooking water, recycle it. Many of the vitamins and minerals that have leached from the vegetables in cooking are retained in the water, perfect to make soups, sauces and gravies packed with flavor, depth and creaminess. It’ll save you a trip to the supermarket, and recycling water has an ethical dimension at a time when, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, farming is responsible for 70% of all water drawn from the earth’s reserves.
3. Fighting for scraps
Try as we might, not every last part of our vegetables is destined for a beautifully crafted recipe. But it’s simple to collect all the scraps and store them in the freezer until there’s enough to make a tasty stock or soup. It’s another way to ensure you’re losing less goodness, and, since every year a third of all food produced globally is thrown away, you’re also striking a blow in the battle against food waste.
4. Food that’s ripe for reuse
You know what it’s like – two stir-fries and a casserole later and you still haven’t manged to use all the vegetables in your fridge, and now they’re starting to lose that first flush of youth. Well, that slightly overripe produce still has a future in smoothies or for roasting into veggie snacks. And if it’s radishes, cucumbers, mushrooms or tomatoes, they’re ripe for a good pickling with a little vinegar, salt and water. Discover a simple guide to pickling here.
5. Making a meal (or two) of it
Cooking up hearty helpings of casseroles, stews and other one-pot dinners, with plenty of leftovers for the next day, is a smart way to make sure you’re using up your nourishing vegetables, while saving time and energy – yours and the planet’s!
6. Keeping it clean
It’s easy to waste food in a cluttered kitchen, where you can overlook anything that is pushed to the back of the shelf, or the fruits and vegetables that sink to the bottom of the fridge. Decluttering is also a key ingredient in the recipe for using your cooking time efficiently. If you can see what you’ve got, you can use it more efficiently.
7. Kindly compost
For those really indigestible bits of vegetables, and the food that’s genuinely beyond saving, it’s time to compost. A garden composter will produce nutrient-rich fertilizer for your own vegetable patch, saving trips to the garden center. But even a local composting program will ensure you’ve past along every last bit of goodness from your vegetables.