According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every single year across the globe, including 45% of all fruit and vegetables. In the United States, that translates to 37.6 million 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 into the atmosphere. We’re on a mission to reverse this trend as much as we possibly can, and in your efforts to help promote sustainability, there’s actually plenty you can do from the comfort of your very own kitchen.
The following kitchen hacks are smart, easy ways designed to help you get the very most from the food in your fridge, and in the process fight food waste while saving you precious time and energy.
1. Think before you peel
When you’re tired and in a hurry, peeling vegetables is, well, unappealing — right? The good news is, there’s often no need to peel, as this part of many fruits and veggies — especially potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pears, apples, and eggplant — is packed with essential nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, and hearty fiber.
Besides all the nutritional benefits, fruit and veggie skin also adds a fantastic touch of flavor and texture to your meal. So, we encourage you to skip the peeling next time and give a simple scrub instead. You’ll save time, reduce food waste, and enjoy a better meal because of it.
2. The power of water
Here’s one you probably weren’t expecting: Never throw away your cooking water; recycle it instead. Many of the vitamins and minerals that are drained from vegetables in cooking are retained in the water, giving you the perfect base for more flavorful and creamy soups, sauces, and gravies. In the least, it’ll save you a trip to the supermarket. Plus, recycling water can have a profound impact on the planet, as farming is responsible for 70% of all water drawn from the earth’s reserves according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
3. Show your scraps some love
Unfortunately, not every single part of our veggies is destined for a beautifully crafted recipe. But, with that being said, it’s easy 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 managed to use all the vegetables in your fridge. And now, they’re starting to lose that first flush of youth. Well, whether you can believe it or not, that slightly overripe produce still has a viable, delicious future in your next smoothie. And if they’re radishes, cucumbers, mushrooms, or tomatoes, they’re ripe for a good pickling with a little vinegar, salt, and water. Not sure how to go about pickling your veggies? No worries, we’ve got a simple guide for you here.
5. Make a meal (or two) of it
The best thing about cooking up hearty helpings of casseroles, stews, and other one-pot dinners? The leftovers.
At ZENB, we’re huge fans and proponents of cooking big meals that produce days and days of leftovers. Not to mention, it’s also a smart way to make sure you’re using up all of the veggies in your fridge, while at the same time saving you hours and hours of time.
6. Keeping it cleaN
It’s easy to waste food in a cluttered kitchen. When the kitchen’s a mess, it’s easier to overlook anything that’s pushed to the back of the shelf, as well as the fruits and vegetables that sink to the bottom of the fridge. The best way to avoid this is to simply clean your kitchen and appliances regularly. Before long, you’ll see that decluttering truly is a key ingredient in the recipe for using your cooking time efficiently. That’s because a clean kitchen and fridge helps you see exactly what you have and where you have it, instead of spending valuable minutes looking around for something.
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 and promoting reuse and a better planet with less food waste. But even a local composting program will ensure you’ve passed along every last bit of goodness from your vegetables.