The issue of wasteful living has been weighing heavily upon my heart for the past few weeks. However, if we're being honest, it's been on my mind for a matter of years. It wasn't until just after Earth Day that I read an article on the Darling Magazine Blog about Tips for Loving the Planet and 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste (and save money!) on Livestrong, and I most recently read an excerpt from Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter yesterday that has prompted me to think deeper about my impact upon the environment, particularly concerning my food waste.
My family has been recycling and composting for as long as I can remember. We've had a funky looking, black compost box in our backyard for years, and it's where we dispose of 99% of our food waste. But is that enough? After reading the articles above on Darling and Livestrong, I've become convinced that it isn't quite enough. Yes, it's great and even essential to add nutrients back into the soil. However, there's more we can do to make the most of the foods we buy at the store, especially if we don't have access to a compost bin.
Think for a moment about how much food we end up throwing out because it's gone bad or because we think it's unusable. I am guilty as charged for disposing of pounds upon pounds of food every year. Then multiply that by the entire population, include a couple hundred thousand pounds per grocery store and restaurant each year, and you begin to see that each scrap of nutrients we throw away becomes utter waste. Just thinking about this makes me flush with discomfort and guilt. WOW! That's a huge impact! And I'm attributing to it!
I used to believe that my individual actions could not warrant much social change; after all, I'm just one of billions in this world. How can my actions augment or reduce the existing waste issue? But upon thinking of it, wouldn't a couple pounds each year add up? And couldn't my actions encourage others to think about their impact on this issue? We have the ability to vote with our actions, and can invest not only in the planet's, but also in our individual health!
Below I will discuss one way to reduce food waste that I've found to be quite effective, which was inspired by the Livestrong article above.
We all know vegetables are nutrient dense. They're probably the best things we can eat. And yet so much of the veggies we buy each year get thrown in the trash because we don't eat them quickly enough. Or because we waste the scraps that are actually quite good for us. This includes the bottoms of broccoli florets and celery stalks, carrot tops, potato skins...you get the picture. The solution? Save these scraps - and veggies you know are about to embark on their decline - in the freezer before scrapping (ha, pun intended) them or letting them go bad.
I had never considered saving these scraps for later usage instead of throwing them directly into the compost bin. But it's a genius idea! Why waste food (and therefore the money I spent on good, organic vegetables) when I could get my money's worth? So over the past two weeks I saved (most of) the unused vegetable pieces in the freezer (when I wasn't throwing celery bits for my beagles to snack on - funnily enough, they're quite the vegetarians), and put them to good use by using them to concoct a vegetable base for soup. The best part? This method provides a lot of room for variety and creativity, and is so easy and quick to make that it takes a lot of the hassle out of the cooking process. Seriously. The entire process took less than twenty minutes. All you need is frozen vegetable leftovers, water, and a crock pot (a regular stovetop pot does the trick too). You can also fancy it up with some added protein, such as lamb meatballs (*drool*).
This is what I did:
Over two weeks, I compiled a few tupperware containers of the veggies I was using in my other meals: celery, parsley, broccoli stems, and mint, and placed them in a crock pot with enough water to cover them by an inch, some raw lima beans, salt, and freshly chopped onion, and let them heat up on high for a few hours. When everything had cooked through, I started my batch of lamb meatballs, which consisted of ground lamb, finely diced onion, parsley, a splash of papaya nectar (for an added pop of taste; another recommendation is cherry juice, which does a fabulous job of bringing out the natural flavors of the lamb), and applesauce (I apologize for my lack of measurements - I usually just throw things together, so use your judgment and tastes to make something that speaks to your preferences). Using a small spoon, I doled out 20 small meatballs onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and cooked for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. In the meantime, I added frozen corn to the pot and blended the vegetable broth (because let's be real...who wants to chew on big chunks of broccoli stems and celery leaves?). After the meatballs were done in the oven, I basked in the wondrous scent and had to sample a couple before adding the rest to the soup. Then, voilà! My soup was complete, yummy, and economical! Better yet, it was helping me reduce my waste and make the most of what I'd bought at the store over the past few weeks.
Like I mentioned earlier, this soup can be whatever you make it to be! Since I've been severely limited in my food intake, I had to use some pretty bland veggies (unfortunately, you can't get much taste from lima beans, celery, or broccoli stems), but am extremely excited now that I can add some more essentials to the mix (i.e., garlic, oregano, and sweet potato). And it's totally adjustable to your tastes. The key is that you are reducing your waste and creating something for which your body, your wallet, and the world will be thankful!
So what can you do to practically use the resources you have and reduce your food waste? This is an opportunity to be creative, to experiment, and to pair foods you might not otherwise use together. Who knows? The result could change your life forever! ;)
XOXO until next time,