Eat - March 31, 2021

6 Zero-Waste Cooking Tips You’ll Actually Use

Zero-waste cooking seems like a good idea in theory, but when you have a family full of picky eaters and no time to cook, it might not always feel practical. If you haven’t been able to make zero-waste work for you in the past, this post is for you. Here’s why reducing food waste matters and six completely doable strategies for minimizing what you throw away. Here are 6 zero-waste cooking tips. 

What Are the Impacts of Food Waste?

While food waste accumulates all along the food chain, from farms to fridges, everyone can do her part to help reach the EPA and USDA shared goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. 

The USDA estimates that 30 to 40% of America’s food supply is wasted. This translates to over 133 billion pounds of food wasted by consumers alone. Most discarded food could otherwise be given to hungry community members, including the 18 million food-insecure children in America. 

In addition, food waste is a significant contributor to climate change. One 2011 study found that greenhouse gas emissions as a result of food waste exceeded 113 million tons of carbon per year, or 2% of total national emissions. And these numbers have only increased in the past decade.

Tips to Reduce Food Waste at Home

To do your part to reduce food waste this Earth Month and every month, use these fun—and often tasty!— 6 zero-waste cooking tips to eliminate cooking waste from your kitchen. 


1. Choose the Ugly One

When shopping for produce, instead of peeling back the husk to inspect every ear of corn or squeezing every avocado, embrace the slightly imperfect option. In most cases, less aesthetically-pleasing produce has the same flavor and nutrition as its more beautiful sibling. And if every shopper searches for the most handsome squash or broccoli head, the rougher-looking produce will end up spoiling on the shelves. 


2. Embrace Leftovers

Invest in a good set of airtight containers and save leftover food from restaurants, take out, and home cooking. Then, don’t forget to eat it! Keeping your fridge clean and pared-down is another way to ensure that the food you store stays front of mind and makes its way onto your plate, rather than spoiling in the back of the fridge.   


3. Save Scraps

Instead of tossing your carrot peels or leek greens into the trash, pop vegetable scraps into an airtight container or bag and freeze them. When you have enough stored up, you can turn them into a delicious and healthy vegetable broth for soups or sipping on its own. 

The USDA estimates that 30 to 40% of America’s food supply is wasted. This translates to over 133 billion pounds of food wasted by consumers alone.

4. Skip the Peeler

Or better yet, stop peeling your produce altogether! For many fruits and vegetables, such as apples and cucumbers, the peel is actually the most highly concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Just be sure to thoroughly wash your veggies first. 


5. When in Doubt, Freeze!

You can freeze a lot more than you might think. From fully-cooked meals to raw fruits and vegetables and leftover plant-based milk, your freezer can extend the life of many commonly wasted food items. So keep an eye on freshness, and before your food expires, pop it into an airtight bag or container in the freezer. You can add frozen fruits and veggies to smoothies and soups, or defrost tucked-away leftovers for a quick dinner that just needs heating up.  


6. Repurpose Whenever Possible

If you’re like most Americans, you probably toss coffee grounds or used tea bags every day. Next time you have a lump of cold coffee beans in the bottom of your French press, repurpose them into an exfoliating body scrub or add them to your garden for a rich fertilizer. Used tea bags also double as a relaxing and de-puffing eye mask for your self-care ritual


Use these simple zero-waste cooking tips to turn your kitchen into a waste-free zone and reduce your overall carbon footprint today and in the future.


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