Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Going Green in the Kitchen Part 2: Reducing Food Waste + a Recipe

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By now many people have heard the statistic about how ridiculously much food Americans waste each year; as much as 40% of all food in the US is wasted. This not only has real environmental effects but also economic effects; this doesn’t consider how this food could contribute to ending hunger in America. I could probably go on and on about the effects of America’s consumption habits and wastefulness but I will get down off of my soapbox and tell you small ways that I try to reduce food waste.

1. Learning to Love Leftovers-      I could wax poetic about leftovers. Nothing makes me happier during the work day than opening my lunchbox and heating up leftovers of a good meal that I cooked (or didn’t cook) the night before. In some cases, leftovers are even better than meals prepared the night beforehand; the flavors have married and sometimes I add some extra veggies or seasoning, perfecting the flavor. I cannot imagine how much food I would throw out or how much less I would cook if I didn’t eat leftovers. For us, it is so much easier to make a dinner for four and then eat leftovers once or twice than only cook just enough for the two of us. If you don’t eat leftovers, I would encourage you to start by repurposing leftovers. For instance, if you cook pork carnitas in the crockpot, have tacos with it one night and burrito rice bowls  another night or Mexican lasagna the next.

2. Reduced Produce-      I love to shop the reduced produce shelves at some of my favorite grocery stores. Something about snagging ten apples for $2 or a dozen bananas for less than a dollar makes my heart sing. As a college student, buying reduced produce at my favorite health food store allowed me to eat really healthy, organic food for less than most of my peers were paying for not so healthy food. Shopping from those magical shelves also gave me a Chopped-style challenge. How do I use up two peppers, spinach, apples, peaches, and herbs before they go to the bad? And, in case you were wondering, this food is perfectly edible, although often the fruits and vegetables have a few bumps or bruises (only affecting the aesthetic appeal) or need to be eaten in the next day or two.


This is a picture of a bag of apples I purchased for about a dollar. I would guess that this same amount of apples normally would be around $3 or $4.

Recently, I nabbed a lot of reduced produce from Harris Teeter. In my money-saving high, I didn’t think about how I would actually use this fruit that I bought for a total of maybe $5; my loot included two bags of apples, a bag of oranges, and a dozen bananas (a lot of food for two people, especially since I eat most of the fruit in the house). I normally do not buy bananas but was excited to get to use these in baked goods; immediately my wheels started turning about what to make. The bananas ended up being eaten plain, with peanut butter, in pancakes, and finally in these baked goodies that are a Sarah original but turned out surprisingly well. They are not very sweet because I do not like to feel like I am eating dessert for breakfast (most of the time). They are easy to make without the hassle of using a mixer and have a great texture; the flavor has a hint of banana with a chew from the cereal and oats. Two of these cookies and a glass of almond milk were hardy enough to hold me over until lunch! Hoorah for reduced produce, bruised bananas!


Banana Cereal Breakfast Cookies

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. plain cereal (I used 1/4 c. Grape Nuts, 1/4 c. Corn Flakes)

3/4 c. oats

1/3 c. pecans

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 c. coconut oil, melted

1 banana, mashed

1/4 c. maple syrup

1/4 c. sugar

1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients, from flours to cinnamon. Combine the coconut oil, banana, maple syrup, sugar, and egg in a small bowl and stir to combine; add wet ingredients to dry and mix. The dough will be somewhat crumbly. Take about 1/4 cup of dough, roll into a ball and then press slightly with a fork. Bake for 12 minutes. Yield 10 medium-large cookies.


**To learn more about reducing waste, the documentary Dive (available on Netflix) is very interesting. Although I am not planning on dumpster diving anytime soon (the whole illegal trespassing thing is holding me back), the movie is very informative and as a lover of all food documentaries I found it interesting.

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