If you were to keep track of all the items that enter your refrigerator by putting a little Post-It note on each one and then placing the Post-It on a poster board that read “Used” or “Threw Away”, what percentage of those items would have been unused and chucked into the garbage at the end of the month? If you said about 30%, you would be right. About one-third of all food we purchase ends up in a landfill never having been eaten. So how can we prevent it? Make a salad of course!
In the book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), author Jonathan Bloom estimates that we waste more than $100 billion annually in food.
So why does this happen?
We are all guilty of it. We wander through the grocery store, warehouse store or farmer’s market and are tempted by the sales, carefully crafted packaging and beautiful stacks of produce. We have thoughts of all the wonderful meals we could create and the money we could save.
Before we know it, we have a case of blueberries in our cart because they were having a one-day sale, 2 pounds of shrimp because we can’t get peeled and deveined shrimp at that price, 4 zucchini that maybe can go with a dinner or two this week, and some fresh herbs that just smelled some wonderful they had to come home with us.
Days later, the blueberries are still packed into the refrigerator and only one pint has been eaten. The shrimp was supposed to be dinner for the last two nights but work was crazy and we were just too tired to cook at the end of a busy day. And those herbs, well they are looking limp and a bit brown now.
And into the garbage it goes as we add up all the money we are throwing in the trash. So frustrating, right? Not to mention not so good for the environment either.
Each time I clean out my produce drawer of wilted lettuce, cucumbers gone mushy, and all those herbs that never got used up, it just feels lousy. Here I am complaining about how much money we need to spent on groceries every month and I am just compounding the issue by throwing some of it away. I might as well have just taken one bag of groceries and put it directly into the garbage can.
The truth of the matter is when you have too much food in your refrigerator, items get lost and forgotten about. Those yummy strawberries get pushed behind a few leftover containers and they are discovered days later looking like a science experiment.
The truth of the matter is when you don’t have a plan for how you are going to use the items you bring home from the store, life gets in the way and the food never gets cooked.
The truth of the matter is we need to stop kidding ourselves and stop shopping for the life we aspire to have and instead make smaller adjustments to our lifestyle to move us to the healthier place we want to be. We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables. Cramming the fridge with bunches of kale, pints of berries, and loads of cucumbers is not going to magically cause us to switch our ways.
To keep your food waste to a minimum, make a pact with yourself. No more grocery shopping for perishables until those items that are already in there are used up.
Now I know what you are thinking. I don’t have all the ingredients I need for the recipe I want to make. I don’t know what to do with all these things to make a tasty dinner out of them. This isn’t an episode of “Chopped”. I am just a normal person starting into a sea of food here!
But here’s the thing. You don’t need a recipe. You just need to make a salad.
Salad for dinner at least once a week is the perfect way to use up a number of those items hanging out in your refrigerator.
You can quickly chop up some left over produce, roast some chicken, throw some shrimp or steak on the grill, slice up some berries and add some cheese and you have a complete meal in minutes.
Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
Salad Combo #1
Strawberries, Raspberries or Blueberries
Goat Cheese or Gorgonzola Cheese
Sliced Almonds, Walnuts or whatever is available
Slices of Baked or Roasted Chicken
Salad Combo #2
Diced Red Pepper
Salad Combo #3
The ideas are endless! Just mix together your favorite veggies, fruits and proteins and dinner is ready. And that tiny bit of mustard you have left i n the jar? Pour in a little extra virgin olive oil, some lemon juice, and some salt and pepper and you have a quick Dijon Vinaigrette.
Now, it’s your turn. What percentage of groceries do you think you throw away? Do you have any favorite ways to use up leftovers? Or what are some of the reasons you think you struggle with using up leftovers? Leave your comments below.
If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing it with your friends via Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest or good old fashioned email!