We're Wasting Food . . . But Not Wasting Away

What ever happened to the “clean plate club”?

The average American today throws away $40 a month by discarding 33 pounds of edible food, according to a new study, because we buy too much of it, we let it go past its prime or we put too much on our plates (and apparently no longer believe that cleaning our plates will help starving people in China, a connection I still fail to understand).

But back to the U.S., where we discard a whopping 40 percent of food, the equivalent of $165 BILLION in uneaten nourishment annually, according to a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  But the environmental group says:

  • If we wasted just 5 percent less, it would be enough to feed 4 million Americans and remove tons of waste from our landfills, and
  • If we threw away 20 percent less, it could feed 25 million people, according to NRDC!

Some of the U.S. waste occurs in grocery stores and restaurants, of course, but how much do you and/or your family contribute to these staggering losses?

According to the government, a typical American consumer throws out 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs, and 20 percent of milk. Two-thirds of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, while the other third is caused by people cooking or serving too much.

How they know this is beyond me. I’d also like to know how come, if we’re throwing away all this food, one-third of our adult population is obese? If we weren’t so wasteful, would there be even more people with fuller waists? (Did you notice that clever play on words?)

The good news is there are things we can do to stop food waste, including:

  • Shop wisely, which means figuring out how much food you really need to feed you and/or your family. Stop buying enough to feed an army, unless you are in charge of feeding the Army.
  • Know when food goes bad (sell-by and use-by dates are not federally regulated and don’t indicate safety except on baby foods, and most foods can be safely consumed well after their use-by dates). Still continue to rely on the age-old signs that it should be dumped -- mold, slime or food that no longer resembles, well, food.
  • Buy produce that’s perfectly edible even if it’s not attractive. It doesn’t have to be cute or pretty to taste good, you know. Lobster is a good example.
  • Cook only the amount you need (even when feeding the Army).
  • Freeze fresh produce and leftovers if you won’t have the chance to eat them before they go bad (a filled freezer requires less electricity to cool so you’ll save money that way, too!).
  • Eat leftovers.  (You enjoyed it once, why not again?)
  • “Mine your fridge” and cabinets for ingredients before they go bad. Go to google and type the name of the food and the word “recipe” into the “search” box, hit enter and see what comes up. Or try www.lovefoodhatewaste.com , which has a similar search function. You can always use vegetables (cooked or cut up small), meats and fish (cooked) and cheeses in omelets or scrambled eggs; soups (use a simple broth as the base); as toppings for potatoes, rice or pasta; and in quiches.

Here’s an easy, low-cal quiche that serves six and uses any type of vegetables, meat and cheeses as fillings – together or singly.

Fillings:

2 cups cut-up cooked chicken or turkey (or any other meat)

1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed and drained (or any other vegetable)

1/4 cup chopped onion (or not)

1 cup shredded cheese (swiss and cheddar are good)

The quiche part:

¾ cup Reduced-Fat Bisquick mix

1 1/3 cups milk

1 cup fat-free cholesterol-free egg product (like Egg Beaters) or 2 eggs plus 2 egg whites (or 4 eggs)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Stir together fillings in pie plate. Stir Bisquick mix, milk, and egg product in medium bowl with wire whisk or fork until blended. Pour into pie plate. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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