I've Purchased Too Much Produce, Now What?

January 12, 2017




Often, the 2-for-1 specials at the grocery store are quite enticing. Who wouldn't want two packages of chicken breast for the price of one? These specials, however appealing they may be, are not always the best "deal" for our environment. We often don't think about the breads and produce that end up being thrown away. Food waste, no matter how big or small, contributes to the world's carbon footprint. 


The website Politico, recently published an article stating that "1.3 billion tons of food are wasted or lost worldwide. Saving just a quarter of this food would feed the 795 million people going hungry and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.3 giga-tons." (Barilla. 12/8/16. "The Food Sustainability Index: Establishing a more sustainable food system.") Click here for the full article.


Here are a few tips to help reduce food waste in your home: 


1. Shop smarter. Avoid the deals if you know you won't be able to eat them in a timely fashion. Studies have shown that nearly 80 percent of people buy extra when the item is on special and end up with more then they need. This can be seen with bulk produce, cheeses, and meats. Try planning 1 or 2 meatless meals per week. Not only are they cheaper to make, but lower in greenhouse gas emissions. Think about doing cuban beans and rice with a side salad or try out a tofu or edamame stir-fry!


2. Plan your menu ahead of time. Take a few minutes to think about your week ahead before going to the store. Will you be dining out with friends? Are you planning on cooking a large crock-pot meal which will give you leftovers for a few nights? Make sure to take a peek in your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator before you venture out to the grocery store. Knowing what you already have will not only help save food waste but can help cut down on your food bill, too. It may also be a good idea to get in the habit of using a grocery list (I use my notes app on my phone) of go-to items you and your family enjoy. 


3. Keep it fresh. Notice that your fruit bowl spoils quicker when there are bananas in it? Me neither. However, bananas can cause other nearby fruits to ripen quicker leading to spoilage. Try to keep your bananas separate. Another trick to help eliminate quick ripening of your bananas is to keep them all together and wrap the stems with clear plastic wrap to maintain freshness. If your bananas have gone south of the border, place them in the freezer for later use in smoothies, banana bread, or a quick dairy-free ice cream blend. Click here for the recipe!


4. Be besties with your freezer. If you've gone home and realized that two loaves of bread are not better than one, freeze one! It depends on the item and type of freezer you are using, but most items can last between 3 - 6 months and sometimes 1 year in the freezer. Going any longer then recommended could put your food at risk of freezer burn and decreased (FDA Freezer Chart). If the bread has gone stale, you can always make homemade croutons or a delicious crowd-pleasing Panzanella salad (see recipe below).  If you purchase bulk meats, take them out of the packaging and place eat piece in individual freezer bags. That way, you can grab what you need and keep the extra for another day. 


5. Take up pickling. If you did buy a lot of produce, find a canning recipe to make pickled vegetables. New to canning or short on time? There are many quick pickled vegetable recipes online these days. Find a simple one and make sure you have ample storage containers. If you have kids, get them involved in breaking cauliflower apart, measuring out spices, or cleaning jars. Make it a family event!  


6. Get in the habit of FIFO. This stands for first in, first out. If you are not already, get in the habit of moving older produce to the front (or take it out of the produce drawer and place it in sight) while placing newer produce in the back of the refrigerator. 


7. Donate. Think about donating to your local food bank or soup kitchen. If you have nonperishable items you know you will not be using anytime soon, send them off to a family in need. 


Think globally. Act locally.



Panzanella Salad

Makes 8-10 servings




5 cups 1-inch square day-old whole wheat bread
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large ripe tomatoes cut into wedges
1 large red onion, diced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut a stale loaf of bread (whole wheat if available) into 1-2 inch pieces. Lightly coat with olive oil and place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly brown. 
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt. When the bread is done, gently fold in the bread, tomatoes, onion, and basil and dressing together.  
*If you don't have fresh basil, leave it out. Or if you only have fresh parsley, throw it in! Feel free to add sliced cucumber, peppers, or beans for a little extra pizzazz*




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