Take a peek inside your fridge, past the milk and eggs at the front to the fruit and veggie drawers. Do you have sad carrots, languishing in the produce drawer? Are your bananas fifty shades of brown? Is your basil over the hill? What happens to food in your fridge when it starts to go bad?
The average U.S. household throws out 40% of the food it buys for an average total of $1,800 dollars thrown out each year. Food waste isn’t just an economic problem, it’s an environmental one.
That wasted food accounts for 21% of freshwater use in the U.S., and almost a quarter of our landfill volume. Once it gets to the landfill, that carbon footprint gets even bigger. When food rots in landfills, it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Whether it’s for the environment, or to save a couple of bucks, what can you do to make sure all of your food gets eaten?
#1) Have fresh herbs? Place them in a glass of water in the refrigerator and cover with a plastic bag to make them last longer. As they start to wilt, grind them in a food processor and make it into a pesto. Put the pesto in ice-cube trays and freeze to use for future pasta and soups.
#2) Don’t throw your almost expired milk, non-dairy milk, or yogurt away. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. You can use later in iced coffee or smoothies!
#3) Fruit about to spoil? Add to pancakes, muffins, or bread or cook into a fruit crisp. Or you can cut it up and freeze for later!
#4) Reuse leftover ingredients. Ends of bread-loaves that never became PB&J’s can be turned into croutons. Carrot peels or broccoli stems can be used in soups or smoothies to boost their flavor and nutrition.
#5) Store your fruits and vegetables correctly! Vegetables should be stored separately from fruits because fruits produce ethylene gas that makes them ripen quicker. Squash and other root vegetables like potatoes and beets should be stored outside the refrigerator in a cool dark spot.
#6) Turn leftovers into new meals to keep things interesting. Plain rice can be turned into fried rice the next day, while homemade soups can be turned into sauces for pasta. With leftover ingredients like roasted veggies, roasted tofu or meat, and quinoa, combine with soy sauce and make a simple stir fry bowl.
#7) Don’t throw away pumpkin and squash seeds! Wash and dry them, toss with some oil and spices like turmeric, garlic, and ginger and roast in the oven at 300 degrees for 40-45 min. Not only are they a tasty snack, but a great source of magnesium and zinc!
#8) Save those coffee grounds. If you are growing your own garden this spring, coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which makes them a great fertilizer!
Do you have a question for our RDN? Send your trail-running-nutrition quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kylee Van Horn is a licensed Sports Registered Dietitian and competitive trail runner.