by Judy Matusky, RDN, LDN and Taylor Dimmerling
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that American households throw away about 338 pounds of food each year (1). We all start our week with good intentions. We read the food blogs, assemble some fast and easy dinner recipes, stock up on fruits and veggies, and fill the fridge with everything we need for a week of cooking. But then we find ourselves out one night, getting home late from work another and soon, our plans to cook dinner wilt like the spinach in our fridge. With just a little planning, you can cut down on food waste by shopping smarter, storing food so it lasts longer, and using up leftovers in creative ways.
Shop from a list. Planning a weekly menu around your schedule and creating a food list before going to the store keeps you focused on buying only what you need and limits impulse buying. Reconsider buying in bulk. The little bit of money you save is offset by the amount of food you end up throwing away. Consider shopping once per week, buying what you need for the week. This keeps the fridge clutter-free and prevents unseen food from spoiling at the back of the fridge.
Store Foods to Maximize Freshness
Putting the groceries away can feel like a chore, but if done correctly, it can save time and money. Before you put everything in the fridge, spend 30 minutes prepping produce. Wash and dry leafy greens, storing them in plastic bags in the fridge. Poke a few holes in the bags before adding the greens. The holes will allow the greens to “breath,” extending their shelf life. Cut up other produce like carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers and store them in reusable containers to keep them fresh and ready to use for meals and snacks. Store most fruit in the fridge to maximize freshness. Bring out a few pieces of fruit at a time to keep in a bowl on the counter. Don’t forget your freezer! Freeze bread, nuts, muffins, and leftovers. Use labels to name and date the food in the freezer. One great tip is to freeze overly ripe bananas. Peel them and place them in a freezer bag in the freezer. Use the frozen bananas for smoothies, snacks and for making “nice” cream.
Plan a “Clean-out the Fridge” Night
By the end of the week, we all find ourselves with odds and ends in the fridge. Some leftover pasta, ½ jar of tomato sauce, a stray onion, some slightly wilted spinach. Rather than toss them, plan one night a week as “clean out the fridge” night. This will be a hassle-free meal that allows you to get creative. Think of it as your own version of Chopped. You get to come up with your own recipes for soups, bowls, frittatas, smoothies, sandwiches, anything you want to use up the leftover ingredients. Here’s an easy, delicious and healthy way to make a frittata from leftover veggies and cheese.
- Advancing sustainable materials management: Facts and figures report. (2021, January 28).https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/advancing-sustainable-materials-management
Clean Out Your Fridge Frittata
- 6 large eggs
- ¼ cup milk of your choice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 cups veggies of your choice
- Examples: red grape tomatoes, spinach, roasted red peppers
- ½ can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: herbs or spices to taste
- Examples: onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme
- ⅓ cup cheese of your choice
- Examples: crumbled goat cheese, feta cheese, shredded cheddar, Parmesan
- Preheat oven to 400℉.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and garlic. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a cast iron or ovenproof skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and stir occasionally until onion becomes translucent about 3 minutes.
- Add the veggies, chickpeas, salt and pepper, and other herbs and spices (if using). Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the egg mixture to the skillet and stir so all ingredients are evenly combined.
- Sprinkle cheese on top.
- Place the pan in a preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the mixture has set in the middle.
- Serve alone or with a piece of toasted whole-grain bread.
You’ll find more recipes where delicious meets fast and healthy at judymatusky.com
Taylor Dimmerling, an undergraduate student at Cabrini University, is an intern at Athens Nutrition and will be attending Drexel University for her master’s in Nutrition and Dietetics.