Food waste is a huge global issue, but one that can be fought by changing our cooking strategies at home. Learn how to use ingredients more effectively in order to make a difference.
Making dinner from ingredients you buy at the grocery store is easy. Knowing how to build a meal out of leftovers and all those extra pieces of food kicking around the refrigerator is another story. It takes practice and creativity, and is a skill that’s largely been lost over the past half-century of abundance. Whereas our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were experts at ‘making do’ with what they had, modern-day home c0oks need a lot more assistance at learning how to do so.
And learn we must, if we hope to fight against unnecessary food waste. North American households waste an estimated 25 percent of all groceries purchased – equivalent to exiting a supermarket with three grocery bags and dropping one in the parking lot before heading home. Home cooks clearly must develop better strategies for using ingredients wisely and in their entirety.
One excellent resource is a new cookbook called “The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook” (TouchWood Editions, 2015). Written by Cinda Chavich, this cookbook is designed to help home cooks to use up ingredients in delicious, healthy ways. Its lengthy introduction explains the state of food waste in the world today and why it’s important to change our cooking habits.
Chavich addresses important subjects such as “the myth of composting,” and the popular idea that managing food waste is key, when in fact reduction is far more important. She tackles the tricky subject of best-before dates on packaged foods and how “largely unregulated and rather arbitrary” these dates are, as well as confusing to most consumers. “It’s best to use your nose, and some common sense, when deciding when to pitch packaged foods,” Chavich writes, then provides a list of basic storage guidelines.
The main part of the cookbook is divided into three sections: Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, Staples, and The Weekly Feast. Fresh Fruit and Vegetables is an A to Z section of recipes, tips on how to buy, store, and serve, and a page full of bullet-pointed ideas for how not to waste a particular ingredient. Take broccoli, for example:
“Toss leftover cooked broccoli with hot cooked chunky whole-grain pasta, olive oil, and Parmesan. Blanch a head of chopped broccoli, toss with olive oil, and a cup of mixed Romano and Gruyère cheese, then place under the broiler until bubbly and brown. Make a big bowl of Asian noodle soup, with chicken broth, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, slivered carrot, and broccoli.”
The Staples sections takes the same approach for pantry items, such as bread, flatbreads, nuts, olives, peanut butter, canned fish, cheese, etc.
The Weekly Feast shows you “how to cook once and use that leftover protein in new ways.” The recipes feature large cuts of meat and explains how to stretch them out over a number of days, i.e. a slow-roasted salmon that can then be used in salmon pot pie or farfalle with salmon and soybeans.
It’s really interesting to see a cookbook designed specifically around fighting food waste, and while some readers may take issue with the inclusion of meat and dairy products in a cookbook discussing the environmental effects of diet, this is still an important and timely message. The recipes are simple and delicious, with no hard-to-find ingredients and the tips are practical, sensible, and applicable by anyone.