Food waste is a huge problem in our country but rather than being overwhelmed by what’s going on outside our homes, focus on what you can do to reduce food waste at home.
I have 5 products (well, one’s a service) that help me cut down on food waste at home and a couple are probably items you already have.
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Instant Pot/Slow Cooker
I’ve had a slow cooker for probably 20 years. I don’t even remember what I originally cooked in it but I know in the last 10 or so years, any meat I cooked was pretty hit or miss. Either it was dry as could be or not fully cooked.
The heating element was not doing so well and it was always a shot in the dark as to how long I should actually cook something for because whatever a recipe suggested, never worked.
I didn’t jump on the Instant Pot craze at first but once I decided to ask for one for Christmas, I was all in. I wanted to make everything in it.
I feel like just about everyone has one these days but how can you use an instant pot to reduce food waste? And better yet, reduce packaging waste?
I had heard about making homemade yogurt in an instant pot but didn’t jump on that bandwagon for a while. I figured it would taste funny.
Early on in the pandemic when my curbside recycling hauler informed us everything was going to the dump, I knew I needed to figure out what to do with all the #5 containers because my local recycling facility didn’t accept them.
So I decided to give it a shot. I found a couple recipes on Pinterest and tried them both. There are a few different methods but I’m all for easy so this recipe was the winner. It’s basically dump, cook, strain, devour.
Once you make the yogurt, you can flavor it with anything. I like mine plain with cacao nibs and frozen berries.
Dried beans are also a favorite, they are so much cheaper than canned beans. I buy 2lb. bags of black beans (favorite in our house), cook them in the instant pot (no soaking required) and then use some and freeze some.
It takes less than 40 minutes.
One of the first things I made in my instant pot was butternut squash and apple soup. It was a great way to use up some bruised apples that kept being passed up and it was done in about 10 minutes.
Any sort of vegetable soup would be a good choice for using up some produce that’s a bit past it’s prime.
Think about that produce you intended to cook but didn’t get to or maybe you get a box of produce like I do but didn’t get to use everything.
Every now and again we have some leftover cooked pasta or rice that didn’t get eaten, you can even throw that in a soup.
I find that soup is like chili, you can just dump so many different things in it and it turns out great.
Another good way to reduce food waste is to batch cook, especially with soup.
You can have some now and freeze some for later which also helps avoid eating out when you don’t have time to cook a meal.
My husband and I fight over this tuscan sausage soup, it is so delicious.
Check out my Instant Pot Recipe board on Pinterest for more ideas.
Stock or Broth
I keep a bag in the freezer for veggie scraps that I can use when I make vegetable or chicken stock/broth.
Ends of carrots, celery, peppers, onions, etc. It all goes in a silicone freezer bag and once it’s full, I make stock/broth with it.
A good high powered blender will serve you well. We’ve had a Blendtec for at least 5 years now and honestly, it gets used at least once a day, most days more.
We use the blender mainly for smoothies so think of all your fruits. If they are starting to go bad and you know you won’t get a chance to eat them, freeze them.
We freeze bananas all the time. Every spring we go strawberry picking and freeze some of those for later.
Another idea is herbs. If you’ve bought a bunch of herbs or if you grow more than you can eat, blend them up with some water or oil, freeze them in ice cube trays to use them later.
I’ve also made soup in my Blendtec. It has a soup setting so it warms it up.
Not sure about the ratios of liquid to produce? You can find some guidance on how much liquid versus fruit to use right here.
Several years ago I did a 3 day juice cleanse and wow, talk about cleanse, I felt pretty clean after it was over, so much so I decided I needed a juicer.
I had been learning about the benefits of juicing and how it can support your health. Just like any new ‘gadget’, it got used a lot at first but I am still using it today.
During cold and flu season, we use it to juice lemon and ginger for lemon/ginger/cayenne pepper shots to help support our immune systems.
Juicing is a great way to reduce food waste at home. How many times have you been a little over zealous with your produce buying at the grocery store or farmers market? We’ve all been there.
Greens can wilt quickly and celery can get flimsy if you don’t prepare them soon after purchasing.
Did you know, you can revive both (up to a certain point) by giving them an ice bath? After they revive, turn those bad boys into a healthy green juice.
Pro tip – before you juice any citrus fruits, zest them first. Store the zest in a freezer bag in the freezer to use later in cooking or baked goods.
Fruits like apples can get bruised in transport or rolling around in your produce bin but they are still good and full of vitamins.
At my local Kroger grocery store, they have a rack of discounted product that is slightly bruised. I’ve been known to rescue a few of those items to make a juice or smoothie with.
When all else fails on the rotting produce, pasta, bread, etc, turn it into dirt.
We live in a neighborhood so we have a compost bin. I don’t think the HOA would approve of an open pile in my backyard.
Plan to Eat Membership
My family eats basically the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day but dinner does take some planning.
I really think meal planning is your best strategy to reduce food waste at home.
Every week before I go grocery shopping, I plan out our dinners for the week so I know exactly what I need and don’t over buy.
I used to get so frustrated because I would pin a bunch of recipes to my Pinterest board but then when it was time to actually prepare the meal, I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere.
This is where the Plan to Eat membership has saved me. I can find recipes, import them (either by typing them in manually or importing via weblink) and then actually drag and drop them into the calendar so I don’t spend 30 minutes trying to find the darn recipe I saved.
If you have friends that use it, you can ‘friend’ each other and share recipes.
Whoever invented this platform is pure genius.
How do you reduce food waste at home? Comment below and let me know what’s working for you.