Insider’s Viewpoint: Reducing Food Waste

We buy food with the best of intentions. We don’t mean to be wasteful. But have you thrown out food this week?

Perhaps you bought vegetables because you thought you should be eating more of them. But then didn’t cook them or know how to make them taste good.

Or you bought food planning to eat at home but then ended up going out. Or the ingredients intended for a specific occasion went unused because it never happened.

So the banana ripens before your peel it. The lettuce turns brown before the salad is made. The fish turns before you get to it.

You’re not alone. It’s estimated that we toss about 20 percent of the food we buy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash. Forty four percent of food waste occurs at home. Yet, a Johns Hopkins study found that many of us underestimate how much food we throw away. More than half said they threw away just 10 percent of their food, while 13 percent say they didn’t throw away any. Nearly seventy five percent claimed they wasted less than the average American.

Ready to see how much food and money you are throwing away? You can do your own wasted food challenge. For one week, measure how much food your family wastes in a week and record the volume. Track how much you throw away and the reason you didn’t eat it. It could be that you ate out, didn’t know how to cook the food, didn’t feel like cooking, bought too much, didn’t store it properly. Also note the approximate value. If you paid $3.00 for a container of strawberries and threw away a third, you lost a dollar to wasted food.

After you’ve observed and recorded, try these suggestions over the next 2 weeks to see if you can find solutions that work for you.

  • Shop your own kitchen first so you purchase with a purpose. See what you have on hand before you head to the store. Keeping in mind how many meals you will cook this week; use these foods to create a weekly menu.
  • Make a shopping list. With this list you are less likely to buy impulse items and more likely to buy what you expect to use. Will you use the food you buy in jumbo bulk sizes? Is a BOGO going to be eaten or will it be tossed? When it ends up in the trash, it is not such a good deal after all.
  • Cook the perishable foods first. The sooner you get to them, the easier it is to serve as snacks and meals through the week, saving time, effort, and money.
  • Place an “Eat First” sign in your refrigerator for ingredients that need to go. Use these foods for lunches, snacks, or to repurpose into another meal.

After 4 weeks, measure and record your weekly food waste amount. I hope you will see how much food and money you saved compared to when you started.

I shopped my kitchen to make this recipe. This recipe is flexible. Use the vegetables you have on hand — red cabbage, butternut squash, eggplant, beets, cauliflower, sweet potatoes or broccoli. No raisins? Try cranberries, apples or pomegranate seeds.


Roasted Vegetable Bulgur Salad

  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup Greek-style plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ? teaspoon dried chile flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

Presoak bulgur. In a quart-sized bowl, stir bulgur and water together. Allow to sit 1 hour as bulgur absorbs water. This can be done a day or 2 ahead of time. Refrigerate after water is absorbed.

Heat oven to 425°F.

Place vegetables on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, spread in a single layer. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and cooked until softened but still have a ‘bite” to them. Set aside to cool.

While vegetables are roasting, in a separate bowl combine yogurt, cumin, oregano, basil, salt, dried chile flakes, and black pepper.

In a large bowl, combine bulgur, roasted vegetables, yogurt herb dressing, parsley, raisins, and lemon juice. Stir to blend. Sprinkle walnuts over you before serving.

Yield: 5 cups

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