#NoFoodWasted: Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste

A week from today is Earth Day – April 22 this year. Instead of freaking out and trying to learn how to do some new crunchy thing like making my own solar panels out of tinfoil, what I’m doing is sharing with you some super easy ways that you can reduce waste. Specifically, I’ll show you the simple and stress free ways I reduce my food waste. Could I do better? Definitely. But this is where I’m at now, and hopefully there might be a few ideas worth gleaning.

Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste | Living Consciously Blog

Whole Chicken = Bone broth

Since we’ve started eating meat again, I’ve found that it is super simple to cook a whole chicken in the crockpot. Crockpot chicken can be done many ways but always results in me not having to do much at dinner time. If you want to make bone broth from your chicken, though, you want to avoid things like stew or extreme spices that would change the taste of the broth too much.

There are hundreds of blog posts on the benefits of bone broth, go read a few. It is a magical liquid full of nutrition that will give you the strength to leap tall buildings in a single bound and all of that.

Here is how to make use of the leftover chicken: if you have preschoolers or small children like I do, it takes them hours and hours to eat the single piece of food you served them, even when they like it. So after I have eaten my own chicken, I wash my hands, grab a few glass storage containers (affiliate link), and start pulling the meat off the bones while they sit there not-eating. I save the bones and most of the fat in a separate container from the meat. I typically refrigerate everything for a few days until I get around to setting up the bone broth. All it takes a is a quick soaking of the bones and fat in apple cider vinegar and filtered water in a crock pot early in the day or late at night, then fill the crock pot up the rest of the way with filtered water and your choice of spices and herbs. Keep it simple. You can use this recipe for bone broth if you need one. I typically let the broth cook on low for 15-18 hours.

Celery hearts, fresh herbs + freezer = bone broth

If you tend to let your celery hearts and fresh herbs go forgotten in the fridge a bit too long so that they’re still edible (not slimy) but just no longer at the peak of freshness, pop them into the freezer before they go bad. I do this a lot for parsley, of which I never seem to use the entire bunch. Take them out and put them into the crockpot to use in your bone broth. You can also use them in soups and stews if you chop before freezing

Compost and Chickens

I keep two containers on my countertop: one for compost and one for the chickens. My chickens are very spoiled and only like certain scraps. They do not like garlic or onions, despite how cool garlic would make their eggs taste. They do not like kiwi. They have varying opinions about mangoes. And potatoes, avocado, and a few other veggies are toxic to them. So for the things they can’t or won’t eat, I have a terribly unprofessional compost heap (read more about how to compost here). Instead of showing you a picture of my probably-not-genuine compost heap which tends to actually grow it’s own garden, I will show you my countertop containers.

Compost Chickens and Food Waste | Living Consciously Blog

As you can see, they do not have to be fancy. This is also a great reuse of plastic tupperware type containers that I have been given by other people which I will not use with my own food due to plastic leaching issues. And here are my chickens enjoying some of the scraps that they deem acceptable.

Feeding leftover veggies to the backyard chickens | Living Consciously Blog

Obviously, not everyone has backyard chickens, so for those of you who don’t…

Fruits & Veggies = smoothies

When your fruit gets a little too squishy for your enjoyment (bananas, mangoes, strawberries), or your leaves get a little wilted (kale, spinach, swiss chard) but you don’t have chickens or other pets that eat produce, pop that not-so-fresh stuff into the freezer. Then the next time you want to make a smoothie, use the frozen fruit or veggies! Don’t forget to reduce (or completely eliminate) the ice that you use since you are using frozen items. You might also have to increase the liquid a little bit. Here are my simple green smoothie guidelines.

Meat = curry

As I am relatively new to cooking meat, meat waste is new to me. No one in my household except me will eat leftovers. And since I still do not prefer to eat meat more than once every few days, I’m not a huge fan of eating all the leftover meat from weekly dinners by myself. I have figured out a few things that I can do with our most common leftovers.

Pork loin, Ham – curry! Right now I use a curry mix whose ingredients are all written in some form of kanji so it might be fairly toxic, but my family loves it! I just set the rice machine to have rice ready and then curry whatever leftover meat I have.

Making curry out of leftover ham, reduce food waste | Living Consciously Blog

Chicken – Chicken soups. Chicken tacos. Chicken stir fry. I also freeze uneaten chicken breast or shredded chicken to serve with rice to my kids on an evening when my husband and I might be going out, healthier than chicken nuggets!

Fish – Fish smells so bad when reheated! It gets so gross in the fridge. Does anybody have any good ideas for leftover fish? Please email me or send me a tweet!

Meal Planning

Overall, the best way that I’ve found to avoid waste is to plan meals to use leftovers. I am not good at this, and I am not a smart meal planner. For that reason, I pay someone else to do the meal planning. Currently, I am using Real Plans meal planning system (affiliate link) and I love it. It provides a shopping list that I can alter based on what parts of the plan for that week I want to use and what parts I do not, and all the recipes can be adjusted to fit larger or smaller groups. You can find my review of the Real Plans system here. (NOTE: I am an affiliate for Real Plans so I get a percentage of their fee if you sign up for their system). Other meal planning systems that I have used in the past include The Fresh 20 and eMeals.

Those are all my ideas for now, for more ideas on how to reduce food waste, follow the hashtag #NoFoodWasted on Instagram and Twitter. I’ll be posting more from my Instagram on Earth Day with that hashtag as well! 

Happy Earth Day!

My Garden: planting from compost sprouts

It’s spring again in Texas, and I’ve clearly learned nothing from the failure of my garden last year. The only thing I grew successfully was a few good bell pepper plants and a whole lot of mint. Mint, mint, mint. I mean, I love mint in my green tea in the summer (it’s one of the natural coolants that I recommend if you are giving up antiperspirant), but the amount of mint I have had in the last year is ridiculous. After I planted it initially, I had a lot of people warn me that I never should have planted it in a garden because it would take over. They were not kidding. That stuff pops up in the weirdest places. Like growing out of the side of the raised bed:

Mint growing from side of raised bedWeird.

Most of my herbs came back: parsley and two kinds of mint, as well as the strawberries from last year which are now putting out little flowers.

The minute it got warm outside about a month ago, I was out there planting seeds and watering things again just like I hadn’t killed nearly a dozen plants last year. Some time last November I planted kale and swiss chard seeds by haphazardly throwing them into the ground willy-nilly, because they were supposed to bloom in the cooler weather (it doesn’t get cold here until late December/early January — this year it was February). I thought the seeds had died, but suddenly sprouts appeared a few weeks ago and now I have some pretty decent sized plants!

Swiss Chard April 2013
The thin little shoots are leek sproutlings that I got from a neighbor, they were initially sprouted for our elementary school’s community garden and there were extras.

Leeks April 2013

The rest of the garden has evolved from another odd spot: compost sprouts.

First of all, my compost bin is not so much a bin as it is a circle of chicken wire at the side of the house that I dump things into and turn with a shovel every 10 days or 2 weeks. More accurately: I do it when I remember.

I add things to it, but it’s more of a random compilation than a science. Because I do tend to, um, leave it alone a bit too long, when I do turn it I often find little sprouts in the mishmash. For example, some kind of root vegetable that had gone bad and was tossed into the compost bin had a full 6-7 inch plant growing from it. A head of garlic that sprouted was also almost 4 inches tall in there. My mother was visiting one day and found a huge collection of squash sprouts. Unfortunately, the squash died when I tried to transplant it to the garden. But the mysterious root vegetable is now nearly a foot tall!

Sprout from compost

And the garlic is looking pretty healthy too:

Garlic from compost

Just yesterday I found some other tiny thing in the compost and planted it as well.

I have no idea what that thing is either. I guess we’ll see when it starts sprouting something!

If I don’t kill it first.

How about you? Have you planted anything yet? Do you also raid your compost for sprouts, or is that just me?