#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!

Earth Day Lesson: Reuse, glass jars

For the third Earth Day Lesson in our series (previously, Upcycle and Recycling), I thought I’d talk about how I reuse something around my house. Since I’ve been transitioning away from plastic containers as much as I can with a 2- and 3-year-old, I have been saving and reusing my glass jars. While we are far past the baby food jar stage (and we actually never used baby food in jars, since I made my own baby food), we still use plenty of pasta and marinara jars, as well as jam and olive jars.

Reusing Jars
One of my favorite was to reuse glass jars is, of course, my homemade kombucha:

Kombucha in the fridge

NOTE: You would only place kombucha in a sealed container once it has reached the fermentation level that you like and you put it into the refrigerator to stop fermenting. Never put still-growing kombucha in a sealed container — it will explode!

Another favorite glass jar reuse is to store snacks in my pantry:

Pantry snacks jar collection

The only danger with this use is that my kids can reach this shelf and occasionally we have smashed glass from little hands wanting peanuts, raisins, or dried papaya.

Finally, I’m almost always reusing a glass jar to make orange vinegar — soaking orange or lemon peels in vinegar to create a less intrusive-smelling vinegar for cleaning.

Orange vinegar jars

You can find my Pin for orange vinegar here.

 What are your favorite reuses? Glass jars or otherwise?

Earth Day Lesson: Recycling in Richardson

For the second part of my Earth Day series this year, I’m going to share some fun we had this weekend locally at the Richardson city Trash Bash. It’s an annual event here in our town (which is adjacent/connected to Dallas) where citizens can learn about the environmental services that the city offers, learn about local businesses and organizations that provide additional services, and have an opportunity to recycle large items that might not fall within our regular curbside recycling pickup, such as e-Waste.

Most of the exhibitors were set up in the main hallway of the city hall/civic center.

Richardson Trash BashWe walked from booth to booth learning about water conservation, mosquito prevention, brushing our teeth, keeping our homes safe (Richardson Police Department), how to garden using fish poop (yep!), and other fun things.

Outside near the fountain, there were other exhibits and a bounce house! My son got to tour the inside of the Fire Department’s ambulance while my daughter and I stood next to huge bales of materials ready for recycling at the Richardson Waste station.

Richardson Recycles
Plastic to be recycled
Metal cans to be recycledJust as we were about to leave, we realized that free pizza was being served in the Great Room, where the door prize raffles were also being read! We didn’t win anything, but the kids enjoyed the pizza and we got to meet mayoral candidate Amir Omar. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture.

LS eating pizza
LS can eat pizza despite being dairy intolerant, if we remove the cheese first

On our way out the door, we stopped by the kids’ activity room which turned out to be a lot of fun! So much fun that I wish I had taken more pictures. They have an awesome landscape display that shows how run-off water is affected by various pollutants. I would just love to own one of those! All I got a picture of was this Pinterest-worthy upcycle project using empty water bottles and macaroni with toys hidden inside. I just might try and recreate this one!

LL upcycled water bottle macaroni craft

All in all, we had a fun day and the event (and pizza!) was free. We also got to take home a free tomato plant, which I’ve put in our garden and am sincerely hoping not to kill. We learned more about recycling and conserving, just in time for Earth Day. Thanks, Richardson, for caring about our environment!

 

 

Earth Day Lesson: Upcycling

upcycling from ThredUP

It’s April, and that means Earth Day! I am attempting to feature educational content on green living throughout this month, perhaps simple things that we kind of take for granted when it comes to the small steps that help us live more consciously in respect for the things we have been given.

Obviously, one thing we all need to do is reduce our waste. Did you know that according to Environmentalistseveryday.org, if we put all of the solid waste collected in the U.S. in a line of average garbage trucks, that line of trucks could cross the country, extending from NY to LA, more than 100 times?  I have recently been working with a company who has some great ideas on their Pinterest page devoted exclusively to “upcycling”, which is a buzzword for reusing items that would otherwise be thrown out.  Here are some favorite pins from that board:

Blue Jean Planters – Perfect way to extend the life of all those old jeans you have laying around!

Rain Boot Flower Pots – This just makes me happy!

Tank Top Tote – Easy way to turn your old tank in to a bag!

Easter Egg Slithering Snake – Don’t throw out those old Easter eggs!  Turn them in to a toy.

Placemat Basket – Don’t waste your money on buying storage baskets when you can easily make one from an old placemat.

Ketchup Bottle Pancake Mix Dispenser – Makes the perfect pancake!

Today’s word of the day is “upcycle”.

I know you’re probably on Pinterest too — what are your favorite ideas for upcycling? Have you tried any of them?