#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 green smoothie recipe (sort of)

I posted this photo yesterday of a green smoothie I created that contained 5 fruits and veggies (peaches, blueberries, kale, avocado, and bananas) plus probiotics, because I used my homemade kombucha in it:

I’ve been doing green smoothies a lot recently to increase my antioxidant intake during cold and flu season. If I start to feel a little worn out, I try a green smoothie and quick nap during the kids’ nap rather than caffeine.

I’d like to post a single green smoothie recipe but honestly, my recipe changes every time based on what I have in my refrigerator and freezer. What I’ll do instead is post a list of things that are in almost every smoothie and the ingredients that vary, to give a kind of formula for green smoothies that can be altered to fit your needs.

Every smoothie:

2 cups dark, leafy greens – Usually kale, but sometimes swiss chard, spinach, or even arugula.
Yogurt – Now that my son is dairy-free, I use cultured coconut milk yogurt. Leave out the yogurt if you are using kombucha for the liquid, those don’t play well together!
1/2 cup frozen bananas – I buy “day old” bananas in a bag at the grocery store, slice them up, and keep them in the freezer so I can just grab a few. Because they are frozen, they work well in lieu of ice cubes, which helps the smoothie be creamier rather than watery. I wouldn’t go much above 3/4 cup of bananas because using too many can make the smoothie too thick.
1/2 – 1 cup Frozen organic berries – Berries have great antioxidants, but since they aren’t available year-round, I stock up during the summer months and freeze them. Blueberries freeze the best and are most cost effective for our area.
1 cup+ unsweetened fruit juice – Since I don’t use ice cubes, I have to add a liquid. Most of the time, I use apple juice because it is the most cost effective. As I’ve mentioned, I have used kombucha in lieu of juice but you definitely have to add honey and/or peanut butter to balance out the tart-ness of kombucha.
Food grade lemon essential oil – The original recipe I started using for my green smoothies used lemon juice, but sometimes I don’t have lemon juice. I always have lemon essential oil, and it’s a lot more concentrated. I usually use 2-3 drops. Again, have to leave this out if you use kombucha because that would make the smoothie way too acidic/tart.

Optional/varying ingredients:

1 scoop flax powder – for protein
honey – when I’m using a more tart green, like arugula, or when I use kombucha instead of juice, it needs sweetening
peanut butter – if I end up with too many watery or tart ingredients, I’ll need peanut butter to balance out the acidity
fresh fruit – most of the time I eat fresh fruit plain!
veggies – I particularly like to add celery to a kale and apple smoothie
different juices – I’ve used carrot juice, kombucha, cranberry juice, orange juice…
raw ginger – or other herbs/spices, but this is the main one that I use to settle my stomach
soaked cashews – I blame Stephanie for the fact that I frequently have this raw vegan staple on hand!

Here’s an example of a typical smoothie without kombucha:

1/2 cup bananas
1/2 cup yogurt (or cultured coconut milk)
2 cups kale
1 scoop flax powder
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup apple juice
3 drops lemon essential oil
1 scoop flax powder
2 tbsp honey

I have a pretty good Black & Decker blender, so I just throw everything in and blend it all at once. I usually have to blend for around 2 minutes total.

Kids love to participate in making smoothies! I unplug the blender and let my toddlers throw the ingredients into the blender container. Then we sit down with our cups and drink the smoothies. If I have leftover smoothie, I pour it into silicon popsicle molds (affiliate link) for special “treats” later.

What are your favorite green smoothie ingredients? Anything I’m missing?