Seeing colorful, fresh and just plain beautiful fruits and veggies, like those in this ad for butter, tempts us to run to the market and stock up for our healthy eating endeavors - but what do you do when that produce nears its expiration date?
We recently came across a great resource - www.LoveFoodHateWaste.com - and were hooked with the creative pictures, the excellent recipes for using leftovers and overall guidance on getting the most out of the food you buy, so it doesn't go to waste. As mentioned on the site, in the United Kingdom, 7.2 million tonnes of food are wasted every year.
From the Love Food Hate Waste website:
"Every year in the UK we throw away around £12 billion worth of food which could have been eaten. Wasted food is a waste of money and a major contributor to climate change. If we all stopped wasting food that could have been eaten, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 1 in 5 cars off UK roads. The Love Food Hate Waste programme from WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has lots of tasty leftover recipes, a portion calculator, top tips and date label advice to help us make the most of the food we buy."
In the United States, food waste has been a topic of focus for decades - check out this ad from World War II:
A 1994 U.S. study, conducted by Timothy Jones at the University of Arizona's Bureau of Applied Research Anthropology, found that about 14% of food purchased is wasted. Jones estimated that an average four-person family essentially throws away $590 of meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products annually. That calculates to about $43 billion (yes - with a "B") wasted every year. He contends that better utilization of our food could take pressure off our pocketbooks as well as decrease landfill use, soil depletion, and applications of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
So what do we do about this? Jones has some suggestions:
- Use menus to build your grocery shopping list and stick to it.
- Know the foods that are approaching the end of their life and use them while they're still good.
- Instead of throwing away whole fruits/vegetables, cut away the blemishes and use the parts that are still good.
- Know what foods can be refrigerated and/or frozen to increase their life.
Thinking about how foods are labeled, we thought it would be helpful to review what all those terms like "best by" and "use by" mean. From the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, here's what you need to know:
- A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
- A "Best if Used By (or Before)" date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
- A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
Also of significant importance is how you interact with the food. If not stored at the proper temperature, or if it comes in contact with other foods (raw meat, for example), foodborne illness becomes an issue. Be sure to follow all handling, preparation and storage instructions on the package to ensure safety. In the meantime, for foods that don't necessarily come with directions - like fresh produce - check out the great tips on freezing foods, meal planning, proper portioning, or try out a tasty recipe like the roasted vegetable couscous (see the full recipe below).
A great option for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike - this can be served as the main dish or as a side item for fish or chicken. What’s more, any leftovers are delicious served cold as a salad for lunch the next day. By British Cheese Board, from LoveFoodHateWaste.com
- 1 large red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
- 1 large yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
- 1 large zucchini, thickly sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
- 8 small tomatoes, halved
- 175g (6oz) mushrooms, halved if large
- 25g (1oz) pine nuts
- 300g (10oz) couscous
- 450ml (3/4 pint) hot reduced salt vegetable stock finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 175g (6oz) Red or White Cheshire cheese, cut in to cubes
- basil leaves, to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6.
- Put the red and yellow peppers into a roasting dish with the zucchini. Sprinkle with the olive oil, then add the cumin seeds, if using. Season with black pepper and toss together to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn over the vegetables and add the tomatoes, mushrooms and pine nuts. Roast for a further 10 minutes.
- Whilst the vegetables are cooking, put the couscous into a large heatproof bowl and add the stock and lemon zest. Leave to swell for about 10 minutes, then fluff up with a fork.
- When the vegetables are ready, tip in the couscous and add the chunks of Cheshire cheese. Stir gently to combine, then share out between four warm plates. Scatter with basil leaves and serve at once.
*Best Food Facts is not affiliated with LoveFoodHateWaste.com or WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme). We just think these are great resources to help us eliminate waste by focusing on getting the most out of our food.