Tips from PFM Staff: Reducing Food Waste
While we can’t prevent food waste completely, here at Portland Farmers Market we are always looking for creative ways to reduce our environmental impact through minimizing the amount of food we throw away.
According to StopFoodWasteDay.com, one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. The sheer amount of resources required to produce the food we eat, in addition to the price we pay for food that goes uneaten, is alone enough reason to look more critically at the habits we have around using food in our homes.
Stop Food Waste Day is Wednesday, April 26th. To celebrate, we are excited to share with you tips from some of our staff. The following are ways Lexi, Steph, Sarah, and Ada reduce food waste daily! What would you add to this list?
Store Food Effectively
- Sarah: I like to keep most of my pantry staples (grains, cereals, beans, seeds/nuts etc.) in glass containers so I can make a quick inventory check before I shop so I don’t over buy (see above picture).
- Steph: Learn how to properly store produce to prolong its freshness. Check out this printable infographic!
- Lexi: Rotate your food in the fridge so you can see what is old and what is new. I am constantly rearranging things, especially when I come home with new produce from the market. I pull everything out of my crisper and area of the fridge so I can see what is buried and needs to be used soon. Same thing with going through my freezer!
Seek Out New Recipes and Plan Meals
- Lexi: Find your favorite recipe hub – I have been really getting into cookbooks lately to explore new cuisines and have fun cooking. But, when I am needing to use certain ingredients I turn to Pinterest, New York Times Cooking, and Cook With What You Have to search for recipes tailored to using whatever is on the verge of decay in my fridge or pantry!
- Steph: Planning your meals weekly is a great way to reduce food waste. Make a list of what you need to buy before you go to market and stick with it the list at market. It’s easy to get caught up in all the beautiful seasonal produce available and wanting to buy it all. Unless you have a plan for using four bunches of collard raab, resist purchasing it. Or maybe just get one bunch.
Cook with What You Have
- Steph: Coordinate your meals so you are using ingredients for multiple meals. For example, plan to eat broccoli as a side one night then in a stir fry or an omelet the next.
- Lexi: GET CREATIVE! I love the challenge of having to use specific ingredients. Recipes are frameworks for exploration and so many substitutions can be made, have some go-to recipes that allow for many iterations to use up things on the edge.
- Sarah: I’m a huge proponent of the “kitchen sink” method. Everything tastes good when stir fried with rice. A salad can be made up of anything. A frittata is an egg house that welcomes all.
- Lexi: Base your recipe decisions on what will be going bad first – seems like a simple tip, but important to have it front of mind when buying additional ingredients or deciding what to make for the week.
Share with Your Community
- Ada: Join your local Buy Nothing Group to reach immediate neighbors and reduce your food waste! Neighborhood Buy Nothing communities (on Facebook or on their app) are great ways to share excess food before it goes bad. If you like to make larger meals and don’t like leftovers, or made a recipe you didn’t enjoy, offer it to your neighbors. In my Buy Nothing Group, I’ve seen folks offer up a bunch of bananas and oatmilk they weren’t able to consume before they went bad, a creamy potato soup and frozen membrillo (quince paste), to name a few examples.
- Lexi: USE YOUR NEIGHBORS – we are so disconnected nowadays with the people that live right next door. On my neighborhood Buy Nothing Group we are constantly sharing all sorts of things, including food. Don’t need that whole bunch or parsley? Have ½ of a cake you can’t fathom looking at anymore? Did you buy something new and turns out you’re not a fan? Don’t toss it out!! You are sure to find someone who will indulge or could use what you don’t want anymore.
Use Stems and Jazz up Leftovers!
- Sarah: Eat the stems! For herbs and hearty greens, the stem should also be consumed. Kale stems finely chopped and sauteed with your onion and garlic is fantastic. Same goes for chard stems, broccoli stems, even the oft thrown out zucchini nub. If a tough and fibrous texture is preventing you from eating it, chop it smaller and cook it down a little. Parsley and cilantro stems hold the most flavor, and should be used anywhere you’re eating the leaves.
- Lexi: Make leftovers a tool in your tool kit. I know not everyone is a leftover queen, but it is sooo useful to have prepared food ready to go, and by making big batches of food, you can use up many ingredients that are on the fence. If you don’t think you will finish it all, think about how you can repurpose that meal into something else and add a new flare to it!
Freeze or Dehydrate Leftovers and Food Scraps
- Ada: Dehydrate greens or fruit before they go bad – this is a great way to reduce your waste, save money, and have ’emergency food’ for your pantry. Dehydrated greens are delicious in ramen, curry, smoothies, or in scrambled eggs (the list goes on…). Dried fruit is a yummy snack for hikes, or on a busy day when there’s no fresh fruit to be seen.
- Steph: Freeze leftovers. If you don’t think you will be able to eat leftovers within three days, store them in the freezer and label them. Soup, sauteed greens and frittatas do well frozen. Store them clear, labeled containers with a date. Keep your freezer organized so food doesn’t get lost and then thrown out due to freezer burn. Here’s an article about Tools and Tips for Freezing Food So Nothing Goes to Waste
- Ada: Freeze excess, unwanted fruit. It can be used in smoothies, mixed up with other fruit for jam, dehydrated at a later date, added to morning oatmeal, or heated up and drizzled over pancakes! Make sure to cut it up into smaller chunks and take out any unwanted parts (pits, stems, seeds, peels, etc) before freezing so that it is easier to utilize later (see above image).
Decide for Yourself If Food Has Gone Bad
- Lexi: Be okay with imperfection – Cut/scoop/scrape off the mold and salvage what is still good. I’m known in my household for having a gut of steel and reaaaaaallly stretch what is good because I refuse to toss food out. Use all your senses before deciding to ditch things; taste, smell, feel- usually a quick rinse and frying it up will be just fine…for veggies at least!
- Lexi: Expiration dates are a hoax. They mean nothing besides arbitrary numbers created by the USDA and FDA to cover their back on safety. It’s not a hard stop – again, use your senses!
Turn Your Food Waste into Gold (Compost)!
- Lexi: Explore home composting! We are not perfect. Even as a food waste aficionado, I come across things I’ve forgotten in the fridge or can’t salvage. In the past few years, I’ve gotten into home composting since living in a house and having my own garden. I have stackable squares that create a container where I can move them like blocks to stir my compost (see below picture). We have yard debris and our compostables can go in there- but it is so much more rewarding to create your own nutrient dense soil that will turn around to produce more food in the future!
Let us know – what would you add to the list? Email us your tips at Contact@PortlandFarmersMarket.org or stop by the information booth at the market!