Tag Archives: food waste

6 Ways to Use Leftover Turkey

I was reading an article the other day that said about one third of the turkey meat bought for Thanksgiving is thrown out after. This doesn’t include the bones. That sounds bad, but not as bad as it could as U.S. food waste is at 40% overall. Even so, it’s a good target to practice at wasting less food.

It’s also important to understand that in the regular food supply, not all of that waste happens in the home. That number comes from the entire food stream, such as losses in transporting food to the store. That’s a bit different from the food waste that comes from throwing out leftover turkey.

1. Freeze the Excess

I don’t let my family get too tired of turkey. I freeze the extra meat first. That means I have quick supplies on those nights that I don’t particularly feel like cooking. This point usually comes after a few days. I just haul out the knife and start carving up whatever is still on the bird.

2. Send Leftovers Home With Guests

If you had company over, offer some of the leftover turkey for the ones who live close enough to take home. You can’t guarantee that they’ll eat it, but some will be quite glad to have it.

3. Toss It In the Skillet

You don’t have to serve plain turkey as leftovers. I find it goes very well with turmeric and cauliflower. Simmer the ingredients together on the stove, possibly with some other vegetables, and it’s pretty good. There are lots of leftover turkey recipes online.

4. Make Turkey Sandwiches

Kind of a classic here, I think. Bread, turkey, and whatever other toppings you enjoy can make an excellent sandwich.

5. Add to Salads

A bit of turkey goes well into a salad. Mix up your favorites, and it’s good for at home or on the go.

6. Turkey Soup

Even though the waste statistic doesn’t include the bones, I prefer to use them up. It’s very easy to make turkey soup. Get a large pot, put the bones in, add a lot of water and start simmering. I usually start mine in the morning, and take the bones out in the midafternoon, by which point the remaining meat comes off very easily.

I even have a bag of frozen vegetables to add in at the start for flavor, ones that would have otherwise gone bad before I got to them in the fridge. Chopping and freezing them means I have great vegetables for homemade soup of whichever variety. Just one more way to cut waste.

The turkey soup needs to be spiced up however you like, and have more things added, depending on your tastes. I find barley works well, as do potatoes or rice. Lots and lots of vegetables, usually beyond my “frozen just in time” supply.

21 Ways to Cut Back on Food Waste

We all waste some food – there’s only so much to be done for it. But that doesn’t mean you should assume all your food waste is necessary. Here are some ways you can cut down on the food you and your family wastes.

No matter which step you use, make sure you use safe food handling procedures and that leftovers haven’t been sitting around too long before you use them. Doesn’t do you any good to get sick off trying to cut back on waste.

1. Eat leftovers for lunch.

Rather than put all your leftovers from dinner into a single container, separate them out into lunch portions. These can be reheated and eaten the next day or put into the freezer for later use. If you use microwavable containers, they’re easy food on the go for people who have access to a microwave at lunchtime (hear that, dear husband?).

2. Use leftovers in other meals.

Some leftovers do well mixed into later meals. Meats can be added to stir fries, for example, or you can mix up last night’s vegetables with new ones cooked for tonight’s dinner.

3. Save vegetable scraps for broth.

I keep a bag of vegetable scraps in my freezer. Once there’s enough, they can be tossed into some water and made into vegetable broth, and from there into some wonderful soups. You can use the trimmings from many kinds of vegetables, such as carrots, onions, zucchini, bell peppers, celery and so forth. If the vegetable works well cooked, it may go well in your broth.

This also works well if you realize you aren’t going to finish a vegetable before it spoils. Freeze them while they’re still good.

4. Frozen vegetables.

You don’t necessarily have to save vegetables for broth – you can blanch them and freeze them for later use, rather like the frozen vegetables you can buy at the grocery store.

5. Serve the broccoli stalk, not just florets.

Broccoli stalks are actually my oldest daughter’s favorite part. She’s be furious if I tossed those. We cook them just the same as the florets.

6. Dry or can excess tomatoes.

Did you buy too many tomatoes or did your tomato plants go wild this year? Don’t stress out about how to use them all fresh – you can dry or can them for long term storage.

There are many ways you can can your tomatoes. You can leave them whole, slice them or make them into sauce. Think about how you’d like to use them, and make sure you use safe canning procedures as you work.

Tomatoes can also be dried. Sun dried tomatoes are a favorite of mine, but you can also use a dehydrator if you’d like things to go a little faster. Pay attention to food safety and know how long the method you use preserves your food.

7. Make bread.

Some vegetables make very good breads. Zucchini bread and pumpkin bread are classics, but you can find recipes for breads using other vegetables.

8. Dried fruit.

I love my dehydrator. I don’t use it as much as I should, but we’ve made some wonderful dried fruits with it. Kids love dehydrated fruits as a snack.

You can also look up recipes to puree fruit and make it into fruit leather that is far superior to the stuff they sell in stores.

9. Frozen fruit.

Fruit can also be chopped up and frozen for later use. Frozen fruit tastes great in the summer, and it’s also a quick addition to fruit smoothies.

10. Fruit bread.

Fruits go well into bread. I freeze bananas and defrost them when I want to make banana bread, but there are other bread possibilities out there.

11. Fruit salad.

There’s something about fruit salad that gets kids interested. You don’t have to add whipped cream for a fruit salad to interest them either.

12. Save those bones.

If you buy meat with bones, save the bones for soups. Homemade soups are really wonderful when the weather turns cold. I make a lovely chicken soup from scratch that is my oldest daughter’s favorite school lunch.

13. Make sandwiches.

Leftover meats can make great sandwiches. Mix them up with other ingredients and go at it.

14. Make burritos, tacos, fajitas, etc.

A bit of extra meat can be chopped up to make great fixings for burritos, tacos and so forth. Simmer it in an appropriate sauce to get the right flavor.

15. Pizza!

Surely your kids love pizza. Use leftover meats as one of the toppings.

16. Freeze milk.

Going on vacation but there’s a lot of milk in the fridge. You can give it to a neighbor or put it in your freezer. Make sure there’s room for the milk to expand a little as it freezes, but otherwise it should be just fine when you get back. I also freeze milk in cubes so that my kids can drink milk at school rather than juice.

You can also freeze cheese but be warned that it usually crumbles more easily afterward. It should taste fine, just be a little more crumbly, which can make it a bit more difficult to slice.

17. Stir cheese into dinner.

That little bit of cheese you have may go great with a variety of recipes. Think about what flavors your cheese will go with, whether it’s an addition to the main course or a topping for some vegetables.

18. Make bread crumbs or croutons.

Bread that’s getting a little stale can be made into bread crumbs or croutons. Make sure it isn’t going bad, just a little stale. Dry the bread at low heat in the oven. An easy way to do this is to toss it in a cooling oven after making dinner. You can easily turn it into crumbs with your blender once it has dried.

Bread crumbs go great in meat loaf and other recipes.

Croutons are made by chopping the bread into cubes, then tossing it with some olive oil and seasonings, then drying them in the oven.

19. Add to soup.

Crumble the bread into soup to thicken it.

20. Freeze excess bread, pancakes, etc.

Got more bread, pancakes or whatever than you can eat? Freeze the extra. It will still be good to use later. I especially do this when I make waffles. I’d rather make a bunch occasionally and have easily reheated extras than to make a small bunch.

21. Compost

If the food is safe for your compost pile and won’t attract pests, compost anything you can’t use. Composting meat, dairy and cooked foods is usually not recommended because while they will break down, they also attract rodents and tend to smell bad as they compost. Worms also may not touch the meat, so it will break down much more slowly. Some recommend running meat and dairy through the blender first if you want to compost them.

Thinking About Food Waste – Blog Action Day 2011

#BAD11 – I enjoy participating in Blog Action Day each year. The topics are very interesting, and can be quite important. This year’s topic, food, lends itself to so many possibilities, but I decided to write about food waste in particular. With 3 kids, food waste happens, you can’t stop it entirely. You can try to control it.

Food waste is a huge part of the municipal solid waste generated every year. According to the EPA, it was 14.1% before recycling, and only a small percentage of food waste was recovered through recycling. You can read a detailed report on this at http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2009-fs.pdf. This doesn’t count composting at home; it’s just about what goes into the waste stream.

Some food waste is just in the nature of preparing food. The term includes the scraps that come about from preparing food. If you have a compost bin, the waste from preparing fruits and vegetables can at least be kept out of the waste stream and benefit your garden. Those bits aren’t as problematic as other kinds of food waste.

Cutting Down on Food Waste at Home

Home is the place where you have the most control over food waste. You have the ability to buy only what you need and to make sure leftovers are eaten in a timely manner.

Buying only what you need is often difficult, short of going to the store daily, which has its own serious problems. Most of us are simply not perfect at keeping track of the fresh foods in the fridge, and it often gets worse when those fresh foods become a part of leftovers. Even so, we need to try.

Some foods last better than others, of course. Just compare the shelf life of an apple to a banana. When you have fresh foods, think about preparing or serving the foods that spoil quickly first, saving the more durable fresh foods for later in the week.

To control leftovers, start with your cooking habits. How much will you and your family really eat at a sitting? How can you cook enough to satisfy everyone without having leftovers, or at least have fewer leftovers?

Next, figure out how to get people eating leftovers when you have them. If you have the freezer space, you can make them into frozen lunches to go to work or for those days you don’t want to spend much time on lunch. You can also make it a goal to eat those leftovers before freezing them becomes necessary.

Don’t forget your smaller amounts of leftovers. Sometimes you may need to combine two days of leftovers to get a good new meal out of them.

Kids can be some of the biggest offenders on food waste, and the hardest to control. I can’t tell you how often I have to remind mine to finish a half eaten apple or try to figure out a way to get them to eat a dinner they didn’t enjoy that much. I have a few standby additions my kids reach for when they don’t enjoy a meal, which really help limit the complaints and uneaten meals. The right cheese solves many problems with children. So does ketchup.

You should talk to your kids about why it’s important to not waste food. The recent Sesame Street special on food insecurity really hit home with my oldest, who had been quite reluctant to watch something as babyish as Sesame Street; then she had to watch it again the next night because it touched her so much. When I checked, they had the entire Growing Hope Against Hunger episode on that page.

Benefits of Wasting Less Food

The first benefit of wasting less food is obvious. You spend less money on food. That’s pretty simple. A 2006 study found that people throw away an average of 14% of the food they buy. Cut that number down, and you can save a nice little chunk off your monthly grocery bills, or about $600 a year for a family of 4.

Food waste is also an environmental issue. When food waste goes into a landfill, it decomposes and produces methane. Composting it, on the whole, is probably the better answer when you can’t avoid wasting food and have a way to compost it. Just make sure you aren’t doing anything that will attract rodents or other pests.

Is There Anything Else You Can Do?

While there’s only a little you can do directly about it, I suggest you take a look at the EPA’s food recovery hierarchy for more ideas on how to limit food waste. Most of us don’t have enough excess food that can be safely donated to food banks and such, but it’s good to know what kinds of things you should be encouraging in your community.

Would a Kitchen Compost Pail Help Your Composting Efforts?

For some people, composting is something that just comes naturally. For others, it’s quite a challenge. Somehow it just doesn’t click into their kitchen routine.

How can you make it easier?

A simple way to make composting something you don’t have to go out of your way for is to keep a composting pail in your kitchen. It’s just a container where the food scraps go until you can take them all out to the compost pile.

You can keep this very simple if you like. My mother uses old coffee containers as compost pails. She keeps three or so under the sink. They seal tightly enough that smell is not a problem so long as the lid remains shut. They work great and she didn’t have to buy anything.

Other people may prefer to buy a compost pail. There can be advantages to buying something made for the job. Many come with carbon filters to help ensure that the smell is kept under control, for example. They can also look better so that you don’t have to keep them out of sight if you will do better having them in sight.

Some pails are designed to do the entire job of composting. This is handy if you don’t have the space outside for a compost pile. They use an anaerobic fermentation to break down the compost without a major stink. The product that helps with this process is called Bokashi.

In either case, you’re going to have to make some effort. Basic kitchen composters need their contents added to your main compost pile regularly. Anerobic containers need to be closed up for about two weeks after being filled before you can move the compost out, and so you may need more than one container.

One fear many people have about composting indoors is that flies or other insects will be attracted. This should not be a problem with a properly cared for compost pail. Keep the lid sealed tight when you aren’t putting scraps into it. Wash it inside and out periodically. With the proper care you aren’t likely to develop any problems.

Composting is a simple way to improve your garden and decrease the waste you throw in the trash. It’s one thing you can do for the environment that takes a fairly basic change in your routine and a low cost to get started. You’re going to have to do something with those veggie scraps anyhow, even if it’s just throwing them in the trash. Makes more sense to throw them into a compost pail.

How Much Food Are You Wasting?

Most of us waste food. That’s the USDA said in 1995 that 27% of the food supply in the United States was wasted. That’s 96 billion pounds of wasted food. This isn’t something they check very often, so I can’t find more recent data than that.

But it’s pretty horrible.

A lot of it is restaurant waste, of course. If you’ve ever worked in one or even just paid attention to what people leave on their plates, you know. Excessive portions are a big problem.

You can help with that, of course, by taking your leftovers home. If you want to be really green about it, take it home in a reusable container you’ve brought from home.

But food waste at home is a big problem too. People buy more than their families can eat. They cook too much then don’t eat the leftovers.

It’s quite a waste of money as well as food.

So what do you do about it?

The first thing you can do is look at your shopping habits. Are you buying more than your family will eat before it spoils? Do you plan your shopping around a menu to control what you buy?

You also need to pay attention to your leftovers. I try to remember leftovers when I prepare my lunch. One of my sisters makes frozen meals out of them to take to work. Other people make casseroles or other recipes by combining leftovers. Figure out what works for you.

Of course, when food does spoil, think about how you’re disposing of it. If you can compost it for your garden, do so. It’s not as good as eating the food you bought for that purpose, but it’s better than throwing it in the trash.