According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (fao.org), roughly ⅓ of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.
Part of this problem is that Americans struggle to understand when their food has gone bad, or whether it’s still safe to eat. Expiry dates are also not always accurate, and many of us throw away food that is perfectly fine to eat, and wasting perfectly good food. Apps like the FSDA Foodkeeper help to inform us about how to tell when food is still safe, but there are still many of us that would rather throw food away rather than eat something that is not at its optimum look or taste. Even for those of us most against food waste, there are times where you have to make a decision about food once it’s past its best.
If you often find yourself disappointed to find food at home that is past it’s prime, but feel it deserves to be made good use out of, these suggested uses below could help to give your otherwise wasted food a second life.
For everyone that prefers a green banana over a brown one, you’d probably rather avoid a spotty or mostly dark banana. In that period between fruit going soft and developing mould, instead of throwing them away or putting them on the compost heap you can make other dishes out of them. Banana bread is a fantastic use of brown bananas, and berries, apples etc can be put into a pie or crumble.
They’re all over Instagram and are renowned for being under-ripe one minute and bad the next. The good news is that there are some amazing ways for over-ripe avocados to get a second chance at life. They can be turned into mousses, chocolate cakes, smoothies, or even beauty treatments like face masks or body moisturizers. You can even use the stones in the middle to make tea and even use the skin as a pink dye!
When your vegetables have lost a bit of their crunch you’re probably not so inclined to eat them raw in a salad. What you can do is put them in a healthy smoothie, mix them into a casserole or give them back their bite by making fritters. If you’ve got a guinea pig or rabbit (or know someone that does), why not give it to them – the animals won’t mind if they’re a little soft!
You could also make your own pizzas and use any surplus veg as toppings and flavour them however you like.
Your wine has been opened for quite some time and isn’t nice to drink anymore, you can still use the wine in cooking (try a spaghetti bolognaise or a chilli con carne) and make sure that lovely flavour isn’t poured down the sink. You can also try making a wine vinegar which will last much longer.
Dry, stale bread can be easily turned into breadcrumbs or croutons. The breadcrumbs can then be used in a variety of recipes, like giving a crispy coating to chicken or fish, and for croutons, just add some herbs and garlic to bring some crunch to your soups.
Like bread, tortillas lose their flexibility and softness before they go bad. Tortillas are very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways that embrace their stiffness. Try making pizzas with tortillas as the base or turn them into chips by cutting into triangles and putting in the oven with some oil.
When milk has gone sour, it can still be used in baking. Use it instead of buttermilk for making pancakes or baking biscuits or put it into creamy dishes like dauphinoise potatoes or mac and cheese. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even make cottage cheese with it! Once it’s separated and lumpy, definitely throw it away!
If your cilantro or mint starts going a little yellow, don’t worry. Herbs can stay in the freezer for a long time and when needed can be brought out and used when needed. Being in the freezer also makes them break easily so there’s often no need for chopping – just crush the bag and sprinkle onto your dishes. If you see your fresh chilis, garlic or ginger getting past their best, chop them up and put in the freezer to be used later!
Stop food going bad in the first place
None of us intend for our food to go bad as we browse the aisles in store, but there are some easy tips to make sure you’ll waste less food and get round to eating food when it’s at its best.
Put meat straight in the freezer after buying it – If you buy your meat in bulk, or just like to be cautious, you can put your meat straight in the freezer on the way back from the store. Just remember to give enough time for thorough defrosting before cooking. You might even want to separate the meat into portions before freezing – trying to split a huge piece of meat while it’s frozen is hard work and it can be painful handling it while it’s frozen solid..
Buy frozen pre-chopped ingredients – If you use a lot of garlic, chili, ginger, spinach etc, it might be more useful for you to buy them frozen and pre-chopped so you’re not having to work around their expiry dates.
Buy fruit in different stages of ripeness – If all the fruit we buy is ready to eat on the day of purchase, we’re unlikely to get round to eating it all before it goes over-ripe. Similarly, if all the fruit we buy is under-ripe, we’ll not be able to eat it straight away and might forget we’ve bought it. Buying fruit in varying stages of ripeness should nicely stagger the fruit more equally until the next trip to the store. Putting fruit and veg in an easy-to-spot part of the fridge will also be a reminder for you to use it and not forget it’s there.
About the author: Laura Hall is a London-based writer who works for Shiply. In her spare time she enjoys cooking spicy vegetarian food, running and playing rounders.