It’s no secret that the way most of us eat is incredibly wasteful, but many people aren’t aware of the true extent of that waste. More than a third of all food produced globally is wasted, and consumers in high-income countries – Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia, to name a few – throw away more than 220 million tons of food every year. Then there’s the food that doesn’t even make it to our plates. Nearly a third of the farmland in the world produces food that is never consumed.
Nose to Tail and Root to Fruit: Food Accessibility
The wasteless food movement certainly isn’t new, but it’s clear why it’s made a return to popularity over the last decade. And while many chefs are embracing a more sustainable way of cooking, there’s no reason it can’t also be accessible to those who simply cook for themselves and their families at home.
Nose to Tail: Using the Whole Animal
We’ve become so used to seeing perfectly portioned meat packaged neatly at the grocery store that many consumers are disconnected from where that meat comes from. ‘Less desirable’ or leftover parts of the animal can, in fact, be some of the tastiest if cooked correctly – though it requires putting the preoccupation with perfection and those preconceived notions about them aside.
There are a few ways to start using more of the animal that gave its life for you. The first, and perhaps easiest, is by cooking the whole animal wherever possible. It’s typical for families to buy a package of chicken breasts for dinner, but when you consider that every chicken only has two breasts, that package of six breasts came from three chickens. Instead, why not roast a whole chicken? Not only will you be able to use meat from the entire bird – one, not three! – but you’ll be left with a carcass, which can also be used.
And those bones are valuable. Cooked and uncooked, they are excellent for making stock from scratch. Stock freezes well (yogurt containers work well for storing them) and can be later used as a soup base, for homemade gravy, or simply to drink by itself for the health benefits.
If you buy your meat from a butcher, don’t be afraid to ask them about the leftover parts – things like the cheeks, kidneys, liver, and heart. Most sell those parts, but don’t necessarily put them on display for you to see. Since they’re used to working with them, butchers can also give you great recommendations for delicious ways to use them in your home cooking.
If you live near a farm that sells humanely raised meat, consider buying an entire carcass. You’ll need a freezer to store it, but it’s often cheaper than buying specific cuts separately and the farmer will butcher and portion it for you. You’ll be able to have some fun trying out those cuts you aren’t used to, and you’ll feel good showing respect for where that food came from.
Root to Fruit: Reducing Produce Waste
This wasteless food movement applies to produce, too. The amount of wasted produce around the world is astounding, and much of it is because the items don’t look or feel the way we want them to – that is, ‘perfect.’
Many supermarkets offer bruised, split, and overly ripe fruits and vegetables at a discount, and this rack is a great place to check before you start shopping. In many cases, these ‘undesirable’ items are bursting with flavor. Consider what you can do with them. Fresh tomato sauce or tomato soup? Jam or fruit preserves? Pickled vegetables? You can also freeze these flavorful fruits and veggies to use later in smoothies.
In many cases, reducing produce waste simply requires a bit of creativity. Broccoli and cauliflower cores can be peeled and roasted, stir fried, or thrown into a salad. Mushroom stems can be finely chopped and sautéed with herbs and onions. Carrot top greens can be pureed and transformed into a pesto of sorts. Potato skins are delicious fried in avocado or coconut oil, seasoned with salt, and served as a side or a garnish on any potato dish. Even chickpea liquid – also known as aquafaba – can be used, as it whips up perfectly to use as a vegan substitute for egg whites in both sweet and savory recipes.
It’s a long journey for food to move from the farm to our forks. Committing to using as much of our food as possible not only reduces waste, but respects its origins and the time and effort it took to get to us.