For your next date night, how does this sound? A six-course meal at a place with lots of atmosphere. But would you mind if the meal consisted of stale bread, bruised apples, and expired food? Or how about if it’s served to you in a (cleaned-out) dumpster? Sounds crazy, right?
I was in New York recently as part of an expert panel on food trends and was lucky enough to meet Josh Treuhaft, someone who, like me, cares deeply about our environment and preserving our natural resources. Josh founded the Salvage Supper Club to educate others on how much food goes to waste simply because it looks a little strange or is a few days past its expiration date.
To emphasize the point about the value of the food we throw away, Josh and his team have hosted gourmet dinners in repurposed dumpsters. The majority of the food used has been donated by farmers market vendors, food co-ops, local cooking schools and restaurants. This is food that would’ve otherwise ended up in the trash or compost, as it was a few days past its due date or had an odd shape or color (but still is healthy and edible!).
Josh’s Salvage Supperclub collaborator and Holistic Chef, Celia Lam shared some recipes and very doable steps that we can all incorporate into our cooking to cut down on food waste. These tips are likely to save you money, trips to the grocery store and guilt about throwing away food:
1. Preserve those slightly wilted greens.
Instead of tossing greens that are getting limp (e.g., spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens), remove any rotten pieces and use the “blanch and shock method” as a quick and effective way to extend their lives. After doing this, you can chop the greens, put them in a freezer bag and freeze for use in quiches, soups, pestos, hummus, or eggs.
2. Freeze overripened fruit for later use.
Any fruit that’s “on the edge” and seems like it needs to be tossed soon can be frozen instead. Simply cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces, put it in a single layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and freeze until solid. After it’s frozen, place the fruit in freezer-safe bags or containers and use as needed for baking, smoothies, sorbets and flavored ice cubes.
3. Save produce ends.
For example, ends or peels of carrots, mushroom trim, onion ends, herb stems, garlic and ends of celery), put them in a baggie and freeze them. When you’ve got enough of these “remnants” saved, you can use them to make a delicious, flavorful, and nutritious soup stock.
4. Think “root to stem” when working with produce in your kitchen.
Instead of discarding the greens that are attached to beets or carrots or the tougher stems from kale leaves for example, chop them up, sauté with a little olive oil and garlic and serve as a healthy side dish or incorporate them into the main dish.
5. Learn how to store produce to preserve its shelf life.
Different foods have different storage requirements and making a few simple tweaks can go a long way toward extending their freshness. Check out some excellent tips here at The Six O’Clock Scramble. These sites also offer excellent resources: Vegetarian Times and Washington’s Green Grocer.
6. Don’t judge a book by its cover, or a mango by its skin. 🙂
Even if produce looks like it’s seen better days and has blemishes or bruises, try cutting those unsightly parts away and use the remainder of the fruit or veggie. This works well for salads like our Tropical Fruit Salad or of course for smoothies.
Not only is salvaging food good for our planet and our wallets, but it’s also good for our kids. Using all parts of the food we buy teaches kids to be creative and mindful of using what we have and not letting valuable things go to waste.
If you have any additional suggestions for salvaging food, we’d love to hear them. Please comment below or at my Facebook page.
Josh Treuhaft is a designer, strategist and sustainability advocate tackling complex social and environmental challenges. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @thetreuhaft on twitter or instagram.
Celia Lam is a Holistic Chef, speaker, food consultant and the culinary force behind Salvage Supperclub. Connect her at: email@example.com, twitter: celialam or instagram: SoulFull_Kitchen