Is your 2024 resolution to waste less food? Here are some tips from dieticians – San Bernardino Sun

Leif Greiss

A bag of spinach that started to stink before it was even halfway finished. A cut of meat that got left in the back of the freezer for a year. Leftovers that became a colony for fungal life. A rotisserie chicken where all the bones went in the trash instead of a stock. Most people can probably think they wasted perfectly good food, or let their food go bad.

About 80 million tons of food, or the equivalent of about 149 billion meals, are wasted each year in the United States, according to Feeding America. Individual consumers only shoulder part of the blame: Businesses are responsible for a significant amount of waste. The food industry alone accounts for about 46% of all food waste, and about 38% of food that isn’t sold goes uneaten.

But dietitians The Morning Call spoke to said not wasting food is something their patients think about a good deal. Especially since fresh and unprocessed food is generally more nutritious and healthful than preservative-packed counterparts, but is also far less shelf stable.

“That weighs heavily on a lot of people’s minds. They don’t want to waste food but they run into the situation where they are overpreparing,” said Amber Kinney, lead clinical dietitian for St. Luke’s University Health Network’s medical weight management program.

If your New Year’s resolution is to waste less food, The Morning Call has some tips from dietitians on how to prevent food from going bad and how to avoid wasting food that is otherwise perfectly usable and edible.

Kinney said that food waste at home comes down mostly due to a lack of preparation. She said planning out meals ahead of time is a good way to make sure that you are not buying food that you won’t use. Kinney added that knowing what is in your fridge and is already on hand before you go shopping is a good way to prevent you from buying more than you need.

Suzanne Ickes, registered dietitian for Lehigh Valley Health Network through contractor Sodexo, said shoppers should keep in mind how long items will last. As a general rule of thumb, Ickes said fresh berries will last about two to three days and fresh fruit and vegetables for one week, except for root vegetables, like potatoes, onions or carrots, which will last two weeks or more in some cases.

Kinney added that buying in bulk is a slippery slope that often leads to a pile of wasted food.

“We think we’re saving money so we buy in bulk but then we can’t use all that food. We encourage people to shop local, that reduces the carbon footprint as well,” Kinney said.

She said if people are adamant about buying in bulk for the savings, they should plan to use that ingredient for multiple meals that week and then freeze the rest.

Not buying pre-chopped vegetables is also a good way to prevent waste and be frugal. Despite the minor convenience provided, pre-chopped veggies go bad much faster and tend to create more trash due to the containers they are stored in.

Once at home, Ickes said resealable freezer-safe bags are your best friend for preserving food.

“You can put anything into a freezer bag, you can put leftover soup, you can put leftover meats, you can put leftover vegetables,” Ickes said. “The key to this is that you’re able to retrieve them from your freezer, otherwise they end up at the back or the bottom of your freezer and they never get used.”

Kinney said knowing how to properly store food is crucial if you’re not going to freeze it for later.

“We tend to prepare too many fruits and vegetables too quickly. We don’t want to buy berries and wash them right away because they’re going to go bad a lot faster,” Kinney said.

While crisper drawers in the refrigerator have their purpose, people often end up forgetting about the vegetables they leave there, so it may be better to keep fresh produce on the shelves of the fridge where they are visible, Kinney said. She added another strategy to keep in mind is to check your cupboard and pantry regularly and make sure older food items are out front where you can see them and remember they exist.

Not wasting food doesn’t just extend to keeping foodstuffs from going bad, it also applies to using what is left over from preparing other meals. Chicken and turkey bones and carcasses can be saved to be used for stocks and broths. The same goes for scraps left over from chopped vegetables.

“For vegetable broth you can use any kind of vegetable scraps, not just what’s left over in your refrigerator but when you’re preparing onions and you’re chopping, those leftover skins you can freeze,” Ickes said. “You can freeze the ends of broccoli or cauliflower or the tops of tomato that you didn’t use. Any piece of vegetable that you don’t really want to eat can be frozen and then you can make your own vegetable broth at a later time.”

She said the process for making a homemade vegetable broth is simple, too:

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil
  • Add your frozen vegetables
  • Let the vegetables boil and thaw in the broth
  • Reduce heat and allow broth to simmer
  • Strain the broth


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2024-01-04 21:06:09 , San Bernardino Sun

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