Waste Not, Want Not

My husband, Tom, is the best food recycler I know. Today he whipped up an omelet for us consisting of six eggs, red bell pepper and tomatoes left over from last night’s salad, a scrap of red pepper from the fridge and a little red wine, also from last night. He sautéed the peppers and tomatoes and cooked a few small red potatoes in the microwave. He chopped up the taters and added all the vegetables to the eggs, which were already cooking. For good measure, Tom tossed a few drops of Tabasco in the pan. The result was a hearty and delicious omelet that I didn’t have to make. Even our son, Jake, who’s not much of an egg eater, enjoyed it.

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Tom’s always been enthusiastic about eating and lately, much to my delight, he’s taken more of an interest in cooking. He gets his “re-use, recycle” mentality  from his French mother, Hélenè, a wonderful home cook who loves using leftovers and hates wasting food.

“It’s a thorn in my side to see perfectly good food go to waste,” Tom says. “If you have a bunch of good ingredients lying around, why not use them?”

Using leftovers to make meals takes some thought. Sometimes it’s just easier to pitch those leftovers and make a meal using all new ingredients. But cutting down on food waste is a worthy goal especially when you consider roughly 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in this country goes to waste.

“In 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food from U.S. retail food stores, restaurants, and homes never made it into people’s stomachs,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently noted.

The amount of uneaten food in homes and restaurants was valued at almost $390 per U.S. consumer in 2008, which the government says is more than an average month’s worth of food spending.

Those numbers are hard to swallow. They should make you think twice about tossing yesterday’s salad.

In June, the U.S.D.A. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with support from the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, the anti-hunger group, Feeding America, the anti-poverty group, Rock and Wrap It Up!, and food manufacturers, introduced the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, a campaign aimed at reducing food waste through education and other activities.

Are you doing anything in your own home to cut down on the amount of food you throw away?

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8 thoughts on “Waste Not, Want Not

  1. Funny, when you said red wine, I immediately thought it’s because Tom is part French. And as you revealed a little further down, that has something to do with his culinary skills! Great blog! And an important message. Sam is also great when it comes to leftovers in frittatas. So glad the city is finally going to be doing composting, too.

  2. Hi Wendy. I appreciate Tom’s culinary heritage and my mother-in-law’s influence over him! Isn’t it interesting what can be made out of leftovers? I didn’t know the city was rolling out composting. How will the program work? I suppose they’ll accept egg shells?

  3. It’s great to see someone other than myself “re-purposing” what’s in the fridge! At least one night a week I like to just take all the bits of things from my fridge and make a dinner from them all–and some of the meals I end up with are some of the most satisfying! Turning leftover meats and veggies into a second, different meal not only saves me money, but makes me feel good about eating good food–and not wasting a thing! (another plus is that my fridge gets cleaned out and I don’t have so many surprises on the shelves!)

    1. Hi Collette. I’ll bet many people are re-purposing their leftovers these days. Food is so expensive. For me, the tricky part about using leftovers is the thinking that’s involved. Thanks for reading and posting a comment!

  4. I turn it into baby food! I roasted a bunch of beets only to realize I did not have the taste for them, so I blended them up and learned that my baby love them! I also then learned what a diaper looks like after a baby eats a lot of beets.

  5. This may have come from Aunt Helene, but it also must have stemmed from Tom’s spending time with his Grandma Fredrickson! I’m sure that’s where I got it from! I almost always start with what’s already in the fridge when planning what to make for dinner.

    1. Grandma Fredrickson was a sensible woman, Diana. She came from the “no-muss, no-fuss” school and I am sure some of her good sense rubbed off on Tom. My cooking has certainly evolved. I used to follow recipes religiously and experiment with elaborate dishes, which required running to the store for ingredients. Now I try to use what I have and cut down on store visits. The meals are a lot simpler in our house.

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