Let’s “Go Further With Food”
March is National Nutrition Month (NNM) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) has deemed 2018’s NNM theme to be “Go Further With Food”.
What does this mean?
I asked myself this same question. This theme is open to interpretation, however, the AND is strongly suggesting people take their food further by reducing their food waste. The AND is a huge proponent of the organization Further with Food and their website has tons of resources on what food loss and waste is, why it matters, and what we can do about it. (https://furtherwithfood.org/understand-the-issue/).
Food waste is defined by the USDA as any unused food item found along any part of the food chain. Food loss and waste are a matter of concern due to a variety of reasons. 31% of our landfills consist of food loss and waste (eatright.org). This is a huge problem because as the food begins to break down, it releases a large amount of methane gas that can contribute to climate change (eatright.org). In fact, there is a very informative infographic on the eatright.org website that discusses the issue further!
So what can YOU do about it? Well, I’m here to offer you tips that you (and or your family) can use to help reduce your food loss and waste in the spirit of taking your food further.
Tip 1: Store your food properly
Practicing good food safety strategies such as storing your food properly will help keep food fresher longer and help prevent your family from contracting a food-borne illness. Simple things like making sure your fridge is at the correct temperature (it should be between 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit) and keeping raw meats and poultry on the bottom shelf of your fridge can go a long way.
Keep in mind that Best-By, Sell-By, and Use-By dates do not indicate safety, they only indicate quality. This means that your food might still be safe after these dates as long as it’s store properly. Want more information on proper food safety and storage? Visit the USDA Website to learn more about correct food safety and storage procedures!
Tip 2: Meal-Prep and Use Left-Overs
Meal-prepping is a great way to help ensure you are eating healthy throughout the week and that you are using your groceries on hand. Simply spending 15-30 minutes a week on prepping fruits and vegetables for snacking can make the world of a difference. When you go to open your fridge to pack a lunch or grab a snack you’ll have healthy options at your fingertips. Not only can it help you easily make healthy decisions but it can also help you save money by giving you no excuse not to pack a lunch.
Another great way to make sure you are using your groceries instead of letting them go to waste is to dedicate a day to just using left-overs. Whether that be left-over food made throughout the week or left-over ingredients (like fruits, vegetables, and other perishables) to make a delicious spontaneous meal. I practice this by planning my future meals around left-over ingredients as the week gets closer and closer to ending. Admittedly, I don’t always get time to plan (because let’s be real, life gets hectic) so then I just stick to making a huge pot of vegetable soup where I chop up and throw in all of my leftover vegetables from the week and enjoy it throughout the day.
Tip 3: Try to use your food scraps
When I meal-prep every week, I always make sure to save my vegetable scraps to use in making vegetable stock. This is a great way to use the parts of your vegetables that you might otherwise throw away, plus it saves you money because no you don’t have to spend money on buying a vegetable stock at the store!
A quick “recipe” to make vegetable stock is as follows:
- Put your vegetable scraps in a large pot.
- Add water to the same large pot.
- Bring the pot of water and vegetables to a boil. Reduce the heat and then let the stock simmer for 2-4 hours (however long you want really).
- Filter out the vegetables from the stock and transfer the stock to a container (I like to use mason jars).
- Let the container of stock cool substantially until transferring it into the fridge (but don’t let it sit out got too long in the temperature danger zone).
There you have it! It really is as simple as that and it helps ensure you did waste the precious nutrients sitting in your vegetable scraps. Now you have a nutrient rich stock ready to be added to your recipes for the week!
Another way to use your food scraps is to use them as garnishes. While I’d recommend using vegetable peeling in vegetable stock, there are some vegetables that should never be cooked, like cucumber. If you’re one of the people that peel cucumber before putting it in your salads, I’d recommend using those peels as garnishes. I do this by tying the peels into bows and placing them strategically on my plate to create a stunning bowl of vegetables.
Lastly, you can use your food scraps by not creating them at all. For instance, try not peeling your cucumber the next time to make a salad or try eating the tops of your strawberries the next time you prepare them!
How are you going to take your food further this month?
I shared some ways you can take your food further by practicing proper food storage, using left-overs, meal-prepping, and find ways to use food scraps. While I only shared a few ideas on how to take your food further, the whole concept it’s completely open to interpretation. I’m extremely excited to take my food further this March 2018 and I am also super curious to know how everyone else plans to do the same!