American households on average throw away at least one and a half pounds of food each day. This represents between 25-50% of all the food produced in the US. In a study published in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science and Technology journal, Professor Michael Webber and co-author Amanda Cuéllar calculated that the US could save roughly 2 percent of its total energy consumption in one year if it stopped wasting food.
Two percent doesn't seem like all that much, right? To put it in perspective it's the energy equivalent to saving 350 millions barrels of oil or twice as much energy as Switzerland consumes in a year.*
During the two World Wars, propaganda posters urged Americans to do their patriotic duty through food with messages like “Food is a weapon – don't waste it” and “Food will win the war.” But since food in America is now relatively cheap and traditionally larger portion sizes are served in the US, we don't value it as much and don't mind when we throw it away. But Webber says we can reduce our contribution to food and energy waste by taking simple, basic steps at home, in the grocery store and at restaurants. He suggests planning a food menu before each trip to the grocery store to better keep track of when vegetables, fruits, and other perishables need to be eaten throughout the week. But our advice here at Chasing Green is to simply eat your leftovers or find a way to make them useful.
PUT LEFTOVER BREAD TO USE
Thirty-two percent of America's food energy, about 268 trillion British thermal units (BTU), is wasted on grains alone. Do you regularly cut the crusts off your child's sandwiches? Or perhaps even your own? What about the homely old heels that come with every loaf? These can be put to further use in a number of different ways. Plan ahead for storage of your bread. Keep a Ziploc bag or jar in the freezer and add to it each time you have a castoff crust or heel of bread. Before long, you'll have enough to put to use in one of the following ways:
- Breadcrumbs: Stop throwing bread crusts and heels away and turn them into breadcrumbs that can be used for topping casseroles, stuffing poultry, thickening stews, and giving a crunchy coating to chicken and fish. Just tear the bread into smaller pieces, let it dry out (you can use the oven, set at about 200º F), and then run it through a chopper or food processor (or beat with a rolling pin). Store your homemade breadcrumbs in the freezer so you'll always have some on hand.
- Croutons: Cut your rescued bread crusts or heels into cubes and cover them with a little melted butter or olive oil. Then put them in a bag with some Italian seasonings and Parmesan cheese and shake until each crouton is fully coated. Finally, place them evenly spaced on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven at 325 degrees until crisp. Stuffing: Use leftover bread crusts and heels in your favorite stuffing recipes instead of store bought breadcrumbs.
- Leftover Recipes: For recipes devised to use leftover bread, such as bread pudding, strata, panzanella, ribollita, bread dumplings, and pappa al pomodoro, ignore the instructions to discard the crusts and use the heels too.
- Meatballs/Meatloaf: The key to fantastic meatloaf and meatballs is to take one large crust of bread or two small ones and soak them in a little milk until they become soggy. Add this bread/milk mixture to your favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe and you'll have a tenderer meat and better texture, and everyone will want to know your secret ingredient!
- Deodorizer: Do you have a smelly fridge or stinky freezer? Just place an uncovered bowl of crusts in either location for 48 hours to absorb the offensive odors.
- Bird and Critter Food: Now that you've made your leftover bread crusts so distasteful even to consider eating, take them to the park for the ducks to eat or place them in your backyard to feed the neighborhood crows and squirrels.
- Plant Food: If you have bread crusts or heels that have been sitting out for a while, consider giving them to your household plants to improve their soil. Just combine two cups of old bread, two cups of water, and a tablespoon of plant food in your blender, then pour the mixture around the base of all your plants. It will provide all the benefits of compost, but without the smell.
- Teething Aid: The one kid in the house likely to eat bread crusts? The teething infant. Dried bread crusts are said to work better than Melba toast.