Think You Know How Long It Takes for Lettuce to Decompose in a Landfill?

As part of National Nutrition Month’s theme of “Go Further with Food,” we are shedding a light on food waste and how to prevent it. Did you know that about 30 to 40 percent of the food produced in the United States gets thrown away? And, food that gets thrown in the trash ultimately makes its way to the landfill, which is the absolute worst place for it.  Food in landfills decomposes without oxygen, creating methane, a gas 23 percent stronger than greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide. While some of this methane is converted to energy, a lot of it goes into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

So what can we all do to make a difference?  We can start composting, meal planning better, or making more trips to the grocery store for less. There are so many ways that we as individuals can lessen food waste.

This blog is going to give you six tips for getting creative when you cook. These food hacks will help your grocery haul go further, save you money, and help reduce food waste in your own life.

(Before we move on though, it takes 25 YEARS for a head of lettuce to decompose in a landfill. Now if that’s not terrifyingly motivating, we don’t know what is!) 

Invest in a Blender

rice(2)If you like to buy fruits such as strawberries, blueberries or kiwis each week, you know they don’t stay fresh for long. After just a few days, berries can start to mold and kiwis can get a bit mushy. Luckily, there’s an easy solution to using up fruits and vegetables before they go bad: freeze your imperfect produce (before it gets moldy) and blend it into a delicious smoothie for breakfast.

To make smoothies, you’ll need fresh or frozen fruit and a liquid like milk or juice. Some people like to add yogurt, protein powder, peanut butter, or spinach to their smoothies for a healthful boost. Try this recipe for a Triple Berry Smoothie, or blend up this Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie for a treat. If you have access to a juicer, you can also juice fruits or vegetables to make a refreshing and healthy beverage. You can even make some juices in the blender — for example, this yummy recipe for Green Juice.

Go Bananas

Bananas often come in a large bunch. Even if you eat one a day in your cereal, it’s tough to enjoy them all before they start to turn brown. Don’t throw them out, though! Do some baking. Banana bread is actually better if you use bananas that have turned brown or are starting to soften. The very ripe bananas you bought last week are not just easier to mash — they also taste sweeter because more of their starch has converted to sugar.

Try this recipe for Triple Chocolate Banana Bread. Bring it to your next study group and watch everyone, well, go bananas. Not into baking? You can also freeze leftover bananas and use them as a substitute for ice in your smoothies. Just peel them and store in a plastic freezer bag.

bananaFAST FACT ABOUT RIPE BANANAS: The dark spots on ripe yellow bananas produce a substance called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) that destroys cancerous tumors. So don’t toss out those dark-spotted nanners! Eat them up for their anti-cancer qualities!

Stock Up on Stock

Flu and cold season got you down? Sipping on some hot soup may be just what you need. Making your own stock is a great way to use up leftover veggie scraps and meat, too. If you like to buy pre-made rotisserie chicken, follow this recipe for Leftover Roast Chicken Stock. Just like mom’s!

Make Fried Rice

riceOrdering Chinese takeout for a late night of studying or a busy week ahead is a delicious treat. But what do you do when all the orange chicken is gone and you’re left with a bunch of white rice? Turn it into fried rice, of course. This easy recipe for Fried Rice from Leftovers uses frozen vegetables, eggs, and soy sauce. It makes enough so you’ll have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, too.

rice(1)Preserve Your Herbs 

If you love to cook, you probably see a lot of recipes that call for fresh herbs. Unfortunately, it’s tough to come up with creative ways to use up a bunch of extra rosemary, sage, or oregano after using the required tablespoon or teaspoon. Here’s a fun idea: Combine leftover herbs with melted butter or olive oil and freeze them in small portions in your ice cube trays. The next time you are cooking in a sauté pan or pot, just toss in a herbal cube for an instant infusion of flavor.

Embrace the Nine Lives of a Loaf of Bread

Bread is another common household food that often gets thrown out after it starts to get stale. That’s a shame, because there are many delicious ways to enjoy the entire loaf. While it’s still fresh, pack yourself a sandwich or two. Bring them with you to the library or to enjoy after class. That way, you won’t have to spend money or worry about where you’re going eat.

After your bread starts to harden a bit over the weekend, whip up some French toast. Finally, stale bread doesn’t need to go directly in the bin. Turn on the oven and make homemade croutons. You’ll impress your roommates the next time you’re all in the mood for salads.

We hope these tips will help you become a better food steward! Hungry for more ways to Go Further with Food?


Join Dining Services at the National Nutrition Month Extravaganza: Go Further with Food Sampling Event and Healthy Eating Fair on Wednesday, March 28, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm!

In Rangos 2 and 3:

Sample dishes prepared by campus chefs that Go Further with Food. Cast your vote for the most delicious and creative dish and you will be entered for a chance to win these cool prizes:

  • Fitbit Flex
  • Powerbeats 3 Wireless Headphones
  • Bose Wireless Speakers,
  • Fujifilm Instax Mini 90

Peruse the healthy eating resource fair to:

  • Learn to balance movement and nutrition to promote health. Stop by with your questions about nutrition and fitness!
  • Promote well-being, reduce stress and help you thrive through mindfulness! Learn more about Be Well initiatives on campus with Angie Lusk.
  • Learn about recycling and composting on campus and at home with Sustainable Earth.
  • Take an active part in your personal well-being by using the wellness resources on campus, presented by the Staff Council Wellness Committee.

In McKenna/Peter:
Attend FREE 30-minute workshops:

11:30 am: Meal Planning 101
Presented by campus registered dietitians
Do you want to make more healthful food choices, while saving time and money? This interactive workshop will teach you tips that take the stress out of meal planning and reduce food waste with six simple steps for weekly meal planning.

12:30 pm: Creative Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home
Presented by Chef Trevett Hooper, Legume Bistro
An average of 25-30 percent of the food we bring into our home ends up in the trash. Learn to take proactive steps to reduce the food you waste when shopping, cooking, and storing food.

1:30 pm: Composting 101
Presented by Barb Kviz, FMCS Environmental Coordinator
Are you curious about composting, but not sure where to begin? CMU’s Environmental Coordinator Barb Kviz will share composting basics, including the benefits of composting, methods of composting, and ways that you can begin to compost at home.

Hope to see you there!

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