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Save more green by discarding less greens

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How much food did you throw away today?

The average U.S. family of four spends $640 each year on food that ends up in the garbage, according to a new survey by the American Chemistry Council. Vegetables — think about the slimy lettuce in your fridge drawer — are the most commonly wasted food.

We’re sensitive to price while grocery shopping — where saving a quarter may sway our decision to buy a particular brand — but we throw out much of our hard-earned money when food goes to waste.

The top causes of food waste include buying or preparing too much, unwillingness to consume leftovers, and improper food storage, according to research from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. And strategies that are intended to save money — such as buying in bulk and shopping only monthly — actually contributed to food waste and didn’t save money after all.

Ready to reduce your waste? Here are some tips:

Stock up only on food you’re sure your family can eat at its peak. Will you really consume the package of six hearts of romaine lettuce, double package of fresh mozzarella, or crate of oranges found at a club store?

Shop as if you have a small refrigerator. Our fridges tend to be too large, and it’s easy to load them up with more than we can eat. Buy smaller amounts of the highest quality foods you can. This way, you’re more likely to eat them.

Elevate scraps and leaves. Turn stems, peels, and leaves into ingredients rather than waste. Carrot tops, parsley, and asparagus can be pulsed into pesto. Broccoli stems can go into a stir fry. Fruit and veggies that are bruised or will soon be overripe can be blended into a smoothie.

Save and eat the tiny amounts. Wrap up the uneaten half-sandwich from lunch or the small amount of leftover casserole. Either can become a kid-sized portion for dinner.

Eat down your fridge. Rediscover the art of making soup, frittatas, salads, or stews using what you already have. Dedicate one day a week to using up any leftovers.

Try composting. It’s the perfect way to turn food scraps into free fertilizer. Instead of putting potato peels, moldy berries, or coffee grounds down the garbage disposal, throw them in a ventilated, covered bin in your yard. Occasionally toss some black dirt into it.

Christine Palumbo, registered dietician, is a happy composter in Naperville, Ill. Find her at Christine Palumbo Nutrition on Facebook, @PalumboRD on Twitter, or ChristinePalumbo.com.

Southwestern smoky ranchero burger with grilled avocado

Makes four servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

Lime mayonnaise:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp lime juice

1 package McCormick Grill Mates Smoky Ranchero Marinade, divided

Stuffed avocado:

2 ripe avocados

1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (may substitute shredded Mexican cheese blend or Monterey Jack cheese)

1/4 cup diced tomato

Burgers:

1 pound 80 percent lean ground beef

4 Kaiser rolls

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS: For the lime mayonnaise, mix mayonnaise, lime juice, and 1 teaspoon of the marinade mix in small bowl until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the stuffed avocado, halve and seed avocados. Carefully remove peel, leaving each half intact. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Mix cheese and tomato. Set aside.

For the burgers, mix ground beef and remaining marinade mix until well blended. Shape into four patties. Grill over medium heat four to six minutes per side or until burgers are cooked through (internal temperature of 160-degrees Fahrenheit). Grill avocado halves, cut-sides down, for 30 seconds. Turn over avocados. Place 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture into each avocado half. Drizzle with hot sauce, if desired. Grill four to five minutes. Toast rolls on the grill, open-side down, about 30 seconds.

Serve burgers on rolls topped with stuffed avocados and onion slices. Press roll gently to smash the stuffed avocado. Serve with lime mayonnaise.

NUTRITION FACTS: 650 calories, 45 g carbohydrates, 30 g protein, 39 g fat (10 g saturated), 82 mg cholesterol, 1323 mg sodium, 8 g fiber.

Used with permission from McCormick.

Updated 5:30 pm, December 9, 2016
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