• Anne-Marie Bonneau

Cook, eat, and give away!

In the previous post on food waste, we discussed the problem and covered some simple solutions—from smart planning meals and grocery shopping to storing food. In this post, we’ll discuss cooking strategies and more.


1. Learn to cook without a recipe!

Forgo the recipes, learn how to cook a few endlessly versatile and simple dishes, add this and that, taste as you go, and you won’t waste a morsel. Cooking this way—I call it freestyle cooking—may not result in Instagram-worthy meals, but they will taste delicious. Click here for a pile of freestyle non-recipe recipes.

2. Cook extra food that can go into the next dish!

Wait; what? I want you to cook more food?! Yes, cooking and kitchen efficiency reduce food waste at the consumer level but it takes time. If you always have something on hand to turn into something else, you’ll save precious time. For example, when you cook rice to go with a broccoli tofu stir-fry with peanut sauce, make extra rice, and make fried rice next day.

3. Preserve food!

Fermentation not only makes food incredibly delicious, but it also extends its shelf life. If you have excess cabbage on your hands, chop it, salt it and submerge it in its juices for a few days, after which you’ll have sauerkraut, which keeps for many months. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), which occur naturally on all vegetables and increase after harvest, perform this magical transformation. Click here for sauerkraut 101 and the recipe.

4. Save your scraps!

Cooking with every last little bit makes cooking more fun and creative—and less expensive!

Vegetable scraps for broth. Apple scraps for vinegar. Potato peels for frying up. Citrus peels for candy, zest, citrus salt, cleaning, and more. Here are 15 creative uses for food scraps.


5. Eat the food!

Yes, this is both obvious and simplified. But the problem of food waste is an edible one. We can eat the food. And although industry plays a huge role, a whopping 43 percent of food waste occurs in homes.

6. Serve less food!

I have no idea what Thanksgiving will look like this year, but do you need to cook an eight-course meal for it? And, do you have to serve it on giant plates? Smaller plates translate into smaller portions that reduce the amount of food we can’t finish—and waste.

7. Stick to your meal plan and snack less!

You can consume only so much food in a day. If you constantly graze in between mealtimes, you won’t be hungry for meals you planned, and some of that food you carefully bought will go to waste.

8. Eat meals at—and from—home!

When we eat most of our meals at home (or when brown-bagging it to work or school), we eat the food we have and waste less of it as a result.

Feeding others or the soil

9. Give away excess food!

Share your extra food with friends and neighbors. Or go online. OLIO, a free app, “connects neighbors and local shops and cafés so that surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. Falling Fruit, provides a global map of free edible plants. Here is a list of organizations diverting perfectly edible food from going to waste and sharing it.

10. If food goes bad, compost it!

Compacted in a landfill, food lacks exposure to air and breaks down anaerobically, producing methane gas. Landfills emit this methane gas—a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide—into the atmosphere. Instead, put the food waste on a compost pile, and it will sequester carbon while fertilizing the soil.

Can’t compost in your small apartment? Sharewaste is like Airbnb for your food scraps. You search the ShareWaste map for people accepting compost scraps where you live—or where you will be traveling to—and then you drop them off. Or you sign up to accept food scraps. All free, all volunteer-run. This is the real sharing economy!

11. Finally, show food the respect it deserves!

An overabundance of cheap, fast food coupled with a lack of knowledge about where food comes from foster little respect for what sustains us. The more we respect food, the less of it we waste. So, plant a fruit tree, teach your kids how to grow vegetables, or get to know the hard-working people who grow our food.

Anne-Marie Bonneau

Blogger @Zero-Waste Chef