Tips plus Q & A from Rethink Food Waste Challenge 2020 Participants!


Wasted food is kind of a big deal. Did you know that an average household ends up tossing 1/4 of the food they bring home. The good news is that at the household level, there are many things you can do to waste less of the food. 900 Deschutes County households have now opted-in to the Rethink Food Waste Challenge to learn more about wasted food. By collecting all of their plate scrapings, leftovers-gone-bad, and edible peels each week, folks are able to see what went bad most often and how to change their shopping, storage, or cooking habits appropriately. Want to sign up for the rethink food waste challenge self-guided edition?

Spring 2020 we did an interactive challenge from May 10 – June 7. Folks had great questions, feedback, comments, and even some pretty terrible food-related jokes that are worth sharing. So here we go!

Participant Impressions

  • “This was a very eye-opening activity for me and my family.  We realized that doing less fresh food shopping at Costco, only making big meals that I know my kids will eat the leftovers of, and cutting veggies and fruit as soon as we buy them are key to reducing our food waste.”
  • “I am noticing that the more I focus on food waste, the less I’m spending at the grocery store, yay! But we’re still eating really well.”
  • “Loving our ‘Eat First’ shelf…we actually look there before we plan what to eat at a meal!”
  • “This challenge has really changed how I handle my household’s food buying and cooking. I appreciate all the helpful tips and information on our local area. Thanks!”

Tips and suggestions from participants!

  • Keeping a stock bag in the freezer is a great way to use all veggie scraps.
  • To use up an old stale loaf bread: rinse it in water and put it in the oven at 180* under a hand towel for 5 minutes. The crust crisps up and the center gets moist!  Makes a great sandwich!
  • Keep your avocados in the fridge after they ripen. They stay fresh longer that way.
  • My hack of the week: pesto with anything! Whizz up those leftover herbs up before they go to mush. Cilantro with lime and a mix of peanuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds.
  • When your milk is on the verge of going bad, use it to make bread or add to soups. Don’t do this with raw milk, only spoiled pasteurized milk!
  • Here’s a good tip for instant pot users: When cooking meat, or anything that creates extra liquid, I always freeze any leftover liquids and add them to the next soup or stew I cook.
  • Use pizza crusts your kids leave on the plate for a savory bread pudding, make croutons, or serve them under a soup.
  • Reuse your tea bags: once you accumulate 2-3, put them in a Mason jar to make iced tea!
  • Slice and freeze overripe bananas to add to smoothies or make banana ice cream.
  • Check out An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler which inspired me to simmer my own veggie broth. I highly recommend it.
  • Michele Tam of NomNom Paleo has 2 great recipes on her website for when you need to clean out your produce drawer…one is called garbage stir fry and the other is garbage soup. Terrible names, excellent meals!

Questions and Answers

    1. What do I do with bread loaf ends? I like to dry these out completely and make them into bread crumbs! Then they can be stored in an airtight container or in the freezer. Uses for breadcrumbs? Breaded and pan sautéed proteins or a pasta dish perhaps? Or you can cube the bread loaf ends and make them into croutons for your salad.
    2. Salad greens are my downfall. Greens like arugula, kale, and spinach can be cooked, but what can be done with lettuce before it turns? This was a very common theme during the challenge. Salad gone bad. The best thing to do  is to ONLY buy what you are positive you will eat. But sometimes scheduling gets away from us or we are enticed by a slice of pizza. Here is a blog with some tips on how to use up greens other than in a salad.
    3. Saving my food waste on the counter was really stinky by the end of the week. Is there a way to prevent that? During the challenge, we ask you to save all your food for the entire week so you can weigh how much you’re wasting. One tip: keep your bucket in the fridge! When you aren’t doing the food waste challenge, you can take your compost out every day.
    4. I always get a lot of food waste in my cooler when I go camping. What’s the best way to pack a cooler? Here are my top 4 tips:
      • Don’t store anything in a ziplock, especially not the ice.
      • Instead of ice cubes, freeze water in bottles or use reusable freezer packs.
      • Anything fragile, keep in a rigid container.
      • Plan your meals so you eat the most perishable, fragile things in the first couple of nights.

      Plus, here is a good, thorough article.

    5. I have so many lemons!Ok, that wasn’t a question. But still. Lemons are so versatile! They are useful in nearly every cuisine. I’ve absolutely substituted a lemon for a lime, too.

      …not to mention all the desserts. Mmm..lemon poppyseed cake?

    6. Is there a good way to keep bananas from going bad so quickly?A shocking % of participants reached out telling me your bananas are going bad too fast. The best advice I have for you is:
      • Buy them on the green side
      • Only buy the ones you think you can eat in time!
      • Store them on the counter and not next to other foods
      • Store them in a basket and upside-down — sometimes if they are on their side the edges touching the counter get bruised more easily

      Luckily there are so many ways to use up bananas in baking and smoothies. How do YOU use up your bananas?

      Here‘s an article about some interesting techniques to store your bananas. I didn’t vet them, so you’ll have to let me know how it goes!