Reduce the Amount of Food Waste — Tips From Alex Guarnaschelli

by in How-to, Shows, January 19th, 2012

food waste
Participating in The Big Waste on Food Network was as eye opening for me as it was to watch it. I consider myself fairly well-informed in matters of buying, selling or, most simply, eating what I buy for my restaurants and home. In short, I didn’t think there would be much to learn doing this show. Or at least that there wouldn’t be much I hadn’t already seen. I was wrong. There were small amounts of precious, expensive things wasted, like chocolate, espresso and prosciutto. There were the stunning amounts of vegetables like corn, in bulk quantity, that I was surprised to learn would never “make the cut” and have a chance to even be bought.

Here are a few things we can all think about when shopping and cooking that can help reduce the amount of food waste:

1. Don’t pick through an entire pile of tomatoes to find the biggest, most perfect one. Settle for a few of the nice, small ones on top. Moving the pile around and shifting the fruit can bruise them and increase the likelihood than people will leave those other bruised fruits behind. Same goes for peaches.

2. When buying fresh ingredients, especially fruits and vegetables, try to buy less at a time and shop for them more frequently. That will lessen the chances you will throw away food that you have already paid for. I also find when I shop for less more frequently, I am more creative and wind up with a more expansive array of dishes.

3. Sometimes ugly on the outside means more beautiful on the inside. Citrus that has some traces of black on the skin? That’s just sugar coming out of the fruit, which is a good thing. Imperfect tomatoes, especially heirlooms, often have the best flavor. Imperfect shape does not rule out perfect taste.

4. Freeze fruit like bananas or pears and defrost them to make banana bread at a later date. Pear compotes, pear jams, pear pie filling? Why not? There may not be a cooking solution that matches when your food is about to go bad. So use the freezer to buy yourself some time and avoid waste.

5. Leftovers aren’t always the most exciting or welcome meals. I like to “hide” leftovers in another form. A pot pie, vegetable soup, mixed pasta dishes — hot or cold — all give opportunities to recycle food you already have in the fridge. The food made it all the way from the field to the fridge. Why not let it take that last step and make it to your table?

6. Buy local. Support your local farmers as much as you are able. The food, because it got to you more quickly than broccoli that traveled across the country, will have a much longer shelf life after you bring it home. Most importantly, it’s also just delicious eating.

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Comments (31)

  1. sammilimo says:

    This show was an eye opener…everyone should be put in a place where they HAD to shop like this…makes one think about the waste and the hungry kids, elderly, and disabled going to be everynite hungry….It has made me a better person at the grocery store…..

  2. Kelli says:

    I am most definitely more aware after seeing this show. I have a very beat up onion on my counter right now, and I look forward to making it into something great!

  3. southernvegan says:

    You can also take those not so nice fruits and make juices and smoothies from them. I have a container garden bed that gets all of my vegetable scraps. Nothing nicer than turning those scraps into compost for my garden bed. We forget that simple ingredients can make gourmet meals that are much better than any 5 star restaurant out there. There is no need to buy specialty ingredients. A nice vine ripened tomatoe is more flavorful than any pricey specialty ingredient that has been highly processed. and is overpriced. Making your own herb oils, cooking from scratch is where it is at. Our country need to get out food processing hell and get back to the basics.

  4. frustrated homemaker says:

    more of us would purchase the "not perfect" or blemished fruits or vegetables if the store gave you a break on the price, why pay the same for something that needs to have parts of it not used due to brusing or bad spots

    • Sherrie says:

      I so agree with you they also contradict themselves when they do there own cook shows they tell us how to look for the best meats and veggies then they do this show what's up with that the grocers and farmers could give us a break in price then we would give them a break and not be so fussy but they choose to thro away before give to homeless or kitchen helpers

  5. ldriscoll77 says:

    I watched this show and it really made an impact on me and my family. We are no longer wanting to purchase those 'perfect' fruits and veggies, but those that are over-looked. What this show didn't touch on was how much we waste when we bring those 'perfect' veggies home. As a stay at home mom, I meal plan for my family. Therefore, when I am at the store, I only purchase what we need. This reduces 'at home' waste and saves us money. I began wondering however… I watch various Food Network shows; food waste is more than buying imperfect farm raised food. And Alex did touch on re-purposing left-overs. But, what is done with all of that left over food that isn't eaten from making those instructional shows? I doubt people realize the preparation it takes to make those recipes and shows. As the recipes have been 'practiced' multiple times before the final taping. What is the FOOD NETWORK doing to reduce food waste from their own kitchens? Are those left overs going to food kitchens?

  6. Canace says:

    It is really important to not waste food because some people don't even get food and we should take advantage of what we have. We don't realize how fortunate we are to have all of this food! I mean just think if all of that food that we waste each year went to someone who was hungry and had no food like us. That would make a big impact on other people and places!

  7. Upset and u know it says:

    Come on we all know these cooks wouldn't do this for there family or restaurant they buy the best but were supposed to see what goes to waste. I would change some if the farmers would donate their waste to soup kitchens or let homeless people come in the end of day to pick food so they can eat too instead of going hungry and the bakeries and grocers could do the same. There is no reason for all this waste but we all need to change not just the consumers. They could even give us a discount on these foods instead of asking such a high price. Let them change too including the cooks on tv .

  8. LMarie says:

    I buy meat and seperate into freezor bags and freeze. When I buy a bosotn butt I cut it in half and freeze one 1/2 and then use the other half in the crock pot. First day we eat it like pork roast. @nd day I chop it up and we have BBQ. 3rd day I freeze the BBQ. So out of one roast I have had 2 meals and have 3 more meals in the freezor. I buy a loaf of garlic bread. Cut into 3rds. freeze 2/3's. Make spaghetti sauce. Freeze half for more Spahetti or use it for hot dog chili. Hamber buns, hot dog buns, sourdough bread Freeze. Throw out all my coffe grinds, egg shells, fruit peels, lettuec leafs, cabbage leafs into my garden. Have some lovely dirt with lots of worms now for my garden next year, Left over meat products and bread get thrown out for the small animals and birds.

  9. Suzie Cupcake says:

    These are great tips Alex! I do appreciate your tips and I do try to respect the food as I shop. I don't want leave bruised fruits and vegetables in my shopping track wake as I know many more will follow and do not want bruised and battered food either. However, if I am going to have to pay top dollar for food I am going to try to pick out the best for my family. Again, your tips are timely and appreciated. I did not know that black lines on citrus was just the sugar from the fruit. #5 is a great tip. Who doesn't love pot pies or a good veggie soup? Frittatas are also an excellent use of leftovers.

  10. Karen Bryan says:

    I think the show looks at it the wrong way. If we pay the same price for the perfect tomato and the ugly tomato at the story, sorry, but I'm picking the pretty one. The problem is that there's no way for consumers to purchase the lesser quality stuff at a lower price — think of it as an outlet store for food. We can go and pay half price for a shirt with uneven stitching but we can't go to a grocery store to pay half price for aged or imperfect produce. Let the market provide for more choice, and the consumer benefits (especially the cash-strapped ones!). I'd really love for you guys to follow up on this show and consider looking at it from a different angle, which is how to get the wasted food to people who could really use it.

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