Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.

  • Fall in Love with Your Freezer

    CalRecycle is celebrating California Food Waste Prevention Week to raise public awareness about the economic, environmental, and social impacts of unused food.

    One great way to divert food from the waste stream is to save it for later. Consider your freezer. Make a double batch of sauces, stews, beans, and casseroles, and save the rest in the freezer for a future weeknight dinner with zero cooking.

    My freezer is one of my most-used kitchen appliances. One of my favorite food waste strategies is what we call in my house “the Scrap Bag.” The Scrap Bag lives in my freezer and is full of, you guessed it—food scraps! Any time I peel a carrot, slice an onion, or cut the edges off a bell pepper, the leftover scraps are diverted from the garbage and go into the Scrap Bag. I put any kind of vegetable scraps or chicken bones (depending if you’re vegetarian/vegan) in the Scrap Bag and keep it in the freezer. Once the Scrap Bag is full, I empty the contents into a large stock pot, fill it with water and simmer over low heat for about an hour. Once the time is up, I simply strain the contents through a colander in the sink and save the liquid. The leftover vegetable scraps go into the compost and now I have stock—tasty stock that was free to make and that gave my food scraps a second life! The stock can be saved in the freezer and used to make soups and sauces. I also like to cook my rice, beans, or quinoa in it to add extra flavor. 

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    Here are some of the other ways I utilize my freezer to prevent food waste:

    • I’m not a big sandwich eater, but I enjoy sliced bread now and again. I keep the bread in the freezer and defrost a slice or two when I get a craving.
    • Beans freeze beautifully. Dried beans are cheap! I cook a double batch in my crock pot and freeze half to store in the freezer for an easy meal.
    • Soups hold up well when they’re stored in containers in the freezer. I like to freeze small individual servings for a quick meal on demand.
    • I buy meat in bulk, divide it into single portions and defrost as I need them. I find meats are often cheaper to buy in bulk and are often sold with less packaging.
    • Fruits like berries are simple to freeze. Simply place them on a cookie sheet, freeze them overnight, and transfer them to an empty container to store in the freezer. I love having frozen berries on hand for smoothies in the morning.
    • Butter freezes well and is easy to defrost when I get the baking itch. It’s often cheaper to buy in bulk.

    I hope these tips are as useful to you. To learn more about preventing food waste, please visit Save The Food. Interested in other ways to reduce food waste? Check out the Public Health Alliance of Southern California’s Resource Library and CalRecycle’s Resource Directory.

    Posted on In the Loop by Allegra Curiel on Mar 8, 2018

  • Food Waste Prevention Tip: Plan Healthy Meals

    CalRecycle has partnered with the Public Health Alliance of Southern California and other state agencies to celebrate March 5-9, 2018, as California’s first Food Waste Prevention Week. As CalRecycle’s Executive Fellow and a former restaurant cook, I plan to use this week to share some of my own ideas and strategies to reduce food waste at home.

    Meal planning is basically just organizing to prepare a meal. With my restaurant background, I have an insider’s perspective to the process. Meal planning makes cooking efficient and effective, and it prevents food waste. Food waste can negatively impact a restaurant’s economic viability, which is why successful chefs maximize the products they use.

    The lifecycle of prepared food doesn’t have to end after one meal! Planning meals that build upon each other minimizes food waste and creates more appetizing leftovers. Leftover roast chicken for dinner can be served with salads, baked into enchiladas, or made into soup. The chicken bones and leftover vegetable peelings can be made into stock, which can then be made into soups or sauces. With a little planning and creativity, an inexpensive roast chicken can be made into three or four different meals. 

    Next time you go out to eat, check out the restaurant’s soup of the day. A little restaurant insider knowledge for you: The soup of the day is where the leftovers from last night end up. Instead of throwing food away, smart chefs maximize their profits and sell as much product as possible. Repurposing food can be both efficient and delicious!

    The same principals of creative reuse can be applied by the home cook. Planning your meals for the week can help you avoid eating out, saving you money, enabling you to eat healthier meals, and avoiding food waste. I find meal planning also saves me time during the work week. The last thing I want to do when I get home is figure out what to eat for dinner.

    I’m going to walk you through the meal planning process with the steps below.

    If you’re new to meal planning, start small.

    Planning and preparing your lunches for the work week is a great place to start. Investing a few hours on a Sunday afternoon yields a week’s worth of healthy, affordable, and delicious lunches. Bringing my lunch to work has not only saved me a tremendous amount of money, but also prevented packaging waste like plastic bags, utensils, and Styrofoam containers.

    Make a plan

    When I conceptualize meals, I follow a simple formula that is easy to get creative with. I always prepare meals that include some type of grain or starch, some kind of vegetable, and a protein. This basic meal formula is easy to replicate and interchange with different ingredients based on my mood or craving. For example, later this week I’m going to share with you my recipe to prepare Soy Marinated Crispy Tofu Bowls with Garlic Kale and Brown Rice.

    Survey your supplies and cook components of your meals

    When planning my meals, I also consider what kind of product I have already prepared on hand. Creating dishes around what you already have uses up your supplies, saving you money and preventing food waste. Cooked grains like rice or quinoa keep well in the fridge and are simple enough to be used throughout the week without you getting tired of the flavors.

    Make friends with your freezer!

    The best way to divert food waste from the waste stream is to save it for later. Consider your freezer. Make a double batch of sauces, stews, beans, and casseroles, and save the extra in the freezer for a future weeknight dinner with zero cooking. I love using the freezer for food storage, and I’m going to share more of my favorite freezer ideas later this week.

    Make a shopping list

    Grocery shopping is a crucial component to successful meal planning. Yet another benefit of meal planning is that you save money at the grocery store by only shopping for exactly what you need. Try to plan multiple meals during the week that utilize the same ingredients to prevent that ingredient from expiring and becoming food waste. I also consult my grocery store’s circular ad and consider what is on sale when meal planning. I build my meals around deals.

    There you have it! One important thing to keep in mind is that meal planning is personal—some of the tips I discussed may not work for you. Think of these ideas as a starting point. Once you start meal planning, it becomes second nature. There’s no right or wrong way to meal plan, as long as it’s efficient for you and minimizes food waste.

    Later this week I’ll share my recipe for Soy Marinated Crispy Tofu Bowls with Garlic Kale and Brown Rice. Stay tuned for more resources, tips, and ideas.  To learn more, please visit Save The Food. Interested in other ways to reduce food waste? Check out the Public Health Alliance of Southern California’s Resource Library and CalRecycle’s Resource Directory.

     

     
    Posted on In the Loop by Allegra Curiel on Mar 5, 2018

  • Celebrating California's First Food Waste Prevention Week

    CalRecycle has partnered with the Public Health Alliance of Southern California and other state organizations to celebrate March 5-9, 2018, as California’s first Food Waste Prevention Week. As CalRecycle’s Executive Fellow, I have been working on projects related to edible food waste reduction. As a trained restaurant cook, I utilize many techniques and strategies to reduce food waste at home. Incorporating a few simple food waste prevention actions—such as freezing food, meal prepping and using leftovers—can immediately reduce food waste.

    Though I am new to the world of waste management policy, I have a lifelong dedication to environmental conservation and sustainable practices. In my prior career, before attending college, I worked in restaurants as a line cook for almost a decade. My background in professional kitchens instilled a passion for food waste prevention and reduction. 

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    Californians throw away nearly 12 billion pounds of food each year, which comprises about 18 percent of all the material in landfills. On average, a family of four pays about $1,500 toward 1,000 pounds of food ultimately thrown in the trash every year. Besides the environmental and fiscal consequences of food waste, Californians frequently dispose of food while others in our state go without. According to 2014 data, 5.4 million Californians are food-insecure, meaning they are uncertain of where their next meal will come from. Additionally, 1 in 4 children in California don’t have enough food to eat.

    Food Waste Prevention week aims to raise awareness about the impacts of food waste in our homes, workplaces, and communities. During Food Waste Prevention Week, I plan to share simple ways to reduce food waste at home. 

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    Stay tuned next week for resources, tips, and ideas. To learn more, please visit Save The Food, a national campaign led by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council to raise awareness about food waste and inspire more people to reduce it. Interested in other ways to reduce food waste? Check out the Public Health Alliance of Southern California’s Resource Library and CalRecycle’s Resource Directory.

    Posted on In the Loop by Allegra Curiel on Mar 1, 2018