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Oregon Family Magazine

Eat Smart, Waste Less, Grow Strong, Save Money

09/29/2020 ● By Sarah Grimm
If you’re looking for ways to protect your children from the worst of what climate change will bring--without turning your life upside-down, you need look no further than your refrigerator. 

Simply commit to not letting anything go to waste – which will naturally reduce what you need to buy.  This small act is effective because food production worldwide is responsible for well over one-third of all greenhouse gasses -- yet only 60% of that food actually gets eaten. Studies have shown the average American household ends up tossing out $128.00 worth of food – every month!

Check out these tips to save money and reduce waste to see which ones make sense for you. And be sure to check out Lane County’s Food Waste Challenge Program that teaches, and then challenges, families to set goals and learn new habits in food waste prevention.  Give it a try! It’s free, of course, and will likely help reduce your grocery bills overall.

Shop the Bulk Bins

In my own kitchen, to prevent packaging waste I’ve had to unlearn the “Buy in bulk” adage I was raised with. While it’s true that buying only what you need from bulk bins is a successful way to prevent waste, the opposite is true when we buy the mega quantities of individually packaged foods popularized by Costco and other retailers.  Nine times out of ten my small household would not be able to finish a product before it went bad and had to be thrown out—along with all the packaging waste it came with. I found myself spending and wasting more money when I purchased these types of bulk items; so now my adage is “shop the bulk bins” and buy only what you can use in a reasonable amount of time.

Meal Planning

Feeling a bit like a failure every time I had to throw away food gone bad in the fridge, I have learned to plan meals around what needs using now, before it goes bad. This is a fun way to keep meals interesting and varied.  I also plan meals using items from my long storage pantry every week, so I can be sure to use up the old before buying new. 

Another new habit I find fun and fascinating is using foods we are inclined to think are not edible, but really are!

Forgotten Greens.  Did you know carrot tops deliver a flavorful and nutritional punch to cooking? Try the tender leaves chopped fine in tabbouleh salad or pureed into a pesto recipe. Other forgotten leaves, such as beet, turnip, and radish greens— even when limp— are very tasty sautéed or added to casseroles, soups, and quiches.

Cilantro stems - a staple in Thai curry pastes - are packed with as much flavor as the leaf. Waste-conscious chefs use both leaves and the thinly sliced stems in practically any dish. Parsley stems can be used in the same way, or left whole to add flavor to homemade soup stock.

Bone Broth and Soup Stock. Save money and prevent the need to buy boxed broth. Just toss your leftover bones and veggie trimmings in the freezer after each meal until you have enough to fill your largest pot. Simmer with salted water and a splash of cider vinegar for several hours. Strain and use to make better soups and sauces.  I freeze the broth in various quantities--some in ice cube trays for adding to sauces, and some in pint size tubs.

Stale Bread

Old bread is one of the single most common categories of food waste.  When the bread is old, but not yet moldy, cut into cubes for croutons, bread pudding, or eggs strata. Toss them in the freezer if you don’t need them right away. Or let the bread completely dry, and use a rolling pin to crush bread into breadcrumbs. No need to buy Panko* bread crumbs for coating fish, chicken, eggplant and making au gratin dishes.

Bruised or Old Fruit

Smoothies are a great option for using up old or blemished fruit while packing in great nutrition. Have more than you can prepare? Cut and toss them in the freezer for later, make fruit popsicles or whip up a quick batch of refrigerator jam or compote—a delicious condiment that will keep for months.

You’ll find more tips and inspiration at

Sarah Grimm, Waste Reduction Specialist for Lane County Public Works Waste Management Division, is passionate about how waste prevention can lead to a healthier world for all of us. You’ll find more of what she’s up to at