5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

When you're living on a budget, getting the most bites out of my buck is key. So when I'm cooking, I try to never let anything go to waste. Reducing food waste at the same time is just a bonus...especially since, all around the world, people throw out 1.3 million tons of food every year.

5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

That's why I thought I'd finish off the first month of the New Year by sharing five ways to reduce food waste AND save money by putting every part an ingredient to good use! So whether you want some easy food waste solutions or simple hacks that'll help you eat healthy for cheap, keep reading for five creative ways I've learned to reduce food waste.

1. Use winter squash seeds in homemade granola, trail mix or pesto.

If you've tried any of my gluten free recipes, you know I'm a sucker for granola. Last summer, I showed you how to use cantaloupe seeds in homemade granola. This winter, though, I've discovered that the seeds from winter squash like butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash all make delicious additions to granola!

Personally, I like the leave the seeds in while I roast my squash. Then, I scoop them out and add them to my usual granola mix-ins like puffed rice, coconut flakes, mashed banana, dates and rice flakes. They get super crunchy when baked in the granola, and are a super affordable alternative to buying gluten free seeds or nuts! Plus, it lets you eat the whole squash instead of throwing out the "guts."

5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

Just like pumpkin seeds from Halloween pumpkins, you can also scoop out the seeds from each squash pre-baking and toast them on their own. Then, you can eat the seeds as a crunchy snack, add them to my Secretly Healthy Sweet N' Salty Trail Mix or even grind them up into some creamy nut-free pesto!

2. Throw wilted lettuce and squash and zucchini tops into smoothies.

Even though lettuce makes up a good amount of my healthy gluten free diet, I still have weeks when I can't get through all the lettuce in my fridge. That's when green smoothies come in real handy!

5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

Compared to "spicier" greens like arugula, iceberg lettuce has a mild flavor that goes well in most smoothie recipes (including all the recipes I have here!). Smoothies are also the perfect way to use up zucchini and squash tops/stems. As long as you have a high-powered blender, it'll break those stems down and you won't even realize they're in there. Adding zucchini/squash and greens to your smoothies or banana ice cream are easy ways to boost the volume and creaminess while also lowering the sweetness. So if you've never tried adding either of those to your morning smoothie, give it a try!

3. Puree leftover baked potatoes into a vegan cheese sauce.

Even if you don't eat a vegan diet, this vegan cheese sauce recipe will be your new favorite way to use up some leftover baked potatoes. I love using this sauce in homemade gluten free mac and cheese, but it's also delicious as a dip for veggies and chips. Plus, it freezes really well so you can prep big batches in advance. To get the same super creamy texture after the sauce is dethawed, though, make sure you heat up individual portions in the microwave or stovetop. Or throw the sauce into the slow cooker for some vegan mac and cheese.

5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

4. Freeze and dethaw small batches of tomato sauce as needed.

I've shared this cooking hack on my Instagram stories (follow me on Instagram for extra recipes, product discount codes, product reviews and more!), but it deserves to be shared on the blog too. After all, nearly everybody loves tomato sauce...but when you live alone or aren't cooking for many people, it can be hard to finish the full jar before it goes bad.

5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

That's why I've started freezing my tomato sauce. But here's the trick: freeze it in a large airtight plastic bag, spreading out the sauce so it coats the whole bag in a shallow layer. Place it in your freezer and let it freeze just like that so that you end up with a thin sheet of tomato sauce. And on the nights you're craving some and want just a small amount, you can "crack" the sheet and defrost your desired size of frozen sauce. Just place the sauce layer in a microwave-safe bowl, defrost it for a few minutes and dig in!

5. Slice and freeze ripe avocados if you end up with too many.

I don't know about you, but when avocados are on sale, I load the heck up! That's why my fifth tip about ways to reduce food waste is taking advantage of your freezer. Now, frozen and dethawed avocados don't have the same thick, creamy texture as fresh avocados, but they are still super delicious. Plus, they taste nearly the same as fresh avocados when you mash them into guacamole, use them as a spread for a gluten free sandwich or blend them into a smoothie. One time a few months ago, I even made a killer savory avocado mousse by blending some dethawed avocado with a little coconut milk, lemon juice and spices.

5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

Over the past few months, I've found that the best way to freeze avocado is by first cutting it open lengthwise, as usual, and removing the pit. Then cut large slices out of each half (peel and all) and freeze them in a plastic bag. When you want to dive into your frozen avocado stash, just pull out however many slices you want for that meal (dethaw the avocado around 20 minutes before you want to eat, and not too much longer!). Completely submerge your avocado slices in a cup of very cold water and then let them thaw until nice and soft. Simple as that.

Bonus Tip: Embrace "kitchen sink" meals...

My final tip for you? It's not about one food in particular, which is why I'm considering it a bonus. Instead, I want to encourage you to get create with your kitchen sink meals. And by "kitchen sink meals," I mean meals that are easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. For me, those are often granola, smoothies and pizza. If I'm experimenting in the kitchen and my mug cake turns into an epic fail...into that week's homemade granola it goes! Homemade granola can even be a delicious place to use of leftover mashed sweet potato, pumpkin or grated squash.

5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

Similarly, you can easily include odd bits and ends in smoothies and pizza. Smoothies are perfect uses of over-ripe bananas (just throw them in the freezer and use them to make cold smoothies later in the week!), mild vegetables like cauliflower and even "stronger" tasting veggies in smaller amounts, like sweet potato and beets. Meanwhile, I've rarely found a random spare veggie or meat that doesn't taste good on pizza. Turn leftover broccoli stems or radish greens into a pesto for your pizza sauce, which actually pairs deliciously with salmon. If you want some vegan protein, top your pizza with hummus or chickpeas. In my college days, I was even known for cutting up a leftover chicken tender and using that as a pizza topping. You do you!

The Bottom Line of Reducing Food Waste in 2019

There are certainly still ways I could reduce my food waste even further, and I know I'll keep learning even more hacks to save money and use up alllll parts of each food I buy. Right now, though, these are five "tricks" that help me get the most out of produce and other foods, and I hope that you find these hacks just as helpful as I have!

5+ Unique Ways to Reduce Food Waste in 2019

And if there's some awesome trick you know for reducing food waste or using up parts of foods that we often toss away...mention it to me in the comments! It may take me a little while to respond (hello grad school life...), but I promise I do love reading everything you guys have to say and all the tips you have to offer. :)

Comments

  1. When I was first learning about making green smoothies, someone told me never to put lettuce in the smoothie, "just don't." Now I'm thinking I have been missing a chance to use up spare lettuce all these years. I suppose if it isn't a major part of the smoothie it will be okay -- ?

    Re food waste, it requires a different view. I know people who decide what they want to eat based on what sounds good to them at that moment, and if it's from a restaurant, off they go (lucky people with no celiac or other issues). I've learned to think of what can I make with what I have on hand, and go from there. It's more necessary than optional, because I can't just pop out somewhere to grab a bite. (Vegan for 18 years and diagnosed with celiac disease about 4 years ago. Going out to a restaurant is a BIG deal for me.)

    Hang in there with grad school!

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  2. These are SUCH great ideas! I get SO frustrated tossing any bit of food -- so I'm super excited to give a few of these ideas a try! The baked potato tip is GENIUS! I have bags all over the freezer with left over fruits and veggies that we add to smoothies and soups which has helped with food waste a lot. Thank you so much for posting this!!

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