Each year, Americans discard millions of tons of food, needlessly taxing food budgets and landfills. With a little planning, you can make a difference. We show you how with lots of smart tips and a week's worth of dinners.
Around 40% of the food in this country goes to waste, and a big chunk of that takes place in our own kitchens: Every year, the average U.S. family tosses out 2,000 of their hard-earned dollars in the form of uneaten food.
Here's the good news: By reducing waste at home, you can make a significant contribution to your wallet and the planet. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the most effective ways to fight food waste are to 1. Shop with a list, 2. Cook like a chef (i.e., use everything), and 3. Understand what expiration dates really mean. Follow along while we show you how to do all of this and cook a week of dinners without waste.
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Zero-Waste Shopping List
Here's all you need for one week of waste-free dinners. Check the list of staples; chances are you'll have most of those ingredients on hand.
To help cut down on waste, reserve the garlic skins, leftover herbs, and roasted bones for the slow cooker stock in Dinner 3. And be sure to save the chicken skin and one of the chickens, as directed in steps 2 and 4 of the recipe.
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Dinner 2: Chimichurri Steak Tacos with Pickled Vegetables
Though the amount of chicken skin may seem like a lot, it renders out most of its fat so that you only end up with 2.3 ounces after cooking. Use the cilantro stems for the sauce; the leaves will go in the rice. You'll use the parsley stems and carrot trimmings in the stock for Dinner 3 and the broccoli florets in Dinner 5.
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Dinner 3: Fresh Vegetable Quinoa Bowl
Making stock has never been easier, thanks to the slow cooker. You can also use unsalted chicken stock as a substitute. (NOTE: You can make the stock overnight after enjoying Dinners 1 and 2. Strip herb leaves, and prep all vegetables for the week, using trimmings in stock.)
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Dinner 4: Whole-Grain Mini Meat Loaves
Quinoa and vegetables bulk up meat loaf to a hefty portion; freeze leftover meat loaf up to 2 months.
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Dinner 5: Egg Noodle Stir-Fry with Broccoli
The red chiles add vibrant color and deep, fruity heat. If you can't find them, substitute ¼ cup thinly sliced Fresno peppers (which are much milder). Look for very young ginger; it will have thinner skin and a less fibrous interior.