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Food Waste Prevention: Use It

CookbookFood waste is a significant problem. Americans throw away approximately $165 billion worth of food each year, according to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The good news is that we can implement changes that can make a big difference.

During the month of September, SPU will be featuring tips to prevent food waste. This week, we will talk about ways you can prevent food waste at home by finding creative and delicious ways to use up the food in your kitchen.

When most Seattle residents think of food waste, they think of composting. While composting food scraps is fantastic (and required in Seattle), it is even better to eat the food we purchase than to compost it. Why? When you throw away an apple, you’re also throwing away all of the water, energy, and other resources used to grow that apple and get it to your plate. So now that you have thoughtfully purchased food and properly stored it, it’s time to use it! We have provided some recipes and resources below to help you avoid tossing hidden gems into the compost bin.

Eat or Repurpose Leftover Food

Leftovers can have a bad rep, but they save food, time, and money so in our humble opinion they deserve two thumbs up. Are you averse to eating the same exact meal again? Don’t worry because repurposing leftovers into new meals is easy! Health Magazine has a great series called “Cook Once, Eat Twice” with recipes that will yield two different meals using the same ingredients. Lemon and sage roasted chicken today turns into mini chicken pot pies tomorrow. Cheesy polenta with roasted veggies one night turns into roasted vegetable lasagna the next night.


A good soup is warm, comforting, and filling — perfect for the upcoming fall season. Here’s an easy recipe that will help use up some kitchen staples that you might have been thinking about tossing (into the compost).

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soup

1 pound lean ground meat, such as hamburger or turkey

2 medium or one giant onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups cooked brown lentils

2 cups cooked black beans

2 cups corn

4-6 carrots, sliced

4-6 potatoes, sliced thin

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 medium zucchini, quartered and then sliced

1 quart whole tomatoes, about 4 cups (if you don’t bottle at home, store-bought whole or diced tomatoes work well too)

1 quart broth

1 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary

1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme

2 T. fresh chopped basil

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1 T. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

In a skillet cook the ground meat, onion, and garlic until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink. Add the meat mixture to a large 6-quart crock pot. Add all of the other ingredient. While you are pouring the tomatoes in, crush them with your hands before they fall into the crock pot.  Place the lid on the clock pot and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 4-6 hour on low. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with hot bread.

Notes from Melissa’s Blog: This makes a huge batch of soup. Freeze half for a second easy meal and then just let it thaw in the fridge overnight when ready to use.

This soup is super forgiving. The tomatoes, broth, and herbs are the base but you can swap/add/remove just about anything you like to suit your tastes [or dietary needs]. It’s a great recipe to start with and make your own.

Looking for something nutritious and portable? Try a smoothie. Here’s a list of 50 smoothie recipes. Our pick is the

Peach-Mango-Banana Smoothie

Blend 1 cup each chopped fresh or frozen peaches and mango, 1 cup each plain yogurt and ice, 1/2 banana, and sugar to taste.


There are plenty of resources to reduce food waste.

  • Big Oven lets you enter up to 10 ingredients in your pantry and gives you recipes accordingly. It also has a grocery list and meal planning feature.
  • Yummly takes into account your dietary restrictions and tastes in order to help you discover recipes that you might find interesting.
  • Find more recipe apps here.
  • King County’s Food. Too Good to Waste campaign also has recipe resources available.

Stay tuned for next week when we feature Seattle Public Utilities’ own Love Food Stop Waste program.