Zero Waste Tastes Great

Last Wednesday, Angie and I attended a free No Waste Cooking Class hosted by The Nashville Food Project. It was great to learn about TNFP’s mission and the work they are doing to alleviate hunger in the community. It was also nice to meet other people who share our interest in reducing food waste and being better stewards of our environment.

Making veggie scrap fritters

The menu for the class included:

Everyone got to play a role in helping prepare the meal. I grated Parmesan and Angie patted out the veggie fritters. While we worked we chatted with our neighbors around the prep table, sharing tips and stories about composting, meal planning, plant-based eating, and even minimalism. I was particularly interested to learn that Nashville is part of hOurworld. Being only vaguely familiar with time-banking, this was really fascinating to me. (Time banks allow users to share talents and services with one another without the use of money.)

Along with the delicious meal that we all shared together, The Nashville Food Project provided a lot of useful information and tips on reducing food waste. I have summarized their handout for you below (in hopes that you find it as useful as we did).

Most common examples of avoidable food waste happening in our homes:

  • “scraps” or the parts of food usually thrown away
  • discarding expired or nearly expired foods
  • discarding “ugly” foods (ie. cheese with a small spot of mold that could be cut off)

What we can do about it:

  • Start cooking differently. Use the scraps and get creative!
    • Make veggie stocks or veggie fritters out of scraps.
    • Freeze scraps until you have enough to use in your recipe.
  • Shop smarter. Only buy what you know you will use. Make a list before you leave home.
  • Designate a “use first” section of your fridge to encourage yourself (and others) to use up the items that have been in there the longest.
  • Compost what’s left.
  • Donate food to your local food pantry (or organization like TNFP).

Why you should use scraps for cooking:

  • Broccoli stems contain more calcium, iron, and vitamin C than the florets.
  • Zucchini is 95% water, making the skin the most nutritious part of the vegetable. The skin contains more fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C and potassium than the flesh.
  • Celery leaves are a great source of fiber, calcium, and vitamin E.
  • Saving stock from cooked veggies (and meats) is a great way to retain some of the vitamins and minerals that were lost during the cooking process. Cooking rice in stock makes it more nutritionally dense and flavorful.

Other cool tips:

  • Yogurt contains fewer calories and fat than traditional mayonnaise-based dipping sauces (plus yogurt has health benefits that mayonnaise doesn’t). Yogurt is high in calcium, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and contains probiotics. 1 TBSP of mayo = 94 calories, 10 grams of fat while 1 TBSP of yogurt = 18 calories, less than 1 gram of fat.
  • Adding fresh herbs to recipes is a great way to boost flavor and increase the nutritional value of meals. Sorrell, parsley, and basil are high in fiber as well as immune-boosting antioxidants like vitamins A and C.


**In case you’re wondering, like we were, the dinnerware was all recyclable or compostable.**

**To make the non-dairy peanut butter banana ice cream, simply puree 1 banana with 1 TBSP peanut (or almond) butter and freeze**

Food Waste Update

  • Wasted Food this week: 0 ounces
  • Total Wasted Food in 2018: 50 ounces
  • Rescued Food this week:   0 US pounds
  • Total Food Rescued this year:  185.69 US pounds

Keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.

Greening Up for Earth Day

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22 and this year’s theme is ending plastic pollution. If you’ve ever lived near a waterway or even just watched the documentary film: A Plastic Ocean, then you know the disastrous effect that plastic can have on our environment. When Angie and I volunteered for sea turtle patrol in Venice, FL in 2014, we quickly saw how littered a beach can become in just one day’s time. Plastic bottles and straws were the most often discarded items on our one-mile stretch of beach and it didn’t take long before the bag we carried was filled with these things (as well as plastic beach toys and flip-flops).

Over the past few years, we’ve made a real effort to downsize the amount of plastic we use. We stopped buying bottled water altogether about 5 years ago and bought a water-filtration pitcher instead. We always carry a stainless-steel water bottle everywhere we go and a we keep a couple of reusable straws and bamboo sporks in our glove box for dining out.

In 2016, we did a partial plastic purge and upgraded many of our food storage containers to glass. Last year (much to our dismay), a friend of my mom’s gave us nearly 50 plastic containers (the kind that lunch meat comes in). Our first reaction was to recycle them but instead of doing so right away, we put them in the cabinet. Big mistake! Within a short period of time, we found ourselves using them for leftovers. A few weeks ago, we combed through the cabinet again and removed all of these containers, along with every plastic sandwich bag, storage bag, and roll of plastic wrap we could find. Our kitchen drawer looks like this now:

We received 2 Vejibags for free at VegFest. They are made of organic cotton and keep veggies fresh for up to 2 weeks. A great choice for eliminating both plastic and food waste!

If you’re wondering what we did with the discarded plastics, we recycled what we could and gave the bags and wrap away. Day cares, kindergarten classrooms, and food pantries will almost always take your unwanted (unused) sandwich bags. Though it’s not the most ideal solution, it is still better than just chucking them in the trash.

Next up, we tackled the pantry. We have been saving food jars (mostly salsa jars from the Farmer’s Market) for a while now and finally sat down to clean the labels off of them this week. Since we found a bulk store within a relatively short drive of us, we’ve decided to buy what we can there. Not only will the jars reduce our use of plastic bags, but they look really neat too. has a great Plastic Pollution Calculator on their website that can help you track your plastic footprint. One of the interesting things on their list that caught my attention was the bathroom. Items like cotton swabs and toothpaste containers were not something that I’d previously given much thought to. In fact, with a little effort, you can actually recycle toothpaste tubes and cotton swabs can be purchased on bamboo sticks. (There’s even a stainless-steel ear cleaner for the very brave among us. Personally, I would stab my eardrum out!)

In addition to our Earth Day plastic-reduction efforts, we wanted to step up our water and electricity conservation game too.

Angie replaced all of the light bulbs in our apartment with 60W-equivalent CFLs. LED bulbs are a good option too – both offer significant savings over the incandescent bulbs that were already installed in our apartment – but we went with what was on sale.

We replaced our standard shower head with a low-flow handheld shower with a “pause” button. The new shower head has a flow rate of 1.6 GPM (gallons per minute). A standard shower head ranges from 2.0 – 2.5 GPM. The pause button on the new shower head slows the flow to a trickle so that we can save even more water (think modified version of a Navy shower).

The last thing that we did toward water conservation was to put a quart jar full of water in the back of our toilet. The jar takes up space in the toilet tank that would otherwise be refilled with water after every flush. For every 4 flushes, we save 1 gallon of water. This may not work with low-flow toilets but we happen to have an older toilet in our apartment.

Tonight, we’re doing our own version of an energy audit. We’re going to unplug everything that is currently plugged in (except the fridge and freezer) and only plug them back in when we need them. I’m hoping this will allow us to identify and eliminate most of our energy vampires.

Do you have any green home improvement plans for Earth Day this year?