Leftovers represent a BIG part of all the food that goes to waste in America. Most of that food winds up in landfills, contributing to greenhouse gases when it degrades. WHY is this happening?
Reason #1: IGNORANCE. Many Americans just don’t understand where their trash gets taken “away” to, much less how many resources it takes to get food to their tables, or the impacts once the waste reaches a landfill.
Reason #2: LACK OF FOOD AND COOKING RELATED EXPERTISE. We don’t know how to plan meals, estimate correct portions, or understand the real meaning of “Best By” and “Use By” dates.
Reason #3: REFRIGERATORS: They are too big! It’s too easy to stash extra food, and leftovers keep getting lost in the back!
In order to get more people to eat leftovers, we need to first get them over three key barriers. One Barrier: Longstanding negative health associations of leftovers. Another Barrier: We are losing the habits and practices that helped us pass along cooking skills — and particularly the leftovers-related ones, within our society. Moms work, kids don’t learn how to cook in school, scouts or 4H. A Third Barrier: Eating up leftovers competes with more convenient (but less “beneficial”) disposal alternatives: trash and composting.
Three good opportunities:
1) Leftovers are cheap & convenient, 2) They have positive associations like nostalgia, warmth, sentiment; 3) They have influential advocates, like chefs, restaurant owners, other foodies
Good news! There are likely 50+ things that we can all do to help change leftovers history.Here are eight of them to get us started.
Strategy #1: Leverage the expertise and cachet of chefs and good home cooks: connect them with local food writers, Facebook groups, Instagram feeds, etc.
Strategy #2: Promote hip new restaurant entrees that leverage leftovers: “trash rice”, “chicken compost” “confetti casserole”; Require doggy bags; food donations
Strategy #3: Teach people the “matrix” of leftover dishes, many of which come from many different cultures and cuisines; Update for today
Strategy #4: Create new social occasions: Friday “must go” buffet, Leftovers pooling party; Post-holiday leftovers swaps
Strategy #5: Leverage community pantries, refrigerators
Strategy #6: Leverage Social Media: Facebook pages, Neighbor.com, BuildingLink.com
Strategy #7: Set a Good Example: Send home guests with leftovers; Bring reusable containers; Make leftovers matrix dishes for friends; Teach your kids to cook
Strategy #8: Advocate and Engage Others: Write a blog post on leftovers; Reach out to a local food writer with insights and stats; Publish your favorite leftovers recipe; Encourage good food use practices in local restaurants and cafeterias; Start a teach your kids to cook day
I have 42 more strategies — and am writing them all up in my new book. Watch out leftovers — I’m hoping to make you a thing of the past!