We live in an age of consumerism that came about after the austerity of the Second World War where companies sought to convince consumers that they always needed more, particularly when it came to food.
For that reason, our wasteful food habits are a generational problem, or at least according to Henry Dimbleby, a co-founder of the healthy U.K. fast-food chain Leon (which, as it happens, will be expanding into the U.S. for 2016). ‘Growing up’, he says, ‘our fridge would always be full of tiny little bowls of leftovers of meals, my mother didn’t waste anything’.
Running concurrently with the rise of big supermarket chains, which often in competition with one another to price perishables like meat, fruit and vegetable at the lowest cost for the consumer, there has been a dwindling realization about how much money can be saved on food. ‘People throw away food because it is not a big enough part of their income,’ he adds, and because many of us forget the true value of food, we perhaps don’t realize how much we throw away every day.
This isn’t just anecdotal – according to official figures, close to 40% of food in the U.S. ends up going to waste, and it would be naïve to think that doesn’t cost each and every one of us. When all that food goes into the trash, we’re effectively squandering 25% of all freshwater used in the U.S. (made worse in light of recent droughts in California and western states).
On top of that you can add 4% of the U.S.’s total oil consumption, and a staggering $165 billion each year – over $40 billion of which comes from households. Then there’s the costs of disposing of all that food, which adds another $750 million on top of the bill.
But the costs don’t end there, since roughly 95% of the food thrown away goes to landfill or combustion facilities. In 2013, the U.S. disposed of over 35m tons of wasted food – including uneaten leftovers or spoiled produce – and that means more methane is being produced; a greenhouse gas.
Making the most of leftovers not only shows respect for food, but protects the environment and your wallet. And what’s more, it will make you a superior cook. So with that in mind, we’ve collected seven recipes that will make best use of your leftovers and stop those scraps heading to the trash. To access the full recipes and instructions, just follow the hyperlinks below the graphic.
- Everyday Food. (2010). Pasta and cheese frittata. marthastewart.com
- Lawson, N. (2012). Egg and bacon pie. nigella.com
- Los Angeles Times. (2013). Recipe: Spring vegetables in Parmesan broth with goat cheese ravioli. latimes.com
- Monroe, J. (2014). Leftover-porridge pancakes. cookingonabootstrap.com
- Oliver, J. (2015). Beef hash cakes with chipotle yoghurt. jamieoliver.com
- Slater, N. (2009). Chicken salad with couscous and oranges. bbc.co.uk
- Shulman, M. R. (2016). Pear and arugula smoothie with ginger and walnuts. nytimes.com
- Carter, N. (2013). This week’s recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen. latimes.com
- Eriksen, L. (2015). Waste not want not: the art of trash cooking. theguardian.com
- Environmental Protection Agency. (2016). Reducing wasted food at home. epa.gov
- Granleese, B., McEvedy, A. and Monroe, J. (2015). Jack Monroe and Allegra McEvedy: We’re teaching the kids that food is about more than fuel. theguardian.com
- Greene, D. (2014). Nigella Lawson loves leftovers and knows how to use them. npr.org
- The Guardian. (2014). Chefs’ recipes to beat food waste – in pictures. theguardian.com
- National Resources Defense Council. (2014). Saving leftovers saves money and resources. nrdc.org