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Andrew Zimmern knows food. And while he could talk to you 'til the cows come home about epicurean delights, today he wants to shift our attention to food waste. A dire issue, Zimmern recently partnered with grocery store chain Aldi to raise awareness about the problem and share some of his top tips for reducing food waste. Below, he revealed his top tips with us — and we think they're all game-changers worth following. Join us?
1. Buy a smaller fridge (or reduce the capacity of the one you have by removing a shelf or drawer).
Yes, we're looking at you, double-doored, Sally. "[People should] make their fridge smaller and shop twice a week and the first one makes the second one a necessity. The American refrigerators are so big they're built on American convenience culture. They want us to shop once a week and then when 'mealus interruptus' happens, and it happens to everyone, we wind up throwing out food on Sunday that we bought the Monday beforehand," said Zimmern. "Meal planning is really important, but even more important is to shrink your fridge. I bought a small European refrigerator, and it was the best thing I ever did," he continued, adding that if you have a big American fridge simply remove a drawer and take out a shelf for two weeks and see how it goes.
2. Put a notepad and a pen on the counter next to the garbage can and write down all food that you put in the trash.
"Even if it's that bag that holds the bunches of grapes and there's a cup of loosies at the bottom and they're just bruised and rotted, write that down. At the end of the two weeks, you'll see the patterns," said Zimmern. "I have a friend that wastes a lot of food, and fascinatingly I got him to write everything down. There was one item that every night was on his list, and it just said, 'half a salad bowl.' I asked him about it and was like, 'what do you mean like your own bowl of salad?' He was like, 'you know there's five people in our family, we like a big salad every night, we have this big salad bowl. We cut all this lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and carrots, and then we throw it in there, and we dress it with oil and vinegar and lemon juice, everyone's favorite dressing, a little bit of salt, herbs, and mustard and made this great vinaigrette. We only eat half of it, and then it's wilted by the time we clear the table, and we throw it away,'" Zimmern recounted. "I said 'don't throw it away, put it in a bag or a container, and the next morning instead of having pancakes one or two people can have a healthy blended salad as all or part of their breakfast. You won't throw it away and save a meal or two every day depending on the size.'" Little changes can go a long way, y'all.
Chronic fruit-tosser? Put old fruit in your freezer before it becomes unusable and repurpose it. "Before it gets bruised and rotten, and you throw it away, do what we do for bananas with banana bread, throw it in the freezer. Then roast it, turn it into sauces, purée it, turn it into freezer jams, but if you don't write it down you won't know what your trends are," shared Zimmern.
3. Stop stocking up on excessive amounts of pantry ingredients.
Really. Just hear him out. "People wind up buying so many things they don't need or are only going to need once, and then they forget to use it up. A great example is someone will decide that they want to make some wonderful Thai dish, and they'll buy some sweet Thai sticky rice, and they soak it overnight, and they steam it for a couple of hours, and it's wonderful and then that rice just sits on the shelf for two years," commented Zimmern. "Then they go into it again and, you know, there's little bugs or something crawled in there, or it drops and spills or someone says, 'oh it's been there for two years, let's get rid of it.' I encourage people, buy less. When I buy a five-pound bag of Thai sticky rice, do I eat it every night? No, but I make a concerted effort every week to cook a dish and use the Tai sticky rice in it. That's good menu planning," he said, noting that we should all observe the FIFO principle, — or "first-in, first out"— making sure that we use up items that we opened or bought first before moving on to another item (say, that half-opened jar of medium salsa should be used up before you open up a jar of spicy salsa).
We're certainly looking forward to incorporating these tips into our daily routines. And making some banana bread, of course.