So what are the top tossed out foods? Here's a list that was compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with some ideas for using them up so that you can stretch your groceries just a little farther.
1. Fruits and Vegetables: 52% lost
Half of all fruits and vegetables are tossed out after they are past their prime. Bruised strawberries and gooey green beans = a trip to the landfill. To make them last longer flash freeze your produce if you bought more than you can eat by simply freezing separate pieces on a baking sheet overnight, then placing a cup or two into storage bags. You can also juice lots of fruits and vegetables that are just starting to pass their prime, and while you're at it this is also a great way to sneak some veggies into your kiddos bellies.
And here's a pampered Mom tip: one of my favorite ways to use up old produce that is past the point of eating is by making my own spa masks. Great bases include strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and avocado. Simply mash a tablespoon or two of your overdone fruits with a little bit of honey and rolled oats and it's a spa day. I leave my mask on for 10-20 minutes while the kids and I put cucumbers over our eyes and chat it up.
Finally a great way to reuse really overdone fruits and vegetables is to compost them. Composting is incredible easy and doesn't have to be expensive, and in a matter of months (especially if you jump start the process with composting enzyme) you'll have rich soil to rejuvenate your yard or start a garden. And you always have a science project in your backyard to teach your kids with.
2. Seafood: 50% lost
Yet again, only half of what is harvested is actually eaten. Given the over harvested state of our oceans and the environmental effects of seafood farming, it's hard to believe so little is actually eaten.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate seafood, and thus some lean protein, into my kids snacks is with hummus or yogurt dips. Simply combine cooked fish in with yogurt, tahini, white beans and add lemon juice in a food processor and puree til smooth, then serve with crackers or sliced veggies.
Another, cook-free way to use up uncooked salmon that is in your fridge is to simply cure bite size pieces in salt, pepper and raw sugar in your fridge. Within an hour or two you have a great snack that your kiddos can munch on without much work.
3. Grain products: 38% lost
One of the beauties about bread is that you can freeze it until you're ready to use it. Another great way to use up both stale breads and cooked rice is with bread pudding and rice pudding, respectively. Another one of our favorites are French toast mini's.
Grains like oats and quinoa also make for really tasty granola. All you need is oil, honey, chopped nuts and dried fruit and you have a tasty breakfast or yogurt topper that's really easy to make.
4. Meat: 22% lost
Too often you plan out your week's worth of dinners and then life gets in the way; soccer practice, a late night at work or swim class interferes with your dinner. Or those cold cuts you got for sandwiches gets forgotten in the fridge and looks like it might be growing a new type of penicillin.
For us the best way to conserve our meat is to freeze it and only defrost the night before when I'm sure that I can make it. As for cold cuts they make for an excellent snack just by rolling them with sliced cheese and serving with grapes. You can also finely chop it and toss with peas for a fun nutritious salad.
5. Milk: 20% lost
Unfortunately the big culprit here are school lunches- many time kids toss milk cartons that haven't even been opened. But in addition we also toss out that last bit of milk in the container, let our kids milk glasses sit out too long, or don't finish our coffee. According to the USDA, we toss 1/3 cup per day per person. That ends up being milk from 800,000 cows. And once milk spoils, there isn't a lot of recourse. So in this case a little conscientious discussion with the kiddos is needed, and smaller portion sizes.