What’s cooking: Waste-free kitchen handbook

The Wisconsin Gazette

U.S. consumers are collectively responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores or any other part of the food-supply chain—a problem that costs the average family an average of about $1,500 every year — but a new book out later this month seeks to help change that, one meal at a time.

The Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook — out Sept. 29 from Chronicle Books — will offer simple consumer tips and tools to saving money and food, from the grocery store to the kitchen.

“Imagine walking out of the grocery store with four bags full of food, dropping one, and not bothering to pick it up—that’s essentially what American families are doing every day,” said Dana Gunders, author and scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Wasted food is wasted money, wasted energy and wasted water. Armed with simple tips and tools, families can make a major dent in what’s currently getting tossed out with the trash — and put a little cash back in their wallets at the same time.”

Americans are throwing away 40 percent of food in the U.S., the equivalent of $162 billion in wasted food each year. Until now, many well-intentioned home cooks have lacked the tools to change their food waste habits. 

Gunders’ handbook — packed with engaging checklists, simple recipes, practical strategies, educational infographics and custom kitchen audits — is the ultimate tool for reducing food waste at home. It dispels the illusion that cutting food waste requires significant time and money, with easy tips for how to:

• Cook with leftover ingredients

• Grocery shop smarter

• Plan meals better

• Decode expiration dates

• Store foods properly

• Use your fridge to its full potential

• Understand shelf-life, storage & usability for 85+ common groceries

The guide can help put more money back in consumers’ bank accounts and also reduce the strain on the environment.

When food is wasted, so are all the resources that went into producing it:

• 25 percent of the nation’s fresh water goes into producing food that is never eaten.

• If global food waste was a country, it would have the world’s largest greenhouse gas footprint after the U.S. and China—food

• Waste just in the U.S. is responsible for emissions equal to those from 33 million cars.

• Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills.

• 28 percent of the world’s agricultural land—an area larger than Canada—is used to grow food that gets wasted.

“Food waste is a global problem we can tackle in our own homes,” Gunders said. “When we throw out perfectly good food, we throw out all of the resources used to get it to our table—massive amounts of land, energy and water — along with it. Small, easy changes in our daily routine can add up to big benefits for the environment, and big savings in our pockets.”