I came across Dana Gunders’ Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook in the New Book Section of our public library during one of those rare times without my children, when I grab novels and memoirs and cookbooks and poetry and hope at least some of what I’m getting is going to be good. I’m happy to say, this little book is one of the good ones, and I found Gunders’ perspective especially helpful as we begin the new fall share season.
In 2012, Gunders–a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)–released a report titled, Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Her report and subsequent food waste reduction work became national news covered by CNN, NBC, New York Times, NPR, Wall Street Journal, and others.
The book is separated into three sections:
- Part One: Strategies for Everyday Life – This section includes ideas for smarter grocery shopping and food storage, how to best utilize food scraps and leftovers, how to set up your kitchen, and more.
- Part Two: Recipes – Out of the 22 recipes listed here, I bookmarked at least a third. Most of these recipes include practical ways to use up whatever’s in your fridge or pantry, like “Free-for-all Frittata” and “Anything Goes Soup.” One I’m really looking forward to trying? “Infused Vodka” with my end-of-season raspberries and mint.
- Part Three: Directory – Here she includes alphabetized lists with optimal storage info for fruits, veggies, meat/poultry/seafood, pantry staples, dairy/eggs, beans/nuts/vegetarian proteins, and oils/condiments/spices.
I have to admit, I approached this book with a little bit of an “I-already-know-this-stuff” attitude, but I was pleasantly reminded there’s always more to learn. For instance, you know the sell by/use by/best before/expiration dates found on most of the food you buy? In the US, those dates aren’t federally regulated (exception: infant formula) and reflect the “manufacturers’ suggestions for when the food is freshest or at its peak quality.” Gunders continues, “Many foods will stay good for days or even weeks after the date on the package.” However, many consumers (e.g. US!) aren’t aware of this and end up throwing away food that’s perfectly good to eat. (For more info, see chapter “Can I Eat It?”)
This season you’re going to be receiving weekly shares of salad greens and spinach, beets and carrots, green onions and radishes, leeks and fresh herbs–yum, yum, yum! One of my favorite things about growing all this good stuff for you is that I know how much better I feel when I’m regularly eating my veggies and greens. I believe you’ll feel better–as long as you’re actually EATING what you get. Follow along on the farm blog this season for how to do just that, waste-free-kitchen-style!