Sketch & Banana Bread Recipe by Gretchen Röehrs
Imagine your next trip to the grocery store, carting out eight bags brimming with fresh produce, meats, dairy and staples for the pantry. You’re rushing to beat traffic so you can catch the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and on the way to the car, your shopping cart hits a bump and swerves uncontrollably. During this chaotic scene, two of your bags tumble out, scattering across the jammed parking lot. You gasp at your groceries strewn about on the cement, rolling under cars before disappearing beyond your sight. In utter dismay but with sheer urgency, you proceed to the car, securely pack the remaining bags into the trunk, and head home, less 25% of your purchases.
Sounds like an incredibly crazy and wasteful thing to do, right? But the equivalent is happening in American households on a regular basis. In the United States alone, 25 percent of purchased groceries end up in the garbage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste accounts for 28% of all garbage that is sent to landfills in terms of weight. Once it decomposes, these scraps produce methane, a greenhouse gas that is much more potent that carbon dioxide.
Food waste is of epidemic proportions and in recent years has increased concern for environmental and economic costs, food insecurity, and resource conservation. The implications of this also impact your bottom line. For most people, food is the third largest household expense. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, conducted in 2013, the average American family spent $4,000 on groceries annually, signifying that around $640 of that figure was unconsumed.
In order to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle as well as save a significant amount of money instead of throwing it in the garbage, eliminating food waste is incredibly important (and remarkably easy). Here are some creative ideas to help get you started.
Plan your meals.
Create menus for the week before you go shopping, and no, Top Ramen does not count as meal planning. By being prepared you will avoid getting baited into taking home a selection of foods that won’t go together and may be out of date by the time you want to consume them.
Don’t get duped at the grocery store.
It’s easy to get suckered into buying stuff you don’t need, especially when grocery stores strategically put the essentials (ahem, milk & bread) in the back so you have to zigzag through all the aisles, overflowing with delectable goods, just to arrive at the necessities. Two for one sales or short-term promotions are also marketing tactics aimed at getting you to over purchase. Stick to your list and try not to stray away from it, even if there’s an unbeatable deal on perishable items. In order to prevent a mass spoiling, buy produce that’s varied in ripeness.
Think twice about expiration dates.
Although “consume by”, “sell by”, or “best by” dates appear on everything from packaged produce to bread, they don’t mean much. According to WebMD, some basic rules apply when determining if certain foods are okay to eat past their expiry date. A lot of food is wasted due to these arbitrary labels that are not even regulated by the FDA.
Get the most out of your freezer.
Freeze any fruits and veggies if they tend to spoil before consumption so you can save for a future meal. Also, utilize your freezer for bread, or other perishable items that are about to go stale. Even milk and cheese can be frozen before going rancid.
Eat on smaller plates.
Did you know that the size of the American dinner plate has increased by 36% since 1960? This leads to either stuffing your face with extra calories (which leads to more time on the treadmill) or piling your plate with food that you have no intention of finishing. Switch to eating off of a salad plate come dinnertime.
Donate unwanted food.
There are close to 49 million Americans living in food-insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children. Do you have cans of beans and bags of rice that have been collecting dust in your pantry? Don’t throw away these non-perishable goods. Instead, donate any surplus to those in need.
Compost, when all else fails.
Food waste accounts for 28%, in terms of weight, of all garbage that is sent to landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Once it decomposes, methane is created, a greenhouse gas that is much more potent than carbon dioxide. An alternative is composting. Locate a corner of your yard and start a compost heap or if you live in an apartment building purchase a container, where unconsumed scraps can break down without producing environmentally harmful gasses.
Cook with produce past its prime.
An ingenious and absolutely delicious way to use excess perishable goods is to incorporate them into a recipe. Bananas, spinach, peaches, avocados, and tomatoes all have a short expiry date and can taste quite unpleasant once past their best. However, these foods are still perfectly usable when incorporated in a cooked recipe, like the one for drool-inducing banana bread, below. The bread can be served warm or cold, or even made into muffins for a tasty breakfast snack or packed lunch treat.
Cutting back on food waste is incredibly easy. With a little ingenuity and planning, you are helping to preserve environmental resources and padding your pockets with a little extra cash.
Banana Bread With Chocolate Recipe
⅓ cup melted coconut oil
½ cup honey or maple syrup
2 fresh eggs, room temperature
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2½ medium or 2 large bananas)
¼ cup milk of choice or water, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more to swirl on top
1¾ cups whole wheat flour or almond flour
Optional: ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, large chocolate chips, raisins, or chopped dried fruit
Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius) and grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
Step 2: In a large bowl, beat the oil and honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well, then whisk in the mashed bananas and milk.
Step 3: Add the baking soda, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon, and whisk to blend. Lastly, switch to a big spoon and stir in the flour, just until combined. Some lumps are ok! If you’re adding any additional mix-ins, gently fold them in now.
Step 4: Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.
Step 5: Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before slicing.