What would you do if someone gave you $1500 right now?

That’s the amount of food that the average American wastes in a year.

I recently had the pleasure to be a guest on dietitian Ellie Krieger‘s  podcast, One Real Good Thing. We spoke about my new book and the issue of food waste. The “good thing” we identified was the idea that “cooking once and eating thrice” is both a strategy to waste less food and make your life easier.

Take Inventory, Shop Smart

A first step to reducing food waste is knowing what you have on hand (in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry shelves) so you can make a smart grocery list. Then, you’ll want to ensure that you have a plan for all of the food you place into your shopping cart.

It’s also handy to keep some of these helpful pantry staples and “food waste hero” (as I like to call them) ingredients on hand:

  • Pasta, rice and other grains
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Canned beans, tomatoes, salsa, and corn
  • Canned fish
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen pizza shells
  • Tortillas, pita, naan or other flatbread

Cook Once Eat Thrice

One of the strategies I share in the book is the idea of using an ingredient in several ways through the week. You can also cook a meal early in the week that provides a leftover that can turn into new meals later in the week. Here’s an example:

  1. On Sunday you might cook a 3-pound pork loin and enjoy it for dinner with some potatoes, a vegetable, and a salad.
  2. On Monday you can enjoy the Pork Pita Pockets with Cucumber Sauce for lunch (you’ll find the recipe on page 233 in the book). You’ll slice the pork thinly, make the cucumber sauce, and stuff it into a pita.
  3. Then on Tuesday you can use the leftover pork to stuff baked potatoes for dinner. Bake your potatoes. Chop the pork and reheat in a pan along with some peppers or onions (or just add some salsa). Stuff a hot baked potato with the pork mixture and garnish with sour cream or shredded cheese. Serve along with a salad for a meal.

It’s that simple! When it comes to zero waste cooking, don’t be afraid to stray a little from a recipe. Experiment by using a different veggie or spice, or add something extra. See what works. Even the best of cooks have “fails”, and every meal we cook doesn’t have to be the “best ever”.

Waste Less, Eat Better

Wasting less food can translate into better nourishment too. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often the first to be wasted because they are so perishable. That’s where sharing the plate with canned and frozen options helps. But when you pledge to be more mindful of the food you have on hand so you can waste less, you just might find that you improve your nutrition!

In addition, you’ll save money when you use all of the foods you buy. It’s a win win!