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  • Maria Orefice

What a WASTE...or NOT!

According to CalRecycle’s 2014 Disposal-Facility-Based Characterization of Solid Waste in California, food waste accounts for approximately 21% of the residential waste stream making it the largest portion of residential disposed waste. It is estimated that a

family of four spends $1,500 a year on food they DON’T eat!

What’s on your shelf or in your refrigerator that can still be used? Often food safety dates and labels are misunderstood. These dates are more related to when a product is at its peak quality. Many foods will still be good to eat days, weeks, or months after those dates,

depending on the food and storage conditions. If you’ve been throwing food out on these dates, you’re not alone. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 90% of us occasionally throw away food too soon, and over half of us do it regularly, all due to a simple misunderstanding about package dates. Below are some common date messaging and what they truly mean:

• "BEST BEFORE" - These dates refer to quality rather than food safety. It’s the date before which the brand stands by its product (unless it’s been opened or left out at the wrong temperature). Foods with a “best before” or “use by” date should be safe to eat after the date has passed, but they may no longer be at their very best quality in terms

of flavor. This is true for “best by,” “best if used by,” “enjoy by,” and other similar expressions.

• "FREEZE BY" - One good way to extend the life of food beyond its date is to freeze it. It’s like pushing the pause button on your food. AlmostThe Green Thumb Page 5 May 2024

anything can be frozen—meat, milk, cheese, eggs, bread, unused pasta sauce, etc.

• “SELL BY" - You can ignore these dates as they are meant for store staff. They actually build in quality so that if the food is sold by that date, you can still get it home and have top-quality shelf life for some time.

• USE YOUR EYES AND NOSE - For the most part, you can trust your senses to know when food has gone bad. Milk, yogurt, juice, sauces - they can all be subject to the sniff or taste test. CAUTION: The products to be careful with are those that pregnant women, seniors, and young children are told to avoid such as deli meats and unpasteurized dairy


It is possible to revive your food and prevent it from becoming waste. Did you overcook, burn or oversalt your meal? Don’t worry, here are a few ways to save your meal from going to waste!

• WILTED - A quick soak in ice water for 5 to 10 minutes is often enough to reinvigorate wilted veggies. If they can’t be restored, some veggies you intended to eat raw (carrots, celery, and greens) can still shine in a cooked dish.

• STALE - Toast stale chips and crackers for a minute or two in a regular oven or toaster oven to crisp them right back up. One example is old bread which turns into perfectly acceptable toast or cut into cubes for croutons. Those crumbs and small bits at the bottom of a bag of chips or crackers add a lively crunch when sprinkled over salads.

• SALTY - Is your soup too salty? Add vinegar, lemon juice, or brown sugar or dilute with water, crushed tomatoes or unsalted broth. You can also pop a raw, peeled potato into the pot of soup to absorb some of the salt.

No doubt, there will be some food waste. We gardeners can compost food that can’t be eaten. The LA Department of Sanitation offers free composting workshops. Visit their website for dates and locations: Free Composting Workshops ( . LA residents can bring their food scraps and other accepted compostable materials to their local farmers’

market location, where LA Compost stations provide a drop-off service in addition to compost sales and volunteer event information. Farmers Market Drop-Off (

Residents serviced by LA Department of Sanitation have a curbside organics recycling program. We are required to place food scraps and food-soiled paper, along with yard waste, in the green bin. The City of LA will pick up the green bin weekly and the collection day will remain the same. The green waste will be processed to create compost to be used by farmers. CURBSIDE ORGANICS RECYCLING PROGRAM (


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