One standard dinner menu in our house is “Clean Out the Fridge Night.” That means that any leftovers or discarded ingredients – that spoonful of mashed potatoes, a serving of soup, one leftover hamburger – is pulled out and either magically turned into a new and improved food or eaten out of the container in which it was found. Everything is fair game to become part of the meal. Waste not, want not.
But across the country, a large percentage of the food we produce is never eaten. That means about 80 billion pounds of food is thrown away – every year. So researchers at Drexel University took a look at value-added surplus products (VASP). They wanted to know if consumers would knowingly eat new products made from leftovers. Some of the waste food is discarded at the manufacturers because it is bruised, too small, too big, or too ugly.
Some waste material is a result of processing – used brewery grains, pulp left from juicing, or cuts from prepared vegetables. So the researchers wanted to find out if this waste material would be accepted by consumers if they were used in the creation of a value-added product – and knew what they were eating.
No More Leftovers
The big answer was – yes. Study participants felt that the products from discarded ingredients – such as granola bars from grains, and relish from unwanted vegetables – were a valuable part of earth stewardship. They saw the potential for the new products created at the manufacturing level.
The researchers also tested product labels including “upcycled” and “reprocessed” to determine a best way to market the products. “Upcycled” was the most preferred label.
So what does this mean to you?
If you are already taking steps to be more planet-friendly, you might consider reading the labels more carefully and looking for these types of products.
But even more importantly, consider the idea of reuse of discarded ingredients in your own home. If you cringe at the thought of leftovers – challenge yourself to making smaller quantities of food at each meal, so you have fewer leftovers. And trust me – eating leftovers would no longer bother you if you really knew what was in a lot of purchased food.
How to Upcycle
Relish, soup, and stir-fry is a great way to use up leftover vegetables. Throw in that ounce of leftover chicken – and don’t forget to cook down the bones from that leftover roast chicken for broth and a cup or more of chicken shreds.
I love the idea of using spent brewery grains in granola bars. Maybe I could create a granola bar or muffin from leftover oatmeal, fruit or nut pulps, or even bread crumbs. Half-eaten apples (if you are a parent, you’ve seen these) becomes crisp or cobbler. Use discarded ingredients such as bruised bananas, stale bread, or cheese ends in other dishes – and no one will be the wiser.
Please share your ideas on “upcycled” foods in the comments below!
Drexel University. “Will people eat relish made from ‘waste’ ingredients? Study finds they may even prefer it.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171212184142.htm (accessed December 22, 2017).
Feature photo by Joanie Simon of Unsplash