Posts Tagged ‘waste’


Variety is the Spice of Life

Friday, July 12th, 2013 by Michele

Uninspired home cooks often struggle to find their own path to culinary prowess because they have bad habits and patterns that have encouraged them to be boring. Three troubled areas that are pitfalls of not being able to enjoy what you eat and maximize grocery dollars are:

  1. Buying too much and not often enough.
  2. Buying nutrient-void foods.
  3. Being unable to think big picture and utilize what you have.

shoppingThe big one here is buy less and go to the grocery store/market more often. People shop for the whole week because their time is valuable. Understandable, time is a luxury. But, by Wednesday, everyone is tired of looking at the same stuff. Boring food goes to waste in the fridge and money gets thrown away. Most American households throw away hundreds of dollars every month. Go to the store more often and buy less. It will coerce you to be more inspired as you stroll the aisles. What’s on sale? Do those peaches smell amazing? What do I already have at home that will enhance this dish?

produceBuying nutrient-void foods are terrible ways to spend your hard earned dollars. I’m speaking specifically to the bags of food that contain nothing more than flavored air. Or the cans of salt and sugar that Americans guzzle down all day long. These food items are not fuel for your body, they won’t fill you up and prevent your inner chef from cooking because they are designed to keep you on the couch in front of the T.V. Most of the food in your shopping cart should come from the produce section. A rainbow of colors should hit the conveyor belt and make their way down to the clerk. Less meat and wheat. Good dairy products and eggs. All of these are a bit more expensive but worth it in the long run.

garbageYou gotta use it. Some things will go to waste, it will happen. Your goal, once you accomplish the first two, is make it last. Your refrigerator needs to be maintained just as much as the rest of the house. Make enough for 5-6 portions. Enjoy dinner, have a little the next day and then freeze the rest for easy, quick meals when you don’t have the time. As you cook more and understand techniques, you will bridge the gap in cooking and utilization. And continue the practice, it will become more effortless and not such a chore after all.

Variety is the spice to channeling your inner chef, practicing good economics at home and enjoying more satisfying food.

What are different ways you vary up your cooking habits? Get creative in the comments.


Keeping Food on Tables, Out of Landfills

Friday, June 21st, 2013 by Emily

I recently watched a TED talk by Tristram Stuart called The Global Food Waste Scandal.  This guy is awesome!  Stuart travels the globe doing research on the amount of food produced in and for a country, and how much it is consumed or wasted.  He is also he founder of Feeding the 5000, a campaign where 5000 people are given a free lunch produced from ingredients that otherwise would have been wasted.

wasteI found this talk to be interesting, because anytime I see food being thrown out, I think about those that don’t have access to healthy and fresh foods, not only around the globe, but in the U.S.  It also gets me thinking about the environmental effects of food production, and how much land and water degradation there is because of it.  Being aware of this issue helps me make decisions on what foods I purchase (seasonal, locally-produced), and the quantity of food that I’ll take home with me.

I think that food waste is an important issue to be aware of, both on a global scale and a local scale.  So much is connected with food production, from the environmental effects to the social and economical effects.  I hope that after reading this, you’ll take a moment to reflect on the impact that you can personally make.

I encourage you to watch Stuart’s talk, and please post your feedback here.

Emily Kinnaman is originally from the tiny town of Hanover, Illinois. She studied Speech Communication & Environmental Studies at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale before moving to Chicago, where she is currently working as a medical staffing coordinator full-time and a part-time class assistant with The Chopping Block. When she isn't working, she is obsessing over music, attempting to finish reading multiple novels, and perfecting her tacos al pastor recipe.


Waste Not, Want Not

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 by Andrea

Less food is making its way to our stomachs. That’s according to a new report by Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers that revealed up to half of the food produced worldwide ends up as garbage. Yes, you read that correctly: half!

Food+being+thrown+in+binWith predictions that there could be an extra three billion people to feed by the end of the century and noting the number of families already struggling to put food on their tables, this news should spark action in all of us.

Researchers say part of the problem is in the supply chain, where inefficient agricultural practices, inadequate infrastructure, limited transportation and poor storage lead to squandered harvests and misused land, water and energy resources.

But we are also to blame.

The study cites overly strict sell-by dates, which causes to consumers to throw out food before its time. And customer demand for cosmetically perfect fruits and vegetables results in piles of scratched or misshapen — but still nutritious — produce ending up in the trash.

In Britain, some 30% of vegetable crops are left unharvested because they’re not pretty enough, according to the report. In Europe and the U.S., consumers dump half of the food they buy, researchers said.

“The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today,” said Dr. Tim Fox who leads the engineers’ group.

So, how can you help?

  • Buy only what you can eat. Sure, that buy-one-get-one free offer may sound too good to pass up, but be realistic about what your family can consume before that food will spoil.
  • handwritten-grocery-listMake a grocery list and stick to it. Plan out your meals in advance and write down only the ingredients you need to cook those meals.
  • Use up fruit that is about to go bad in healthy smoothies. Make soup out of soon to turn vegetables.
  • FIFO: This term is used in restaurants, but it can also be applied to home pantries and refrigerators. First In, First Out. That means the newest items you buy go to the back of the storage area so you use up the oldest food first.
  • Check your fridge temp. It should be between 35 and 38 degrees to slow down the growth of bacteria.
  • Friend your Freezer. Made too much of a dish? Freeze the leftovers and use them for another night when you might be too tired to cook dinner.
  • Limit your meat consumption. Raising & producing meat requires about 10 times more land resources than it does to produce food like rice or potatoes. So, welcome a meatless dinner into your life at least once a week. If you need ideas for recipes that won’t have you missing the meat, try our Meatless Monday class next week.
  • compostSome food waste is unavoidable, so set up a compost bin for fruit and vegetable peelings. In a short time, you’ll have rich, valuable compost for your plants.

What do you do to reduce waste in your kitchen? Share your ideas here.


Andrea has been with The Chopping Block for over 12 years in every role from Chef Assistant to General Manager to Private Event Coordinator and now Public Relations. Her journalism background and culinary school education from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago give her the know-how to spread the word about The Chopping Block's mission to get people to cook. She'll never shy away from a music festival, hot yoga class, beach read, dinner out with friends or a good glass of Pinot Noir, especially when cuddling on the couch with her terrier, Bosworth.


Why Compost?

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 by Carrie

Exciting news! The Chopping Block has created a new composting initiative at Lincoln Square. By working in conjunction with Collective Resource, Inc.,  we are making an even bigger commitment to doing our part for the environment.

Knife Skills Class Compost

Why compost? Our intention is to support the earth by composting our food scraps, napkins and paper products. It sometimes sounds complicated, but it is really quite easy. The Evanston-based company, Collective Resource is providing us with containers to put everything in and hauling them away to a commercial composting facility in Chicago. There it is processed into rich, useable compost. By doing this, we will be having what is called a Zero Waste Kitchen. Of course we will have some waste, but we will be diverting most of it from a landfill.

Our compostable items consist of:

Meat, bones, fish, and seafood

Seafood shells

Fruits and vegetables (all stickers removed)

Eggs and eggshells

Milk, cheese, and other dairy

Dressings, condiments, sauces, and soups

Flour, bread, pasta, and pastries

Coffee grounds and filters

Nuts and nut shells

Spices, oils, and fats


Popsicle sticks and skewers

RECYCLABLE ITEMS (still separate from COMPOST)

Plastic, glass, cans and cardboard

Last week was our first week of composting during our classes.  I have to say, it has already made a difference in our kitchens.  I was so impressed, I had to take a picture of our recycling, garbage and compost bins after our Knife Skills class this past Wednesday!  Check it out — we had zero waste!  Everything went to either the recycle bin or the compost bucket!

Carrie finally found her culinary niche as a Chef Instructor for The Chopping Block in May 2008, but only after a hilariously traumatic demonstration interview (of which you will have to attend one of her classes to hear about). She gets a thrill of sharing the things she’s learned about food and cooking with others and the memories and experiences around food that have made her who she is today. Her hope is to take away the apprehension people have of cooking by pouring on her southern hospitality and charm and having fun in the kitchen. When she isn’t cooking, you can usually find her at a concert, a neighborhood restaurant or just hanging out with friends and enjoying their company.