By Sierra Morris, Staff Writer

My taste buds have a way of demanding what they want, when they want it. So even if my favorite leftovers are in the fridge, I can't always pull myself away from the allure of a meal made-to-order. The leftovers end up getting tossed out.

Food Waste: Enormous Economic & Environmental Implications

I'm just one person. Americans are tossing-out 30 to 40% of their food annually. That equals about $165 billion and weighs approximately 33 million tons a year in food that could’ve been eaten. Or to put it another way, we could feed the world’s 870 million hungry people with the amount of food we waste every year. 

So What Can We Do To Combat Food Waste? 

Recently, the USDA and the EPA got together and started the U.S. No Food Waste Challenge, an effort to "reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste" by 50% by the year 2030. There are over 4,000 participants in the challenge across the nation. Restaurant and grocery chains, public schools, and non-profits alike are making the efforts to create less waste by giving to those in-need.

In my opinion, government deserves kudos for taking action against food waste. But the real change happens with you and me. I recently challenged myself to a 3-Day No Food Waste Challenge. The rules we're simple; try my best not to throwaway any food. 

3-Day No Food Waste Challenge

Saturday, Day 1: Eat Three Meals

Food I Probably Would've Wasted: leftover stir-fry (pictured above), stale chicharrones, stale cookies, shriveled-up lemons (not pictured) 

How I'm Feeling: I began my usual weekend routine of grazing, but as lunchtime neared I found myself craving something more substantial than cookies, granola bars. and chips. Unfortunately, the the microwave broke which left me with only one option: eat my leftover stir-fry cold. I genuinely didn't feel like it and was very tempted to skip that meal altogether, but I decided to not give into temptation. The day ended with an enjoyable dinner of Chinese food. Any leftovers we're stored in the refrigerator. 

Sunday, Day 2: Eat Three Meals & Yesterday's Leftovers 

Food I Probably Would've Wasted: potatoes with the sprouts (not pictured), leftover take-out rice (pictured above), tomatoes in sandwich (pictured above)

How I'm Feeling: After church, I enjoyed a breakfast of a banana, coconut milk, and yogurt. It was light, but very satisfying. The biggest challenge of the day was pulling myself away from Netflix long enough to reheat the leftover Chinese food for lunch.

But by the time I finally went down to the kitchen, the leftovers were gone, which was probably for the best. The fridge was full of a random assortment of foods that weren't readily available to eat so I went to Jimmy John's for a sandwich. The sandwich was good, but I forgot to say "no tomatoes". I wanted to pull them out of the sandwich very badly, but resisted the temptation. 

Monday, Day 3: Make Sure Leftovers from the Students' Meals are Eaten

Food I Probably Would've Wasted: leftovers: ravioli (with spinach and ricotta), penne (with ground turkey, and spinach), honeydew, and green beans (pictured above)

How I'm feeling: Today I returned to work. Before I go on about my day, it's important to mention that I consume more calories during the week due to chasing toddlersNow to proceed with my day. I typically eat the breakfast and lunch provided to my students as well my own breakfast and lunch. But today, I was too stuffed from eating with the students and consuming their leftovers to eat the additional meals. Sorry curry! I'll just have to eat you tomorrow. My biggest slip-up though was not telling my co-workers to save their classes leftovers. So much food wasted!

What I Learned:  I'd give myself a B- because I neglected to tell my co-workers to save their student's leftovers. Other than that, I'm extremely proud that I resisted temptation on mutiple occassions to quit or toss things out. If I did this again, I'd plan my meals ahead of time and stick to the plan. And should I choose to eat out, I'd order from companies that are actively reducing their waste and recycling their leftovers. Lastly, I'd invite others to join me because it's difficult trying to save the planet when you feel you're doing it alone. 

Before You Go: You Can Eat the Whole Thing

As promised, here are some tips on how to waste as little as possible with various fruits and vegetables:

Apples can be consumed in their entirety (core included! See photo above).

Orange peels can be used to make an all-natural cleaner for your home; orange and lemon peels and can be put in the garbage disposal to make it smell less like garbage and more like citrus sunshine.

Banana peels can be used in compost; overripe (black) bananas can be used in banana bread

Avocado and lemon seeds can be replanted 

Note: I've only listed things that I do myself, or that my friends and family do because I know they work, but the list of things you can do with your cores and peels goes on and on...