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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Waste not, want not. A book review of Zero Waste Cooking for dummies.

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

Pile of trash and the words waste not want not.

Zero Waste Cooking for dummies, by Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, is a book much needed by today’s western consumers who have been spoiled by a plentiful, low-cost food supply for decades. Facing the current crisis of escalating grocery bills, supply chain shortages, and growing concern for the environment, consumers are looking for ways to save money, save the planet, and reverse the trend of wasting 30-40 percent of the food produced.

My parents were children during the depression, making preventing waste a matter of survival and wasting food unpatriotic. Add to that my father was an agricultural engineering professor who researched soil and water conservation; so the values of protecting our natural resources, raising our own food, and stretching the family food budget were instilled in me from an early age.

Those influences loosened during the years I was raising my own children, but they didn’t totally disappear. I no longer enforced cleaning your plate, but I was a master at meal planning to stretch our grocery budget and repurposing leftovers. It didn’t hurt to have a degree in dietetics to guide me.

Reading Zero Waste Cooking was a confirmation of the values and strategies I was fortunate to have learned both at home and in my professional training. Rosanne Rust has done a marvelous job in bringing this information to everyone, thus “for dummies” – that’s you and me.

5 ways to Zero Waste:

I enjoy summarizing content to share into sets of 5 themes or tips, so I will present the key messages I found in the book using that approach:

Plan for Zero Waste

Planning ahead to achieve zero waste accounts for food already on hand, employs strategies to utilize food and ingredients in multiple ways, and maximizes use of seasonal foods and store specials. Meal planning and grocery lists lead to wasting less. Planning is time well spent.

Shop for Zero Waste

Equipped with a grocery list, choose food and ingredients wisely, purchasing types and quantities to meet household needs and to minimize waste. Whether fresh, canned, or frozen, small packages or bulk purchases, shop with a zero-waste mindset. And stick to your list.

Store for Zero Waste

Zero-waste storage makes food safety a top priority because spoiled food is wasted food. A bonus is more food eaten and enjoyed, and less tossed out. Learn the rules for pantry storage, proper refrigeration, and optimal freezing to waste less. Use it before you lose it.

Cook for Zero Waste

Prepare food with a goal of zero waste. Plan ways to use every edible portion of food in one or more recipes or meals. Soup, salad, stir-fry, and one-pan recipes all provide good ways to use up bits and pieces of ingredients. Be creative. Be resourceful. Use it all.

Recycle for Zero Waste

Embrace leftovers. Repurpose one meal to create another. Save trimmings, peelings, and plate scrapings to create compost. Reduce, reuse, and recycle applies to zero-waste planning, shopping, storing, and cooking. Don’t use it once, use it over.

Get your copy of Zero Waste Cooking for dummies and learn hundreds of practical ideas that will save you money, help you feed your family, and demonstrate respect for our natural resources.

The book has sample menu plans with grocery lists, dozens of zero-waste recipes, and useful lists of 10 smart ways to use ripening produce, staling bread, dated dairy, and restaurant doggy bags. You are certain to learn something new. Even this dummy did.

“Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse; and rot (compost) the rest.” ~ Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home

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