Americans throw away approximately $75 billion worth of food each year, according to a USDA-funded study. So how can you combat the “food waste epidemic”? Buy versatile foods, of course! Buying more versatile foods will give you more bang for your buck and prevent waste. One of the most versatile and nutrient-dense foods you can buy is spinach. Here are some ways to implement this miracle green in your meal planning:
Spinach is a great source of iron, vitamin B6, beta-carotene, folic acid, and potassium. This veggie is also chock-full of flavonoids (which act as antioxidants and fight cancer). Studies show that eating spinach can slow mental aging and improve cardiovascular health. Not only is this leafy green beneficial to your overall health, but it can be used in many different kinds of dishes, raw or cooked, fresh or frozen.
When purchasing spinach, keep your eyes peeled for broad, thick, crisp, and dark green leaves. Lighter green, limp, or thin leaves should be avoided. Fresh spinach has the shelf-life of about a week, though the leaves can start to wilt in a few days.
OPTIONS FOR FRESH SPINACH
- Salad: Toss some spinach, strawberries, honey-glazed chicken breast, and candied pecans in a vinaigrette of your choice and enjoy a mouthwatering summer salad.
- Spinach-Mushroom Sauté: Spinach can be cooked with oregano, thyme, mushrooms, and garlic and served with a protein-based food, like scallops, for a healthy and balanced meal.
- Wrap or Sandwiches: You can put fresh spinach in just about any type of sandwich or wrap to add some color and texture to an otherwise bland meal. Try a wrap with cream cheese, garlic powder, spinach, turkey, red pepper and onions.
- Pasta: Finely chop raw spinach and mix it in with your pasta sauce to give a nutritional boost to any pasta dish.
WILTED or FROZEN
After three to four days, your spinach will inevitably get a tad droopy. Resist the temptation to toss this food in the garbage and instead treat slightly wilted spinach like frozen spinach: in quiches, soups, or dips. Frozen spinach is a good option for those who have a hard time finishing raw spinach. In fact, studies show that frozen spinach retains more nutrients for longer periods of time since it is kept at such a low temperature.
OPTIONS FOR FROZEN or WILTED SPINACH
- Quiche: A spinach and bacon quiche can hit the spot for those who love a bigger, more substantial breakfast.
- Cream of Spinach Soup: Rich, smooth, and creamy spinach soup makes for a great appetizer. Spring onions, scallions, chicken stock and cream can be combined to make this side dish.
- Stuffed Shells: Spinach can also be mixed with some ricotta cheese and garlic to create a filling for stuffed shells. Pour tomato sauce over these shells for a delicious, Italian dinner.
- Spinach Dip: Preserve your spinach for a couple more days by making it into a hot or cold dip, a great finger food for parties or a snack. You can prepare a spinach dip with garlic, cheese, artichoke, and mayo.
Get out of the habit of just throwing food away by buying versatile food like spinach and getting creative in the kitchen. Doing so will please your family, your palate, and your wallet.