Waste not, want not

John and I arrived home yesterday after a vacation in Canada. Our flight from Toronto to Geneva went well, but when I travel east, I’m often hit hard with jet lag. To readjust my internal clock and avoid sleepless nights, I kept myself physically active yesterday with household chores. I vacuumed and cleaned our home, from top to bottom. I also did some yard work.

Today, in addition to other chores, I emptied and cleaned our freezer and made a hearty soup with ingredients that I found: kale leaves; cooked beans; chopped butternut squash; homemade vegetable stock; chipotle pepper; and ginger root. In our household, we make an effort to not waste food.

According to the United Nations, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year around the world. Almost one third of good quality food produced worldwide is discarded. That’s an enormous amount of food that could feed hundreds of millions of people around the world who do not have enough to eat.

Here are some statistics:

  • Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
  • The most wasted foods are fruits and vegetables, and roots and tubers.
  • Large amounts of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.
  • Even if just 25% of the food currently lost or wasted globally were saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people.

Below is the soup that I made today. It’s full of wholesome ingredients, most of which I found in the freezer. I don’t expect you to make the exact same soup, but perhaps the next time you grocery shop, think about freezing some foods for a future recipe.

Many fresh fruits and vegetables can be kept frozen in a container. And when you clean out your freezer, experiment with some of the stored ingredients and be creative in the kitchen. Not only will you find that you can create a delicious meal, you will also help reduce food waste. Bon appétit!

Sweet potato, kale and bean soup

Serves 4-6


  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 2 big sweet potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 2 cups fresh -or- frozen butternut squash, peeled & diced
  • 1 large cooking onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 small chipotle pepper -or- hot pepper, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon (tbsp) ginger root, finely grated
  • 1 cup of water (and a little more water for simmering the veggies)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ cup pure tomato sauce -or- chopped fresh tomatoes with juices
  • 1-2 tbsps tamari or soya sauce
  • 2 cups mixed beans, pre-soaked & cooked -or- jarred (black, white, kidney, lima, edamame or other)
  • 2 cups firmly packed fresh -or- frozen kale leaves, chopped
  • Pink salt & ground pepper, to taste


In a big soup pot, heat up the oil on medium-high and sautée the potatoes, squash, onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes. Lower the heat, add the chipotle pepper, ginger and a little water and let the ingredients simmer with the lid on for another 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time. The potatoes and squash must be fork tender and fragrant.

Add the 1 cup of water, wine, vegetable stock, tomato sauce and tamari sauce and simmer covered for another 10 minutes.

With a handheld blender, purée the soup in the pot until smooth and creamy.

Add the beans, kale leaves, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes with lid on.

Take the soup off the heat and let it marinate covered for while before serving. Add extra water or stock if need be.

Serve hot in bowls.

Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

7 thoughts on “Waste not, want not

  1. Julie
    I love your below note, thanks for sharing this simple yet great idea!
    I feel the message is so important that it should be spread all over the world – maybe via Facebook as well?
    I love all your recipe advice and I keep following you!

    1. Thanks, Klára for your encouraging comment. I very much appreciate it! I’m currently on Twitter and Instagram but not on Facebook — something for me to think about. I am very happy that you enjoy the recipes. Should you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. Kind regards. Julie

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