I find I can stand “waste” less and less as time goes by
Just eat it!
When you’ve grown a garden, you see each tomato, carrot, or head of lettuce as a precious individual, and each one counts. Think of an animal loosing it’s life to become food, you don’t want to forget about it in the back of the fridge. Buy expensive, real maple syrup or aged balsamic vinegar, it’s painful to see an uneaten pool on the plate getting washed down the sink. There are lots of ways people waste food at home, and I try to reduce it as much as possible for my own conscience and wallet.
Do you know that about 40% of food in America is thrown away? It’s astonishing, since people are also starving here, yes here, in America. This world has enough food, but there’s something broken, and it’s a huge problem. I will try to narrow my focus to what you can do every day in your own household. Perhaps we’ll get into a larger global issue another time.
Crazy for Cubes
My freezer is always filled with zippy bags that contain ice cube shaped items, mostly from leftovers: chicken stock; vegetable stock; wine (rare); sauces; herbs; etc. Having so many wonderful items at hand when I need them for recipes is a terrific way to make a meal from scratch, but in significantly less time. Use any ice cube tray, then empty the trays into labeled freezer zippy bags for future use.
Have too many fresh herbs? Clean, stem, pat dry, and stuff into ice cube trays, top with olive oil, and freeze. Make your favorite herb blends (basil, garlic, olive oil & pine nuts, or the classic parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, or my favorite on potatoes and lamb, rosemary, mint, olive oil, salt and pepper) to have on hand at a moments notice. This is a great way to honor your beautiful garden and be prepared.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the freezer, gotten oven roasted tomato and pesto cubes, and popped them into a sauce pan for a homemade sauce on the fly.
Making rice, quinoa, etc? Fill the measuring cup with your frozen stock cubes, then top with water, and your grain will be much more flavorful than with just water. It really can take a meal up a notch.
File Your Soups & Sauces
I rarely use a recipe, and I usually make a lot of soup or sauce. That’s great because we’ll eat something for 2-3 days, but after that, I don’t care how great it is, I need a break. So rather than ignoring it in my fridge till it’s been declared dead, quart or sandwich zippy bags get filled, labeled, and frozen. Make a large batch of marinara, portion and freeze, then you can adjust it accordingly by adding ground beef, sausage, vodka and cream, pesto, whatever. Now I've got homemade meals even when there is little to cook. I’ve brought them on holiday when renting a house, or bring them to friends who could use the stress of cooking a couple meals taken off their plates.
Saving Scraps IS Smart I feel so smart when I make stocks out of vegetable trimmings such as herb stems, ends of vegetables that were cut off - if it’s free of dirt and mold, and not mushy, it’s likely just fine for a stock. Toss all that stuff into a pot, cover with simmering water for a few hours and save that flavor for a soup or to season rice or pasta. Keep a gallon or larger sized zippy bag in the freezer to pop those scraps into until you’ve got enough for a stock. Once the stock is complete, if there’s no meat in it, toss the spent vegetables into the compost.
Such a Cut-Up!
Seriously, if you are looking for a snack and there’s a whole watermelon, are you going to get a knife and dig into it? Not me - it’s too big a project for just a snackity snack when I’m probably already in the middle of a different project. I cut that thing up the day I get it and store it in the fridge for easy snacking. I do this with all melons, I wash grapes and berries, and I polish apples. I do minor prep to keep produce as accessible as possible. Everyone else in the house seems grateful, as they aren’t digging into those big items either, but they’ll eat them once I’ve gone to the effort.
I also cut apples, peaches, pineapple, watermelon, and such before serving. People leave so much fruit behind when there is a stem, pit, seed, or rind to avoid. I find that if the whole piece can be eaten, people will eat the whole piece. People seem to appreciate the effort, which has become effortless for me after all these years. I see it as a win/win/win. No waste, happy friends/family/colleagues, and it’s simply so much easier to eat.
Not @ It’s Peak?
When produce is still fine, but no longer at it’s peak, it goes into a juice, smoothie, batter bread, or to the chickens. In all honestly, this occurs often enough, that I never plan to make things like banana bread, it just happens. I’m glad for it though, as those juices, smoothies, and batter breads are delicious!
My hens get some of this too. Really only produce, and nothing that's mushy or moldy, but when it's not really that appealing... you know what I mean.
Just Plain Bad!
Naturally, we're all human and food does go bad. If it's produce, I send it straight to the compost to participate in becomming world class soil. The rest likely goes in the trash, but I'll tell ya, my trash can is pretty empty on pickup days, and I'm proud of that!
A little thought, and a few handy ideas, and you're grocery bill may even shrink, your trash can will be less full, and you have now reduced your carbon footprint. Did I mention win/win/win? Yes I did!